Border-to-border bike trail unifies Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, two wheels at a time
By Adrian Hedden
As Andy Claydon makes the winding trek from his home in Ypsilanti to his job as systems engineer for Information Technology at Washtenaw Community College, he is certain of his own safe passage.
Claydon navigates a route born out of collaboration among the people of Washtenaw County. The Border to Border Trail follows the Huron River from the edge of Ann Arbor through Ypsilanti, winding in and out of picturesque and serene nature preserves and parks along the way.
“It’s all path, no street,” Claydon said of the Border to Border Trail. “It’s the perfect route. Pretty much anybody who works in Ann Arbor or Ypsi that bikes to work uses or knows about the Border to Border.”
Another avid cyclist and 2012 graduate from WCC’s graphic design program, Josh Chamberlain prefers the Border to Border Trail to perilous street traffic. In his tenure at WCC, the 18-year-old took his bike to and from classes, along the trail, on a daily basis and progressively came to value his safety atop the pedals over all else.
“It’s a lot safer than being in traffic,” Chamberlain said. “It may seem a little out of the way on the map, but the convenience will save you time.”
Originally a project of the Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation Department, started about a decade ago, the route is now maintained by Friends of The Border to Border Trail, a volunteer-based group that, since 2008, has provided maintenance for the trail as well as outreach programs to build awareness for the path.
Locals along the trail work in collaborative efforts to support and encourage use of the Borderto Border. Organizations set up in communities along the route provide clean up on the trail as well as give talks and setup informational tables at various institutions in the area.
“It’s not only great for recreation,” said coordinator of the Friends of the Border to Border Trail, Bob Krzewinski. “It’s important to transportation and WCC is a great example of that.”
Krzewinski estimates that traversing the route would allow bikers to reach WCC in 20 minutes from Ypsilanti’s Depot Town and 30 to 45 minutes from downtown Ann Arbor. An entrance to the trail can be found along Huron River Drive near WCC’s Health and Fitness Center.
“Trying to get everything off-road is one of the main goals,” Krzewinski said. “It’s about safety. Keeping the path separate from the roads also makes it easier and more enjoyable not having to deal with traffic.”
Industrial technology instructor at WCC, Dale Petty, travels to work along the path from Ann Arbor. Petty admits that the path can prove hairy at times, but views its use and functions as essential to addressing growing climate and environmental concerns.
Petty takes the route through Gallup Park in Ann Arbor, and follows it as the path runs into the Huron River, no cars in sight.
“It’s very accessible from Ann Arbor, a very scenic route,” Petty said. “Sometimes you have to go a little bit out of the way, but every time you bike, you help lower our carbon footprint.”
Cyclists peddling from Ann Arbor must ride briefly ride under US Highway 23 and those coming from Ypsilanti make passage over Interstate Highway 94, before reaching WCC.
Chamberlain points to the ease of travel afforded by the Border to Border Trail when recommending its use. He sees the avoidance of busy automobile traffic as paramount to effective transportation on a bike.
“You’re going to be miserable on Washtenaw Avenue, stopping at all the lights,” Chamberlain said. “This is cheaper, safer and makes for good exercise. You’ll actually be awake when you get to class.”
Despite the complexities and dangers associated with commuting by bike, Krzewinski is certain that the Border to Border Trail is an asset to Washtenaw County.
“It (bike travel) adds a quality of life,” he said. “It’s really something people will fight, but they soon realize that their property values are going up. It gives a neighborhood that recreational aspect, which poses economic benefits.”
Claydon estimates that an average person can comfortably travel one mile by bike every five minutes. He has taken his message, calling for more bike travel, to WCC’s campus. Claydon manned an informational about bike passage to WCC table at Sept. 11’s Welcome Day celebration in the school’s community park.
“You’ll be able to park right in front of your classroom,” Claydon said to potential users of the route on WCC’s campus. “For people, who think they’ll get too hot and sweaty, ask yourself: Do you run everywhere you walk? Bike riding doesn’t have to be strenuous. You can easily go at a pace that is comfortable for you.”