A Ferndale business owner is hoping at least 2,000 people will join him on June 30 to take part in a 54-mile bike ride on Woodward Avenue.
His plan comes after organizers put the brakes on the proposed Gran Fondo, or "big ride," event scheduled for that day involving a professional bicycle race from Detroit to Pontiac and back followed by a massive community bike ride.
Since December, the Woodward Avenue Action Association (WA3) has been unsuccessful in convincing officials in Royal Oak and other communities that it had a viable plan for the event. Royal Oak city officials have expressed concerns about the event's safety and whether it would be a drain on city services.
On Monday, Heather Carmona, director of the WA3, addressed the Royal Oak City Commission to put closure to the Gran Fondo event review process.
Carmona conceded she did not receive the favorable input she was hoping for from several South Oakland police chiefs.
“Other communities expressed some reluctance . . . and, frankly, fear,” she told city officials, adding, “It’s not a lost plan. There’s work that I think we can still integrate down the road.”
Jon Hughes, owner of the Downtown Ferndale Bike Shop, also spoke at the meeting and said he still plans to ride on Woodward on June 30 - and he'll be inviting 2,000 of his closest friends.
"We're still planning to do a ride on that date," he said on Thursday. "We're going to set it up where we go to all the different bike shops that are along the Woordward corridor."
The details are still being worked out, he said, but there will be a small entry fee ($10 or $15) and participants will get a T-shirt or cinch bag along with giveaways at each location. It will be held at 8 a.m. on June 30, starting at the Detroit RiverWalk.
"It's all about bike awareness and so we're just trying to get as many people out there as we can," he said. "We think that it's going to have a really good turnout and be a really good ride."
Hughes said he hopes Royal Oak city officials will change their minds about the event so that the Gran Fondo can happen next year. Until then, he points out that there's nothing stopping people from riding on Woodward at any time.
"It's totally legal to ride your bike on Woodward," he said. "We're just going to do this ride and follow the laws and there's nothing they can do to stop us."
As for ensuring safety, Hughes points out that there's "awesome safety in numbers."
"The more riders you have the safer you're going to be," he said. "The bigger the group it actually changes the behavior of other drivers on the road. They want to slow down. People don't want to hurt other people. They're just not paying attention."
Hughes said doing the ride is about promoting "equal rights" for bike riders and awareness of those who ride their bike every day on Woodward Avenue to get to and from work.
"There are bike commuters out there and cars need to be aware of us so you can stop running us over," he said.
Royal Oak Police Chief Corrigan O’Donohue, who has consistently expressed his safety concerns about the community bike ride, acknowledges it is legal to cycle on Woodward provided one follows the Motor Vehicle Code.
“If 2,000 people show up and they do that, then more power to them,” O’Donohue said.
The chief said groups of bikers frequently assemble in Royal Oak and hit the streets.
“They follow the rules of the road and we encourage it,” he said. “They don’t come to the city asking for a partner or for special consideration.”
Hughes said the group would have cars that follow the ride to offer help with flat tires or to provide a ride for people who can't make it the full 50 miles.
There's a lot of excitement about the ride so far, Hughes said, though word is only starting to get out. "Everyone I talk to is all about it," he said. "It's going to be really pretty cool."
For updates on the event, visit downtownferndalebikeshop.com.