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Pedaling to the top: How bicycles stormed the Detroit auto show

More people are biking in cities across the US, a trend that the Detroit auto show incorporated into their 2013 show.  

By Aimee Ortiz / January 16, 2013

Rose Barcklow works on her bike in the velo room at her apartment complex in downtown Denver.

Ed Andrieski/AP Photo

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The North American International Auto Show in Detroit opened its doors to reporters on Monday. Members of the media were allowed early access to the upcoming vehicle debuts and latest automotive news. One of the biggest shockers so far has been the prominent placement of bicycles.

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“Consumers that may be not that active or may not even have bicycles themselves are going to associate that with an active lifestyle, an outdoor lifestyle, a healthy lifestyle," Jeremy Anwyl, vice chairman of the Edmunds.com auto website, told the Associated Press.

While bikes were not the primary focus of the Press Preview, they have been used to market vehicles in the past.

The Prius X Parlee, seen with other Toyota vehicles, was developed to be lightweight bicycle and include electronic shifters as well as a smartphone dock.

Coincidentally, the North American International Anti-Auto Show opens on Friday at the Contemporary Art Institute of Detroit. The show is an art exhibition featuring alternative modes of transportation.

The NYTimes reported that the timing is not meant to pit bicyclist against driver but rather to highlight “the environmental consequences of the automobile and the things that come from a heavy car culture.”

According the Times, Aaron Timlin, chief executive and president of the Contemporary Art Institute of Detroit, finds the event humorous, “because it is ironic.”

Irony and marketing aside, bike commuting has been on the rise in recent years. The AP reported that in places like Portland, Ore., which has already been dubbed one of the most cyclist-friendly cities in the US, bicycles and biking culture have been increasing. Some apartment complexes have started to offer secure bike storage and others have installed repair shops.

The green-minded apartment complex EcoFlats even has a bike bar on the ground floor. According to the AP, the Hopworks BikeBar features water-bottle filling stations and comes decorated with locally handcrafted bike frames.

“Three thousand people ride their bike by here each day,” Jean Pierre Veillet, the developer of the building, told the AP.

The bike movement is spreading quickly. Denver already has complexes similar to Portland's EcoFlats and other cities have begun to build them.

In Seattle, where thousands of cyclists already share the road with drivers, the Pine Street Group is building a 654-unit apartment complex that will accommodate the biking tenants and bike commuters. Commuters can join a club to have access to the repair shop and lockers.

Matt Griffin, a managing partner for the group, says that he's been car-free for nine years. He wants the complex to become a hub for commuters. Griffin told the AP that, "bikes are a good way to get around Seattle." The rising numbers suggest that people agree.

For more tech news follow Aimee on Twitter, @aimee_ortiz

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