“Eks-cuse Me, Bike Train Coming!”
The Eastern Elementary Bike Train – aka the EE-Train – rolls out every day, rain or shine, in Traverse City’s Oak Heights neighborhood. Some days it’s a full crew. Other days, it’s a smaller group. But on school mornings, there’s always a happy, energetic group waiting at the intersection of Rose and Washington streets.
The ride from the meeting point to the school is a healthy mile. It includes a mix of streets, sidewalks, paved trails, and even some dirt tracks. Soon, a new paved trail will run alongside College Drive, thanks to the Safe Routes to School Infrastructure Grant. But the EE-Train has plenty of options, and bursting through the dirt trail along Eastern Avenue is a favorite part of the day for these young riders.
“The bike train started because all our kids are at the perfect age,” said EE-Train Lead DJ and father to Caleb and Robbie, Keelan McNulty. “They’ve all started riding bikes. Between the Norte Mountain bike team, Norte Summer Camp, and riding around town with their parents, these kids just love riding bikes.” He tends to show up with music pumping from a bike mounted speaker.
“We’re all families that enjoy riding bikes, so it just made sense,” agreed Nathan Hartmann, father to Everett.
According to Keelan, the bike train reached a critical mass when enough families responded to a group text suggesting the idea. The EE-Train is typically a baker’s dozen with three to four adults divided amongst four households: the McNultys, Bullochs, Hartmanns, and Buchholzes. With numbers on their side, momentum grew steadily.
The whole group appreciates the 10-15 minute ride much more than the dreaded carline. Keelan’s two boys enjoy the ride because “it’s fun and wakes us up.” Everett enjoys the daily ride because he likes seeing his friends and hitting the trails before school. However, he isn’t so keen about riding on rainy days.
On the day Norte joined the ride, Everett’s enthusiasm rang out as the bike train passed walkers on the Civic Center trail. “Excuse me, bike train coming through!” he hollered at each passerby.
“As a parent, it is such a joy to drop off children who are happy, excited, full of energy, and ready to focus on a day of learning,” said Jill Hartmann.
Charlie and Teddy’s mother, Kelly Bulloch, echoed the sentiment. “The kids are wide awake and have their blood pumping by the time they get to school. They’re so alert and energetic,” she said.
“It’s a great way to have a small adventure to start and end the school day,” advised Nathan. “It’s a fun opportunity to spend active time with your kids and helps teach them bike safety and independence. It doesn’t have to be an every day commitment. Do what works for your family.”
EE-Train can serve as a model for other families. Start with a route that is doable and inviting for the whole family. Then, ask other families to join. Keep it fun, bring the right gear, and make it happen. Even families that live far away from their school can plan a park and ride – or stroll – route. All of the EE-Train parents shared this piece of advice: make it work for you and your family.
“We’re lucky to have sidewalks, paths, and trails to use to get to school,” said Nathan. “If we had to use only streets, we probably wouldn’t be riding every day with our six-year-old.”
Keelan agreed. “Norte has paved the way in our neighborhood for kids biking to school. We are the next generation of Elementary students and parents keeping the tradition alive.”
If your family goes to Eastern Elementary and wants to join the EE-Train, just shoot Keelan an email. They’ll be happy to bring you on board.
“I used to fight to get the kids into the car – we had to drive to our former school. Now the kids anxiously wait for me in the garage each morning,” adds Kelly. “They can’t wait to see their friends and start the ride. It’s such a positive way to start the day.”
Group photo at top of page: The EE-Train, from left to right: Keelan McNulty, Robbie McNulty, Caleb McNulty, Kelly Bulloch, Teddy Bulloch, Everett Hartman, Emily Bucholz, Charlie Bulloch, Nathan Hartmann, Reagan Bulloch, Brendan McNulty)
Safe Routes to School and Norte
Norte administers school-based, walk and bike-focused initiatives across the Grand Traverse region. Our programs, projects, and events empower students of all ages, and their adults, to be active for life. If you need a little help creating your own bike or walk train, let us know.