A beginner’s guide to getting around Ann Arbor without a car
If you’re looking for greener ways to get around Ann Arbor, or are thinking about ditching your vehicle altogether, you are in good company. 36% of all trips in Ann Arbor are done on foot, by bike or in transit, well above the national average.
“The reality is that we are wonderfully connected [transportation] System, ”says Ann Arbor Transportation Manager Eli Cooper. “… you just have to use it.”
The city can be a car-free paradise – it’s all about finding the best way to explore it. We’ve outlined the best ways to bike, scoot, and ride the bus around town, and ask car-free commuters for their top tips on getting around.
To go biking
Ann Arbor’s cycling infrastructure has grown significantly over the past year. A bike highway on First Street, a bike lane in Packard, and the Allen Creek Berm Opening, which connects downtown to Argo Park, have all been added recently to make the city more bike-friendly.
“It no longer means ‘build it and they will come,'” says Cooper. “It builds on our success.”
These infrastructure projects and initiatives like Healthy streets make cycling more accessible and safer. They’re popular too – the Allen Creek Berm Opening had 1,746 users on a summer Sunday.
How do i start? All you need to start is a bike! If you don’t have one, like a local bike shop Sic transit or the voluntarily run bicycle cooperative Common cycle can set you up.
How much does it cost? Marc Epstein, general manager at Sic Transit, says bike prices are “pretty insane” right now as interest in outdoor activities has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. He estimates that prices rose 12-15% during the pandemic. Sic Transit’s entry-level bike is currently priced at $ 800. However, used bikes can be found at much cheaper prices. Epstein says a refurbished bike at Sic Transit typically costs $ 400 and up. He says used bikes can be found on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace for just $ 50 – though the quality may be lacking. However, he says, “you could find a solid work bike for about $ 200 if you’re hardworking.”
How do I get where I am going? “The way you would go anywhere is almost always not the way you should ride a bike,” says Ann Arbor bike commuter Jade Marks. She recommends finding routes by speaking and checking with fellow commuters through social media groups Strava heat maps, or use the Google Maps cycle route function. Bike lanes are usually the safest, most efficient way to travel, and there are 78 miles of it in Ann Arbor. (For a closer look, see the map below or click here.)
A map of Ann Arbor cycle routes.
What are the rules Know the law. You have more rights than you may be aware. For example, two bicycles can legally ride side by side on roads and cyclists can ride on sidewalks. Helmets are not required by law for drivers over the age of 18, but are recommended.
But what about winter? Cold weather doesn’t mean cycling isn’t possible. “Commuting by bike, especially in winter when possible, works wonders psychologically,” says Ann Arbor bike commuter Shamsheer Singh Chauhan. “I love the feeling of achievement and strength.”
The drive, Ann Arbor’s fixed-route bus system, resumed operations on August 29th after the COVID-19 lockdown. There is 35 different fixed routes with varying frequency, usually every 10 to 30 minutes.
A map of TheRide bus routes.
How do i start? To take the bus, arrive at the bus stop five to 10 minutes before the stated arrival time. You can see the line number of the bus on the front of the bus. Make sure you are on the correct side of the street according to the direction of travel of your bus. You can track your bus status under TheRide website.
How much does it cost? You can pay in cash, in tokens or with a bus card or Cell phone ticket. Let the driver know if you want to change and he will give you a transfer card. Most bus rides are $ 1.50, with free transfers available within 90 minutes. Discounts are possible depending on income, age or disability. Discount passes may be available from your employer or academic institution. Blake Transit Center is Ann Arbor’s bus service hub and is located at 328 S. Fifth Ave. in downtown. There you can personally buy passes and ask questions to the staff.
How do I get where I am going? “Try to find the shortest route with Google Maps,” says the bus driver and engineering student at the University of Michigan (UM), Ahmad Al-Sadi. “The public transport function uses routes for both public buses and blue ones [U-M] Buses.”
Special servicessuch as rides to the Detroit Metropolitan Airport, commuter services, and reservation-based rides for people with disabilities are also available. In exciting news, bus traffic also begins between Ann Arbor and Detroit on October 18.
What about my car, bike or wheelchair? Free parking Park and Ride is available in eight different locations, so you can park outside of downtown and take the bus inside. Buses are also wheelchair accessible and can transport bicycles. Bradley Parsons, Ann Arbor’s transportation commissioner, says that role enabled him to travel with his son. “The bus is frequent enough and always close by, and if the weather makes cycling unsustainable, you can always find a bus connection and put your bikes on the luggage rack,” he says.
Spin scooters are another way to get around town car-free. E-scooters had one complicated start in Ann Arbor in 2018 with the unannounced arrival of Bird scooters, but the city has since formalized a partnership with Spin, which will offer 400 scooters as of June.
“Scooters play an important role in micro and shared mobility,” says Ann Arbor Transportation Manager Raymond Hess. “But that’s my teaser: there’s more to come.”
How do i start? You can get a scooter over that Spin app.
How much does it cost? Spinscooters cost $ 1 to start, then $ 0.39 per minute plus taxes and fees.
What are the rules A new regulation just passed in September allows scooters to run on both sidewalks and streets, and drivers must give pedestrians an audible signal before they pass.
Make the car-free jump
In our auto-centered culture, being car-free can feel like a scary affair. But car-free Ann Arborites say the process is easier than it may seem.
“Start small and be patient with yourself,” says Marks. “The only thing you need for a car-free life besides the bike is creativity. Whether you’re shopping for groceries or going out in your new cocktail dress, you’ll find a way that works for you. “
Parsons says living a car-free life can also be a rewarding way to connect with loved ones. He experienced this firsthand with his son Jackson, 10.
Jackson Parsons at the age of 5.
“I’ve never seen Jackson as happy as when he was on my bike with me on the way to school,” says Parsons. “Every day turned into an adventure. Just try it. You will feel connected to nature and have fun at the same time. “
Suzette Wanninkhof has ridden her bike around several countries, but her favorite bike ride of all is to the Kerrytown Farmers Market on Saturday morning. She has lived car-free in Ann Arbor since 2017. She can be reached at [email protected]
All photos by Doug Coombe, except Jackson Parsons photo by Brad Parsons.