Edward Hines (1870-1938) was a longtime chairman of the Wayne County (Michigan) Road Commission and a prominent figure in the development of modern wheeled transportation in the United States (and abroad). An avid cyclist, his experience of the appalling road conditions in Gilded Age Michigan inspired him to agitate for highway improvements, a cause he pursued as president of the “Detroit Wheelmen” and later on the Road Commission (on which he served with his friend Henry Ford). He helped pioneer the use of concrete in public roads (overseeing its first stretch in the country, along Woodward Avenue in Detroit between Six and Seven Mile Roads) and is credited with inventing the painted center line (first employed, regardless, in nearby Trenton in 1911).
Hines’ dedication to improving the aesthetic as well as tactile qualities of highway travel led him to develop roadside parks, particularly along the then-Middle Rouge Parkway, running along the Rouge River west of Detroit from Northville to Dearborn. The latter was eventually renamed in Hines’ honor, and the Hines Trail now runs alongside it for almost twenty miles, connecting with the Rouge River Greenway just west of the campus of Henry Ford College. Road and trail provide an accessible and leisurely means for locals and tourists to travel through some of Detroit’s most expansive suburbs without getting lost in residential streets and sprawl-intensive traffic, as well as preserving some of the Rouge’s natural landscapes in the middle of the United States’ modern industrial “ground zero.”
I had the pleasure of taking the trail a week ago on my bike ride from Ann Arbor to Detroit, a long-held ambition I was delighted to finally fulfill. The trail was pretty well-maintained, even if I had to take a probably sketchy detour towards the end given a wall of construction just north of Ford Road (one of the ghastlier main arteries connecting Wayne and Washtenaw Counties), with some mild historical curiosities along the way, including Nankin Mills (an old millhouse taken over by Ford for a while as an outlying factory) and the rest stop at Haggerty Park, a 1930s curio that was apparently one of the pioneers of roadside reststops (fitting enough given the whole area’s status as the pilot project of American car culture in general). Riding in the other direction this morning (doing a roundup of central Washtenaw dirt roads I missed my last couple of trips) but looking forward to next week when I’ll be (likely) exploring the I-275 Trail running alongside the titular freeway (particularly excited to run down a couple of connections to the surprisingly active Oakland County trail network).
Have a great day!