(The Global Exchange team has reached Detroit for the US Social Forum. This is the first of many posts from the USSF. Stay tuned to our blog for all the GX updates.)

US Social Forum 2010 – Part 1
Monday, June 21st

Bike Tent City, Detroit

And we did! Monday, hundreds of cyclists converged in Detroit, the final destination of their respective rides from locations across the country with a united vision that “Another World is Possible,” of a greener, (bike friendly!), and more just society. People chose bicycles as their form of transportation to the forum for a variety of reasons; as a demonstration against dirty fuel, as a symbol of unity, purely out of the love of cycling, or perhaps as a personal challenge of endurance.

Groups biked from as far as Seattle, Washington, and Ithaca, New York. Global Exchange’s own Kirsten Moller biked 500 miles with the group from Ithaca. I, myself, biked the mere 100 miles from Michigan’s capital city of Lansing. Having never biked more than maybe 30 or so miles at a time, 100 miles in two days seemed quite daunting. However, the trip proved to be much easier than I expected, and quite a fun experience as well, with quite a bit of time to reflect on what was to come in Detroit.

BikeIt is the national organization which coordinated all the regional bike caravans to the USSF. Once in Detroit, the majority of BikeIt participants camped together in the Bike Tent City downtown. The rides and community camping space both provided a great opportunity for cyclists to meet each other and share stories of why they were attending the social forum.

In Lansing, we hosted a group of over 20 cyclists from Madison, WI as they passed through en route to Detroit. The Grassroots Caravan, as they were called, made several stops along their route, volunteering on farms and community gardens all along the way. To celebrate their arrival, and raise awareness in the community of the upcoming social forum, we held a Do-It-Yourself festival at the Lansing Bike Co-op, a project started by the Lansing community at the 2009 Michigan PowerShift Conference. This was also the meet and greet for the three of us from Lansing making the bike ride to Detroit.

Two days and 100 miles later (in the company of nine other cyclists from Ann Arbor, Mi), we rode onto Woodward Avenue. After the merriness of our ride, Detroit’s abandoned and boarded up buildings, which had been ever increasing as we rode down Warren, greeted us with the harsh reailty of why we had come to Detroit in the first place – to unite together for a better Detroit, a better U.S., a better World.

Upon arriving the Bike Tent City, we dragged our bikes inside the lot, anxious for a break in the shade and the ability to refill our water bottles. Only 3pm on Monday, the day before the opening of the USSF, the city was already swarming with activists anticipating what the week held in store.

(Casey McKeel is part of our Midwest Climate and Energy Campaign based in Lansing, Michigan where they are working together to build a green economy in the Midwest.)