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Traverse City Sidewalks: Fix ’em up, Fill ’em in

Last summer, while walking to work along Seventh St., I noticed a woman about a ½  block ahead of me. She was walking along at a brisk pace, enjoying the beautiful day. Then, almost as if in slow motion, I watched as she caught her foot on a large crack in the sidewalk, lurking a few inches above the concrete just waiting to catch an unsuspecting foot. Thrown off balance, she stumbled forward and landed on her side in a neighboring lawn.

I rushed ahead to check on her. As I approached, I noticed that she was older than I had assumed – probably in her 70’s. She said she was “okay” and I carefully helped her back to her feet. Thankfully, she did not appear to have sustained any major injuries. She thanked me for my help and continued on her way.

I couldn’t help but notice that as she walked away, there was a change in her cadence. That bounce in her step was no longer there. She walked away cautiously, looking for another hazard that could bring her to the ground.

In my work as a physical therapist, I work every day with older adults who are either recovering from fall-related injuries, or working to improve their strength and balance to keep from falling. I see the devastating outcomes that a fall can have on older adults. Whether it is broken bones or broken confidence, a fall invariably will lead to some loss of independence.

I still think about this woman often. I wonder if she still walks around Traverse City as confidently and briskly as she did before this fall. Or has she modified her mobility habits to walk less and drive more to avoid another trip and fall? I sure hope it is the former.

Monday night (see meeting packet HERE), we have an opportunity to make sure that incidents like these, falls and injuries from sidewalks in poor condition, are less likely to happen. Most of the talk around the $4.5 million sidewalk bonding proposal has been centered around filling in sidewalks in Traverse Heights, and understandably so. However, another important piece of this project is the over $500,000 that would go to repairing the 15,391 feet of sidewalk that is rated as in “poor” or “very poor” condition.

Map of sidewalks rated as “poor” or “very poor” that would be repaired as part of $4.5 mil bond proposal

Yes, we need sidewalks in Traverse Heights and we need them now. But we also need to ensure that the sidewalks we currently have, in all of our neighborhoods, are safe for everyone to travel on.

How you can help:

  • Email City Commissioners voicing your support for the full $4.5 million investment in sidewalk infill and repair before their meeting 12/18/17. Make it personal. Explain why this matters to you, your family, your neighbors. Email all Commissioners with this one address: CityCommissioners@traversecitymi.gov
  • Attend the meeting Monday, December 18th at 7P at the Governmental Center (400 Boardman Ave.). Show up and voice your support. RSVP HERE.

Chris Hinze is a dad, physical therapist, Cleveland Browns fan, Norte board member and chair of the Traverse City Pro Walk/Pro Bike committee. He lives in the Old Town neighborhood with his wife and two daughters. Follow him on Twitter @chinzept


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