Advocacy Newsletter: Who’s afraid to walk through a work zone?

Advocacy Newsletter, June 30, 2020

Terri Hanson rides to work every day and has crossed Division Street at Seventh St. hundreds of times. In May, a driver pulled out in front of her, struck her, and drove away. Terri was unharmed but certainly shaken. We sat down with her to discuss the crash, get to know her a little, and hear her perspective on biking in Northern Michigan. Meet Terri at Bike Life: Get Moving, Keep Moving

Hello Norte Supporter,

While out on your daily pandemic walk or roll, many of you may have noticed a large number of work zones across Grand Traverse this spring and summer. The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) is busy on the trunk lines, the City is installing sidewalks, and there are a handful of construction zones. As you come upon those projects, you may be left wondering: what am I supposed to do here?

Too often, those in charge of work zones are conditioned to treat people on foot, bike, or wheelchair as afterthoughts. Too often, an area is simply closed off. We are lucky if an advanced warning sign was installed to keep us from walking an entire block only to discover a barricade. In these tricky situations, assuming the risk of hopping a curb, skirting a barrier, or squeezing along construction might be our only real choice.

Adding to the frustration is the fact that this is unnecessary. Temporary and protected walkways and bikeways are not rocket science. Instead of closures and long, nonsensical and unreliable detours, people deserve traffic solutions that are not too different from what is ordinarily in place. National standards in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices actually call for work zones to provide accessibility features consistent with existing features. The longer the temporary controls are in place, the more extensive the effort required.

To be fair, there’s been an improvement in the region over the last decade. Engineering departments are more receptive to citizen complaints, and private construction teams are more responsive –– thank you, Honor State Bank –– but we have a long way to go. (I’m hopeful we are creative enough to someday deploy a shipping container as a covered bike lane through a work zone.)  We could avoid a lot of extra effort, and frustration could be avoided if people were given more priority by default.

This year, we’ve seen too many crosswalks closed without adequate consideration for people on foot or wheelchairConstruction crews routinely have to be reminded, if not forced, to provide signage and safe and accessible alternatives. The frustration continues to mount. If you have experienced this and want to help, let me know and we can walk through the steps. You can also let us know at Better Grand Traverse. I’m happy to help you contact elected representatives and those responsible for ensuring we all have safe access. You don’t need to solve the problem. Rather, I encourage you to politely and simply describe the issues you encounter when work zones fail to consider our needs as people traveling through the community. Whether on foot, bike, wheelchair, or automobile, all residents deserve to be treated like they matter.

Useful Contacts 

Three Policy Actions to Help The Cause

  1. Engineering departments need to include a more rigorous review of work zone plans to accommodate all traffic equitably and with respect.
  2. Annual training for all construction crews working in a municipality needs to be provided if not required.
  3. Local governments need to update policies to make accessible traffic controls a priority, instead of treating them like an extra amenity. This action would provide local teeth to national standards.

 


Traverse City has come a long way since 2010. Back then, a small band of citizen advocates paid the meter, parked bikes, and transformed a few parking spaces into parks for a few hours (see PARK(ing) Day Greeted with Mild Curiosity). Now, city authorities bag the meter and invite us to create these spaces – thank you, Downtown Development Authority. Also, a huge thanks to our great volunteers for pulling the pieces together to make a glorious parklet. We invite you to make this your next meeting point downtown. The parklets will be up on Front Street through Labor Day and, hopefully, and annual offering.

QUICK SPINS 

  • Bikes May Use Full Lane –– Congratulations and gratitude to our friends at the League of Michigan Bicyclists. They were successful in getting MDOT to approve the use of “Bikes May Use Full Lane” signage. This language is more precise and more welcoming.  It’s also safer.
  • Walk and Roll the LeFrainer Loops –– Congratulations are also needed for Grand Traverse County and the Health Department. Back in December, they started the process to formalize walk and roll trails behind the County Health Department building on LaFranier Rd. With funds in place, they are ready to go. Watch out for more news as trailheads, benches, and wayfinding are put in place, and as the County’s Wellness Team launches a MIParks Walk Michigan program. Who’s up for a walk?
  • Safe Crosswalks Rock –– It’s been one year since MDOT seriously upgraded the crosswalks across the Grandview Parkway. Friends and family joined Kaischa Smith to celebrate the milestone in July last year by planting a commemorative garden at Grandview and Elmwood Avenue, one year after Kaischa was struck and seriously injured while crossing the previously marked but unsignaled crosswalk. This year, she sent us a message to share, “I invite everyone to not take safe crosswalks “for granite” by painting Happy Rocks – colorfully designed rocks with messages of kindness and inspiration. Your colorful creations may be placed in the garden on July 22 (her “crashiversary”) or whenever convenient this month. Be safe. Be kind. Be thankful!”

 

I trust everyone is staying safe, healthy, and enjoying summer.

With mask on, hands clean, and from a distance, onward and upward.

Gary Howe
  @NorteGary 
Advocacy Director

P.S. Is your business ready to be certified a Bicycle Friendly Business

Have a friend who is always talking about the streets and traffic? They can sign up below.

Pro Walk/Pro Bike Advocacy

Eric’s “Why”

Hello, my name is Eric Mannix.  

A little less than 4 years ago, after moving my wife all over the world, we decided to make our final move. I was about 7 years late from when I originally “promised” to move her back to our home state, but that’s a whole different story.  I took a new position with my company that would allow me to travel and work remotely and we decided to take the plunge. We had two kids, 3 and 1.5 at the time (don’t you dare say he was 1…he was 1 and a half), and being back close to family was very important to us.  Her brother (you have already or will read about him shortly) had already moved to Traverse City and her parents had a cottage on the Manistee River east of Fife Lake. We talked about wanting to eventually retire in Traverse City consistently over the years and the stars seemed to be aligning.  Moving was nothing new to us and we knew that getting involved in the community is always the best way to meet new friends.  

When you have a 3 and 1.5 (seriously, the half is important) year old getting involved in the community almost always involves some sort of kids “meet-up”.  Talking with the few people I did know, I found Norte and their balance bike meet-ups at F&M Park. So, we loaded up the kids and the balance bikes and off we went.  When we arrived, there were around 20 kids, about 30 parents and 1 “big kid” in an orange helmet and a BMX bike with no pedals. Walking to the top of the hill, the kids were nervous and not comfortable on their balance bikes.  

The “big kid” was Ty Schmidt.  He welcomed the kids, asked them their names and personally escorted them down their first few trips down the hill.  They were immediately drawn to him and hung on his every word. They listened and tried everything he asked and by the end of the session, they were both going solo down the hill.  I was blown away. Not only was I blown away by how quickly they picked up the balance bikes, but I was blown away that Ty addressed them by their first names every time and never had to ask for their names again.  With that many kids and the inevitable distractions that come with trying to wrangle them all together, he was able to remember their names. That may not sound like much, but I was blown away. I was hooked…and so was my family.

I should back up about 20 years.  I was in high school and my father, mid-40’s, had a massive heart attack.  Luckily, he had his heart attack while in the hospital and on the prep table before having a heart catheterization procedure.  Over the previous years, my father had slowly let his weight increase following a convenient but unhealthy lifestyle. This is how those decisions manifested itself.  The doctor told him that if he had that heart attack anywhere other than the hospital, he would have died. My dad was my best friend. Still is. That day was the day I decided my personal mission would be focused on living a healthy lifestyle.  I promised myself I would not put myself in that position. I would ensure that if I was lucky enough to have a family that we would be committed to the same mission. My mind was committed. Fast forward those same 20 years and enter Norte.

The non-profit with the mission to help build stronger, better connected and more walk/bike-friendly communities by empowering the young AND young at heart.  Given my history, my personal mission, and my family’s mission, could there be a better fit? Now you know why I was hooked.

So why am I writing this?  I want to be more involved.  I’ve always wanted to volunteer my time with Norte, but my job requires significant travel and an erratic schedule that’s unknown only a week out.  I don’t like to commit to something if there is a high likelihood of not following through. I was always left disappointed that I wasn’t contributing.  I saw Patrick’s Heavy Ride for Norte and that struck a chord with me. I’ve found a personal passion for cycling and maybe I could “volunteer” on my own time and wherever I was.  The volunteering could be in the form of training for something big and audacious while hopefully inspiring and raising funds for Norte. Great idea. How could I be a little bit different?  Enter the Leadville Trail 100.

My brother-in-law, Matt Harris and I wanted to do a bucket list event.  I convinced him that Leadville should be our first. We have our own reasons for wanting it and what we want to accomplish (more to come on that in the future).  However, we both thought it would be a great way to get involved with Norte, do our own “heavy ride” and hopefully raise some funds for happy, healthy, strong kids and kids at heart.  We’ll both be documenting our journey along the way and hopefully inspire others to take on their own big, audacious goal to get healthy and strong.  

We’re two normal guys with family and job responsibilities, no endurance background growing up and zero excuses why this can’t be done.  We hope you join us for some training rides (will be posted in the future) and consider making a donation to an organization we believe is truly making a difference in people’s lives.  Don’t live in the Traverse City area? I am more than happy to discuss how you can take this mission, apply it to you and your community. 100% of donations will go to support Norte and their mission.  Healthy and strong is an amazing foundation to build a life on.  

Let’s grow that mission together.  

~ Eric

Eric and Matt Do Leadville For Norte is part of the “Near & Far” Heavy Ride Campaign which encourages awesome people both here in Northern Michigan and those across the US to go big for Norte on August 15th. Whether you ride to Wilderness State Park with the group or whatever is “heavy” for you where you are, we hope you’ll join us. Learn more and commit.

Read Matt’s full Heavy Ride story HERE.


ERIC’S HEAVY RIDE FOR NORTE

$3,185 of $3,000 raised
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Looking Forward to Summer Fun…Responsibly

 

Bike Campers, 

We are wearing masks, washing hands, and keeping our distance here at Norte. We’re also optimistically proceeding with care towards our Summer Bike Camp. Every day we’re learning more as state health officials turn the dial towards opening more and more businesses and allowing more and more social activities. 

Norte’s goal this summer––like every summer–– is to do our part to make it the best. Traverse City’s Summer Bike Camp is a big part of achieving that goal, and we are doing everything in our power to make it happen. 

Right now, we are not prepared to announce either way about our summer camp. We understand the importance of the bike camp experience for families. We also appreciate that now more than ever, children need play, socialization, movement, and the confidence-building that our bike camp develops. We have weekly sessions with full registration through August, and we want to put smiles on all those faces.  

To avoid canceling unnecessarily, we join our Bike & Sail partner Traverse Area Community Sailing to announce cancellations on a rolling schedule two-weeks ahead of each session. That means that families signed up for the first session scheduled to begin on June 15 will be notified on or before June 1. As summer progresses, families enrolled for each new session can expect an update on their session status two-weeks ahead of time. At that point, we will also communicate our latest efforts on how we will be keeping everyone happy,  healthy, strong – and safe. 

Rest assured, we dedicate ourselves to being a model of public health and safety. The health of our campers, instructors, and their families is a priority. We are well-positioned to deliver a fun, safe, healthy, and educational bike camp when the time is right. 

Norte is committed to helping everyone get outside and recreate responsibly. We’re happy to learn this week that Michiganders can once again meet in small groups of 10 or less as long as physical distancing, face masks, and frequent handwashing continues. That’s excellent news and news we can use. 

We will know more about what’s possible soon. We will continue to keep our camp participants and the wider community up to date. Thank you for your patience and support. We will ride together soon. 

Sincerely, 

Gary & Ben and the rest of your friends at Norte

 

Rolling and Doing Good Through the Pandemic

The Kanner family in Traverse City, MI.

The Kanner family in Traverse City, MI.

 

Three years ago, the Kanner family connected with Norte. Martin, who was then 10, wanted to go mountain biking. His mother Virginie signed him up in a Norte program, and he has been rolling ever since. During the last two months, Martin has been unable to ride with friends due to the pandemic. As a result, the family has been hitting the hills together.

“He rides all the trails and hills,” said Martin’s father, William. He added, “I usually wait at the bottom for him. It’s amazing to see what he can do.”

It’s also amazing what Dr. William Kanner has been doing these past two months. Kanner is a physician at Munson Healthcare and serves as their Pathology Section Chief and Blood Bank Director. One of his primary responsibilities is to ensure that the supply of blood meets current demand.

“Today, we are getting critically low on blood because it’s hard to donate due to the COVID-19,” he said. “The early, adequate supply of blood has now dwindled due to increased demand, so we are once again in critical need.”

Munson Healthcare works with Versiti to source blood, and supply is only there when people donate. “A big thank you to everyone who has been able to give and spread the word about blood donation,” said Kanner. “Given the pandemic, blood donation is more important than ever.”

TOWARDS A COVID-19 TREATMENT

In addition to managing blood supplies, Kanner is Munson’s principal investigator in an emergency drug trial to treat COVID-19 patients. The trial is a collaboration of 2,277 sites across the nation and over 6,000 physicians, including Kanner. They’re testing the efficacy of using convalescent plasma from COVID-19 survivors to treat those severely affected by the virus.

“This is interesting because if somebody has been sick with COVID-19 and recovered, the idea is that they will produce antibodies. If we take their plasma and transfuse it to someone else, the hope is that those antibodies will help fight the virus and heal the patient,” said Kanner. It will provide medical professionals with a relatively easy, safe, and promising treatment if it works.

Sourcing convalescent plasma relies on blood donations from individuals who have recovered from COVID-19. “If you have recovered from COVID-19, please consider being evaluated to donate your plasma. If you know someone who has recovered, let them know about the program,” asked Kanner.

Munson Healthcare, regional health departments, and Versiti are working together to find eligible plasma donors. To be eligible, donors must:

  • Have had a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19 by laboratory testing, or
  •  If it wasn’t a confirmed diagnosis, but antibody testing is positive, a donor may still be eligible.
  • Be symptom-free for the last 14 days.

Kanner is grateful that his family has been healthy and that he has been able to work on something positive throughout the pandemic. “It’s rewarding being able to offer something to treat people, something the community can participate in that is positive. It’s also great to connect with Norte to do something positive in the community,” said Kanner.

Whether it’s supporting their son’s passion for the trails or serving the community, the Kanners epitomize happy, healthy, and strong. Keep rolling team–thank you.

 

To make a blood donation, you can learn more at Versiti’s website or by contacting them at 231- 935-3030. Please be patient as they are working hard to meet demand and be safe in the current situation.

To find out if you are eligible to donate convalescent plasma, please contact Versiti at MICplasma@versiti.org or 616-233-8634.  You can learn more about the trial, visit the Mayo Clinic’s trail website at uscovidplasma.org. 

We ask everyone to help us spread the word about the need for blood and plasma donations. Let’s continue to stay healthy and stay active, responsibly.

 

To everyone at Munson Healthcare – Thank you! They are one of our fantastic Business Champions.

 

Advocacy Newsletter: Keep On, Keep Rolling. Onward We Go!

Advocacy Newsletter, May 13, 2020

Cargo Bike

Lindsey Demmy hauls the little ones to a nearby park on her sweet Workcycles Kr8. She’s seeing the number of utility bikes steadily climb in Northern Michigan and predicts that with social distancing the new normal, “cargo/long-tail bike playdates are going to be the hot trend this summer.” Keep it rolling, Lindsey!

Hello Norte Supporter,

When it comes to preventing viruses like COVID-19, influenza, and the common cold, outside is always better than inside. As I heard this past week, “fewer faces, bigger spaces.”

We’re anticipating that as this pandemic progresses into summer, Northern Michigan is going to become the outdoor playground of choice for more and more people. A recent mobility report from Google already shows a 120% increase in visits to parks in Grand Traverse County since March, and walk and bike rates are up significantly. Once June hits, we’re going to need more space for people to avoid crowding and to continue physical distancing while scientists race to develop a COVID-19 vaccine. Downtown Traverse City is already considering closing Front Street to support businesses, but we also need the City to create more space for people to comfortably access shops, services, and the outdoors across our community––this is also good for business.

We’ve reported on the positive trend happening in cities across the world and are thrilled to see many municipalities already making permanent open and slow street programs. The City Commission discussed options a few weeks ago, and, at the time, commissioners wanted to see more specifics. TART and Norte subsequently obliged by teaming up to offer an option called Slow Streets TC. The proposal would create a series of connected neighborhood slow streets –– starting with equipment already in supply, like cones and signage.

The idea is to create more room for people to walk, bike, or get about in a wheelchair. We can do this incrementally by calming traffic and creating a shared street environment where people driving are alerted to expect more people –– young and old, on foot and bike. This would give more space on sidewalks and bring more peace of mind to parents and others. Traffic calming is like planting a tree, the best time to put it in place was 20 years ago, the second-best time is now.

The City Commission will be addressing Slow Streets TC soon, and we’re asking all of you to lend your voice of support to the cause. In our proposal, we requested that the City of Traverse adopt a COVID-19 response, Slow Streets TC, to slow vehicle speeds. We offered a few suggestions and willingness to help maintain and monitor the program.

Review the joint TART and Norte proposal, and please share your message of support to citycommissioners@traversecitymi.gov

If you’re looking for inspiration, here are some articles from around the globe for livable streets. These Streets May Stay Open Forever • Give People the Public Space They Need • Cities Seeing Fewer Cars, Plan to Keep It That Way • 20 Miles of Healthy Streets in Seattle.

Sidewalks

We can’t get enough of these new sidewalks transforming Traverse Heights. Barlow and Hannah Street have never looked so fabulous and inviting. We thank the City of Traverse City, partner organizations, and countless citizens for the collective effort to add 14 miles of sidewalk over 3 years. If these new sidewalks have changed your life, let us know. We’re looking for stories to tell. Shoot me an email and let’s talk!

QUICK SPINS – THREE ACTIONS TO HELP OTHERS

  • Pipe Up for the Civic Center –– Grand Traverse County Parks and Recreation is planning for some significant changes to Norte’s home base. Help us, help them, bring the “Civic Center Park into the future” by taking this preference survey.
  • Census 2020 –– Michigan has lost 5 US representatives since 1970 due to population decline, from 19 to 14 in 2010. This decline also means less federal assistance and a weakened vote count in the electoral college. It’s quick, it’s easy, it’s private – Be Counted for Michigan.
  • Norte’s Neighborhood Yard Sale is Rolling –– We know some of you have spent the last few months cleaning out the garage. If you’ve found an old bike that you no longer need, here’s your chance to sell it and support the Norte Kids Bike Library. Friday is the deadline to list an item for sale and sales begin on May 16.

Two months ago, we stepped into the pandemic reality with tremendous uncertainty. In response, we leaned in and started to showcase more of what we do at Norte by sharing the Advocacy Newsletter to the entire Norte list. Previously, the Advocacy Newsletter went exclusively to people who signed up for advocacy-related news, action items, and features.

If you’ve appreciated the last three Advocacy Newsletters (March 24April 8April 23), and aren’t already signed up, please go to the Norte Pro Walk/Pro Bike page and add your name to the list. You can also sign up by sending me an email with your thoughts and where you see action needed in Northern Michigan.

Stay Home. Stay Safe. Stay Active, Responsibly. We’ll be rolling together soon.

Gary Howe
  @NorteGary 
Advocacy Director

P.S. Is your business ready to be certified a Bicycle Friendly BusinessI can help your business with the application. The current certification round is due June 10.

Have a friend who is always talking about the streets and traffic? They can sign up below.

Pro Walk/Pro Bike Advocacy

Advocacy Newsletter: Are you ready to be a Superhero?

Advocacy Newsletter, April 23, 2020

You don’t need to be a superhero to ride a bike, but riding a bike can certainly make one a superhero. The superhuman photography of Danny Neumann made me smile this week. Down Time 1 (above) and more of his work can be viewed on Instagram @CantinaDanny. Thank you, Danny.

 

Hello Norte Supporter,

It’s fair to say we’ve all noticed a considerable drop in automobile traffic during this past month. As a result, NASA is reporting massive declines in air pollution, and the reduced miles driven has led auto insurance companies to offer refunds. In some places, though––mainly on the expressways––fewer cars have led to increased speeds and fatal crashes as open roads tempt the heavy-footed.

We are also witnessing the inherent resiliency of the humble bicycle. Ridership is growing as the bike is proving once again to be an efficient, convenient, and safe way to navigate our communities. While public transportation is limited and many people are unshackled from their daily commute, riding a bike for essential outdoor time or a quick spin to the grocer has become the perfect solution––in the past month and a half alone, ridership in Philadelphia increased by 150%. Norte has already helped a few essential workers obtain bicycles through Bicycle Grand Traverse (if you need one, we’ll help connect you to one).

Bicycles often assume the role of trusted transportation during catastrophes. We see it in the aftermath of hurricanes, earthquakes, during power outages, and in the not-so-critically-acclaimed TV series “Colony”, where a utility bike with a basket becomes an advantageous way to avoid alien turncoats. Arguably the most efficient form of transportation, bikes are the perfect tool for both a zombie apocalypse or a global pandemic.

As we cautiously move away from stay home orders and begin to come out of our homes, it’s reasonable to predict that many of us will be biking more very soon. We will be looking for ways to get fresh air, maintain physical distancing, and, perhaps, lose some of those extra pounds we’ve gained this past month. And our bikes will help. They will be critical for economic recovery and social reemergence while being even more vital for our mental and physical health.

Keep this in mind when it comes time to speak up as municipalities and transportation departments are considering budgets, new infrastructure, or slow street proposals. We need a deeper understanding and appreciation for how bikes are an essential piece of community resilience and deserve priority attention. Bikes are a tool for superheroes. Let’s roll with it.

400 native trees arrive at the Norte Clubhouse next weekend from the Conservation Resource Alliance’s Wild Roots Initiative. We have already found homes for them across the region, from Northport down to Traverse City to Elk Rapids. Trees are critical infrastructure for a healthy, happy, strong community and we are thrilled to see the community jump at a chance to plant some trees. Thank you.

 

QUICK SPINS (GOOD READS)

  • Japan’s Disaster Parks – Parks where benches turn into stoves, manholes become toilets, and hidden bunkers store food. These are genuinely parks at another level.
  • Pandemics, Public Transit, and Automobiles  –  You might assume avoiding transit is a no brainer during a pandemic. Todd Litman of Victoria Transport Policy Institute sheds some enlightening thoughts and math on the issue.
  • Opportunity to Remake Cities  –  Open streets and slow streets are popular policies that are giving people space to roam during COVID-19. Are they equally great for nonemergency times?

ACTION: Our friends at League of Michigan Bicyclists continue to lobby Governor Whitmer’s office to allow bicycle shops to be re-open for no-contact sales and service. Ideally, this will be included in her order starting May 1st. Thank you if you have previously sent a message. We encourage you to send one more to add your voice to the effort –– Bicycles are essential transportation.

Stay home. Stay safe. Stay active, responsibly. Roll with you again soon.

Gary Howe
  @NorteGary 
Advocacy Director

P.S. Is your business ready to be certified a Bicycle Friendly BusinessI can help your business with the application.

Have a friend who is always talking about the streets and traffic? They can sign up below.

Pro Walk/Pro Bike Advocacy

Sidewalks, Chalk Art, and Circle of Hearts

 

At the beginning of April, Traverse City resident Christine Krzyszton was feeling cooped up and in need of doing something to show her appreciation for the health care professionals during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Michigan was seeing exponential daily increases, and she wanted to let nurses know they were appreciated.

“My creativity had been quite suppressed and one of the residents here told me that some of the Munson staff she knew were having a rough day, that there had been a couple of deaths and the people who passed were alone as no one could visit,” said Krzyszton. “I had purchased some sidewalk chalk for the purpose of putting positive messages on the sidewalk around our building but when I heard about the Munson staff, I knew that was a better idea.”

On one of those early and warm spring days, she set out to do as much as she could by herself. She had texted friends for help, but no one was available. “I went out to my car to get supplies and these 3 young people walked by so I asked them if they wanted to help me on a project,” described Krzyszton. They were more than willing to help. Later, two of her neighbors agreed to help. And, when she arrived at the sidewalk near Munson, Krzyszton asked a young woman who had finished jogging if she wanted to help.

“She said yes and it turned out her brother was in ICU after a very bad accident. She called her mom and sister who showed up. They were thrilled to be involved,” she said. Krzyszton later thanked everyone who participated in her Facebook post that first displayed photos of the art.

One of the artists to participate in Circle of Hearts was Meghan Richardson, an artist from Midland who happened to be on a walk with her friend, a Munson employee. Richardson ended up creating the illustration of the nurse that was widely seen.

Artist Meghan Richardson with her nurse illustration. See more of her art @megrichardsondesign.

 

Both she and Krzyszton found it serendipitous that they all came together at the same time. Richardson was on her way to trails at the Grand Traverse Commons Natural Area when out of the blue, a woman asked if she wanted to help create messages to the nurses. “I said, ‘Funny thing is, I actually do chalk art. I’m going to go on this hike and then come back.’ She didn’t think I was going to come back, but I keep my word,” said Richardson. “It was a weird coming together of all these different walks of life, and we’re all doing sidewalk art, 6-feet apart. We were in the right place at the right time. I had a blast doing it,” she added.

Richardson manages a coffee shop in Midland and is encouraging customers to leave messages and art on the sidewalks around it. “I’m also doing a big mural outside of our coffee shop, similar to the one at Munson,” she said. Richardson is encouraging more people to get outside and be active, and doing art, by leaving a bucket of chalk outside the coffee shop. She says, “sidewalk chalk is an amazing” way to encourage more people to get outside and participate in spreading positive energy.

 

In Traverse City, Krzyszton plans to continue leaving messages on the sidewalks around Munson and also encourages others to join her. “My vision was to put an entire circle of sidewalk messages around the Munson complex. If anyone feels they want to say thank you to those who work there, it would be a good, positive, healthy way to do so. It does make a difference,” she said. As evidence, she points to the large number of people stopping to take pictures, including Munson employees. She also noticed a message sent out by Munson CEO Ed Ness, who mentioned the “cheerful sidewalk-chalk messages.”

“Sidewalk messages are a way to connect with others safely. You can be outdoors and distanced from the person you’re trying to reach, yet the message can be very personal. I just urge everyone to find one small safe way to make another person’s life better during this time,” said Krzyszton.

We at Norte couldn’t agree more. Not only do we want to see more sidewalks, but we also want to see more sidewalk art!

We send our gratitude to everyone involved in Circle of Hearts and to everyone out there, making life easier for others. Even temporary works of art that get washed away in the rain speak volumes.

For more of the sidewalk art shown here, visit Krzyszton’s Facebook page and @megrichardsondesign for more of Richardson’s work. All images courtesy of Krzyszton.

 

Stay Home. Stay Safe. Stay Active, Responsibly

 

 

Advocacy Newsletter: A Strong Community, Built for the Challenge

Advocacy Newsletter, April 8, 2020

Thank you to all of our essential heroes working to keep us healthy, keep us fed, and keep us moving forward even when the world is standing still. We appreciate you. We support you.
Chalk art by Meghan Richardson. Thank you, Meghan.

Hello,

While El Periódico is on hiatus, I was asked to reach out to the Norte community. First, let me just say, I hope this reaches you well. We’re all under new stressors, and if you’re like me, it’s been a bumpy trail. Let’s be strong together!

For an organization like Norte, whose mission is built on encouraging everyone to get outside – to stay active and social –the Stay Home order is borderline inconceivable. We miss our teams. We miss the smiles. It breaks our hearts to cancel spring programs.

However, our work is driven by public health. That is the foundation of happy, healthy, strong. This work includes amplifying the need for all of us to maintain physical distancing and wash our hands often. It also includes changing the odds in favor of more happy, active lives. That work continues unabated, and now, as many of you have an urge to do more for your community, we invite you to join us.

DOUBLING YOUR EFFORT TOWARDS…

Parks – Let’s work together to keep parks and trails open. Avoid congregating and be responsible. This will keep state officials from making the hard decision to close them. Let’s also look to the future and consider now how we can ensure that our parks are adequately funded and what we can do to help. We see now their real value. Thank you, Grand Traverse, for the Civic Center!

Sidewalks/Trails – It’s a beautiful sight to see such a large number of people outside enjoying themselves, Still, many of us are experiencing the difficulty of staying six feet apart on sidewalks and trails. It is a reminder of the important work ahead for public space where people can freely move and express themselves. As a community, we must demand better than minimum widths and basic accessibility standards. Every foot matters. As I wrote last week, this is true with or without a pandemic.

Bikes – Although we’ve known it for a while, bikes as transportation are having a moment. This experience only strengthens Norte’s efforts to build communities that prioritize the bicycle as critical transportation. Let’s keep pushing! Right now, we encourage you to join the effort led by our partner League of Michigan Bicyclists (LMB) to add “bicycle repair personnel” as essential workers who keep us rolling with needed repairs and maintenance of vehicles. Bikes are transportation, and essential workers across the state depend on them. Use LMB’s online form to add your voice and consider contacting your local state representatives.

Open Streets – As the Stay Home order is extended, let us know as you see opportunities for your community to close local streets to cars to create needed space for people to walk, bike, and dance. Who knows? It might even lead to more Open Street events after the pandemic has passed. When you see people in need of space, take photos, and collect their stories to build the case. Send them our way.
EXTRAS: Be sure to fill out your 2020 Census, and consider making a contribution to our local safety net at Goodwill Northern Michigan and Urgent Needs Fund at Grand Traverse Regional Community Foundation.

Help a neighbor. We’re starting to see Little Free Libraries used for much more than book sharing. There are also Mutual Aid groups across Northern Michigan. What can you share? Who can you help?

QUICK SPINS (GOOD READS)

I’m practicing self-awareness to remind myself that nothing about the COVID-19 Pandemic is normal. The fact that over three billion people across the globe are under some form of a stay at home order is mind-boggling. We are all adapting and making do, but let’s not lose sight of the moment. I suspect, as we reflect on our work and community, there are profound lessons to be gleaned during this time that will energize us long into the future as we work towards happy, healthy, strong communities by design.

Stay home. Stay safe. Stay active, responsibly.

Gary Howe
  @NorteGary 
Advocacy Director

Have a friend who is always talking about the streets and traffic? They can sign up below.

Pro Walk/Pro Bike Advocacy

Stay Home. Stay Safe. Stay Active, Responsibly

Stay Home. Stay Safe. Stay Active, Responsibly

Today, Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed Executive Order No 2020-21,” putting “Stay Home, Stay Safe” in effect until April 13. We encourage everyone to follow the State’s COVID19 Website and Grand Traverse County COVID19 for continued updates to all CDC recommendations and information. 

We want to highlight section 7.a.1 of the Governor’s order. It states we may leave our homes “to engage in outdoor activity, including walking, hiking, running, cycling, or any other recreational activity consistent with remaining at least six feet from people from outside the individual’s household.” 

Outside is not canceled. It has been deemed essential. 

To navigate our way through this and come out with a stronger community, staying active, staying healthy, staying responsible is our challenge. Norte programs empower everyone to make outdoor activities part of our every day lives. Now is the time, like no other, to put that into practice. Get out solo. Explore the area around your home with your family unit. You can wave to your friends from opposite sides of the street.

Importantly, stay active responsibly. The Stay Home, Stay Safe order by Governor Gretchen Whitmer is not a suggestion, it is an order. Thankfully, it recognizes that working out the kinks and stretching our legs is essential. 

Physical Distancing, Social Solidarity

During this time, we must also maintain the social support networks we have, even if that means, for the time being, it focuses on timely Facebook shout outs, friendly text messages and calls, and shouts across the street to a neighbor on their porch. Social distancing is the chosen public health term, and we can honor it with physical distancing and social solidarity. 

For those who can, supporting our local businesses that remain open during is a powerful show of solidarity and will keep you energized. Here is a list of our Business Champions still open.  Many of them deliver – reduce the number of people out and about, take them up on it! 

Check their websites or call in advance. And for a broader range of businesses, here are lists published by Traverse City TourismDowntown Traverse City Association, and Elk Rapids DDA. The Village of NorthportVillage of Suttons Bay, and Downtown Kalkaska are also sources for local updates.  

Please peruse all of our Business Champions, many of whom will play particular roles in the eventual recovery. None more so than the Grand Traverse Regional Community Foundation, which is seeking donations for its Urgent Needs Fund. These funds will assist vital regional services in Antrim, Benzie, Grand Traverse, Kalkaska, and Leelanau Counties. 

And, a special shout out to those on the front lines at Munson Healthcare – Thank you! They are in dire need of community support. Please click through to see if there’s something you can do. They need donations and medical supplies.

For the time being, we are going to cloister ourselves. These actions are for the safety and health of the community. Those walls are going to close in, so find a motivator to keep you active and friends to keep you tuned into your social support group.

Be cautious. Stay away from places like playgrounds and things like doorknobs as much as you can, but get outside. Breathe. 

We’re in this together. Be strong. Be well. 

 

Stay Home. Stay Safe. Stay Active, Responsibly

 

Orange You Glad It’s Fall?

Forget Pumpkin Spice and Football, Bikes are the Best Part of Fall!

We’re pumped for our best fall ever. There’s just nothing like exploring northern Michigan on a beautiful fall day on bikes with friends, is there? Here are our top reasons to make this your best fall ever with Team Orange.

And more! What did we miss? We’ll add it. Contact Ash: ashlea@elgruponorte.org

 

Gracias, Brian!

Meet Brian Buysse, one of Norte’s awesome volunteers!

Brian started coming into the Wheelhouse this spring and summer to wrench on bikes to get bikes under more bottoms in northern Michigan. His expertise is needed and very appreciated. Thank you for your time and passion, Brian!

How long have you been volunteering with Norte?

Just a few weeks wrenching but have assisted on a few rides and also helped paint the Wheelhouse last fall. 

What’s your bike background?

I’ve done multi-day tours, mountain bike races, then moved into road cycling. After getting burned out from my IT career, I decided I needed to do something completely different. I shadowed a neighbor on the finer points of bike mechanics then shortly after, I moved from Lansing to northern Michigan after finding a job at a bike shop in Beulah. I also owned and ran a bike shop in Manistee for a few years and spent 15 years total as a professional in the industry.

Why do you share your time and passion with Norte?

I want to give back. I’ve seen how bike shops can exclude people who don’t know much about bikes and I want to bring my knowledge and mechanical expertise to Norte to help combat that. Bikes can bring people together and give them a sense of freedom on the road and on the trail. Bicycling can also help people find joy. But there’s nothing worse than getting kids excited and then giving them a bike that doesn’t work; they can lose interest pretty fast. I want kids to have a positive experience with bikes. So, someone with my mechanical experience can not only fix up bikes and help Norte with its bike lending programs, but I can also help kids and volunteers learn bike maintenance. My goal is to find the best fit and contribute what I can and, again, spread the joy that bikes can give people, both young and old.

 

Want to be awesome like Brian and share your time and expertise with Norte? There are a lot of different volunteer opportunities to fit your schedule. Thank you for making the magic happen!

Why language matters and accidents aren’t accidents

by Gary Howe, Advocacy Director

Implicit bias in the language we use to discuss walking and biking was a key topic through the 2019 Grand Traverse Advocate Academy.  For example, we talked a lot about windshield bias and how it informs policies, designs, and use of public spaces. It’s a large part why we need pro-walk, pro-bike advocacy. There’s also a need for citizen advocates to be aware of how their own language shapes discussions. Too often, we use language that categorizes people based on their mobility choice; our fellow citizens become pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists. This puts our neighbors, and their behavior, at a distance from ourselves.

The reality is that how we choose to move about the community doesn’t define us. Most people I know use many different modes of travel depending on their needs, comfort level, and what’s available. I’ve challenged myself to embrace the multi-modal within me and within every one of us. I strive to have empathy for everyone I meet on the road of life, regardless of how they are moving about. I believe it will lead me to be a better advocate: if I advocate for improvements that benefit everyone, instead of just a few, my efforts will be more effective. (See the Language Matters Cheat Sheet below.)

Institutional Language

Another aspect of language bias is found in the media and police reports covering traffic crashes. We don’t have to look very hard to find language bias in media as often the headlines are enough to give many of us pause: ”Pedestrian Hit by Car.” It’s as if autonomous vehicles are already here! Or this one from the 2006 Traverse City Record-Eagle: “Car strikes, kills pedestrian.” This passive, clinical language obscures agency. In addition to dropping pedestrian, cyclist, and motorist, try replacing “car” with any other inanimate object and see how it sounds. “Man hit by hammer.” “Piano strikes, kills woman.” “Banana slams into drugstore.”

In a recent Outside Magazine piece, Joe Lindsey examines the issue of language’s legal impact, highlighting two studies that connect language bias in media coverage and police reports. Quick-breaking news coverage laden with implicit language bias tends to anchor blame on inanimate objects, regardless of the facts. There are real consequences for everyone involved, legally and personally. 

Forging a Better Path

Team Orange can commit to more accurate and inclusive language. We can check ourselves when we fall into categorizing others based on mode choices. And we can catch ourselves when we use the word “accident” to describe predictable and preventable traffic crashes. Consider signing your name to the “Crash Not Accident” website: pledge to stop saying ”accident.’

Saying accident instead of crash is most unhelpful framing. First and foremost, it suggests that nothing could have been done. And it suggests that our car-centric land use, street designs, and policies are unchangeable. This is unacceptable. As a society, we must demand answers and accountability for the 6 million car accidents crashes and 40,000 deaths a year on US streets and roads alone.

These so-called accidents are preventable. As Lindsay notes:

‘Accident’ conveys inevitability. You can trace virtually every crash to something upstream, whether human error, poor street design, or something else. Almost every crash is preventable.

The Pledge:

I will not call traffic crashes “accidents.” I will educate others about why “crash” is a better word.

What’s your experience?  

___

*Above graphics from, Editorial Patterns in Bicyclist and Pedestrian Crash Reporting

Further reading: