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It’s no secret that Wayne State University President M. Roy Wilson is a huge bicycling fan and enthusiast.

After all, shortly after arriving at the Detroit school, he instituted a new fundraiser centered on a 100-mile bike ride — a ride he makes as well.

So when he thought recently about touring Michigan to hear from residents from outside Detroit, it was only natural that he’d hop back on his bike. He’ll spend Tuesday through Thursday riding in the day and hosting community conversations in the evening.

“I’ve always liked to do organized rides, both here in Detroit and in Colorado (where he was before coming to Wayne State),” Wilson told the Free Press. “It gets me out into the community and invariably I meet people I wouldn’t normally meet. It’s been a way to get a better perspective of life outside of whatever city I was living in.”

More: Money slated for bike lane-related improvements in Detroit’s Capitol Park

So, as last year’s presidential campaign unwound and the nation’s division became clearer, Wilson thought about he could get out of his bubble.

“Neither Denver or Detroit completely represent the viewpoint across their states,” he said. “I’m just interested in being able to connect with people. I thought it would be fun to combine cycling with a listening tour.”

So during the day, he’s invited local cycling clubs to join him as he covers about 100 miles a day.

“When we are riding with a group, I’m no longer President Wilson. I’m just part of the crew. You really form a team spirit and I like that.”

In the evening, he’s invited the public and local elected officials to join him to talk about higher education issues, including college affordability. 

More: Wayne State University hikes tuition by 3.75% for next year

On Tuesday he visited The Voyageur at 525 South Riverside in St. Clair.  Wednesday, he’ll peddle about 132 miles to arrive in Midland by 5:30 p.m. to meet residents at Pizza Sam’s on West Main.  And on Thursday he’ll make his way to DeWitt — about 72 miles — to meet people at Relli’s Italian Restuarant on East Main from 5:30 to 7 p.m.

“People from different areas thing differently,” he said. “I believe as a university president I need to understand all perspectives. We have students from all these areas on our campus.”

If this year’s tour goes well, Wilson said, he’s open to repeating it next year in a different part of the state.

Contact David Jesse: 313-222-8851 or djesse@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter: @reporterdavidj

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