Advocacy Newsletter: Hunker Down and Continue to Explore

Advocacy Newsletter, March 24, 2020

What creative solutions are you and your neighbors doing to maintain a physical distance and continue to be together? Post your photo on your favorite social media of choice and tag us. We’d love to see what you come up with.


This will be the last Norte advocacy newsletter for a while, and I want to reach out to everyone and wish you all well. When this is over, we are going to need your courage and your voice to heal our community. You may not think of yourself as a citizen advocate, but if you have the drive to help others and make a positive impact, that’s squarely one aspect of who you are and can be.

Now more than ever, our community and its long-term health rely on our individual actions. Our heroic journey now includes staying home, staying safe, staying active, responsbily. I add the latter because those walls are going to close in fast, and getting outside (while avoiding contact and staying close to home) is going to be medicine for our minds and bodies. Outside is not canceled. It has been deemed essential. 

I have an advocacy challenge for when you’re out and about exploring your neighborhood. With the streets a bit more empty and the view of our public spaces a bit more open, what do you see? What sparks joy? What do you see that could use improvement? Is the change something you could do at that moment? Maybe DIY it after some planning? Or, is it something you’ll need help on?

Keep a journal of your walks. Take pictures. Be ready to roll out those great ideas when we get through this difficult time. If you want to conduct your own walking audit, download a Norte Walking Audit Scoresheet. As always, please email me with questions or observations. I’m here to help.

For the days when you’re hunkered down, I offer here some resources and books that I return to again and again: Tactical UrbanismVol 1Vol 2Better Block How-to WikiNACTO GuidesWalkable City Rules by Jeff Speck; Traffic by Tom Vanderbilt; City Cycling by Ralph Buehler; On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes by Alexandra Horowitz; and, one broader in scope, Sapiens: A Brief History of the Humankind by Yuval Harari.

Help our friends at Brick Wheels and keep an eye out for this $5k Trek Farley. Someone tossed a rock through their window and pinched it last night.

Quick Spins (FROM THE WEB)

  • Here’s to Meandering! – We tend to walk or bike to get someplace or achieve some distance or race against time. Perhaps this forced downtime is the right time to bring back meandering. There’s a certain beauty in aimlessness.
  • Narrow Sidewalks Make it Hard to Follow 6-foot rule –  As you spend time walking your neighborhood in the next few weeks, take a tape measure with you. How wide is that sidewalk? Is it time to reallocate more of the right of way to people on foot?
  • Missing Strangers  – “Keep choosing to see every stranger as a friend,” writes Lauren Duca. Along with this thought, here’s one more book recommendation, Consequential Strangers by Melinda Blau.
  • Someone Definitely Needs a Solution Class – Late Show host Stephen Colbert sort of changes a bike tube. Where’s Ben when you need him?

If anything, this pandemic is offering us a profound reminder and making tangible what we often take for granted: we are in this together. There’s no “us” and “them,” there’s only us.

Stay home. Stay safe. Stay active, responsibly.

Gary Howe
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


Advocacy Newsletter: The Time is Now, Let’s Act

Advocacy Newsletter, February 25, 2020

Policy specialist Jim Bruckbauer of Groundwork Center delivers at 2020 Advocate Academy.

Hello Everyone!

This is your February advocacy newsletter. Below, you’ll find four items ready for action and one big shout out.  Let’s act!

Back in January, the Traverse City City Commission held a strategic planning session to clarify the new board’s goals and priorities. One of those outcomes was a goal to expand and improve active transportation options. One action step agreed to is the forming of an Active Transportation Committee.

There are many forms that an Active Transportation Committee can take. Still, generally, it is an appointed committee that advises city staff and elected officials on strategic plans to boost conditions for walking, biking, public transit, and other forms of non-automobile transportation, including universal accessibility for those using wheelchairs. These committees or commissions often invite experts in the field to serve on them.

Forming an Active Transportation Committee has long been considered a missing piece to the advancement of Pro Walk/Pro Bike initiatives in Traverse City. Currently, each major street project is a last-minute hustle to adequately meet the accessibility goals stated in the City’s Master Plan. An established committee that meets every two months or when needed to review budgets, plans, and strategic documents would be a valuable addition to the planning process.

Please send encouragement to key City Staff and City Commissioners, asking them to establish an Active Transportation Committee as soon as possible. The time is now. 


Do you work at an aspiring Bicycle Friendly Business?  Is your business ready to be certified?

Quick Spins

  • Walk and Bike to School – As part of our systems roll out with area schools, we’re developing informational tools to help encourage families to include a walk or bike ride to and from school. We need your feedback to get this right. Find a school you know, take a look at the “how-to,” and let us know what you think.
  • Stop Distracted Driving –  You’ve probably done your count and confirmed that an estimated 20…30…40 percent of us drive while distracted by our phones. Our partner in Lansing, League of Michigan Bicyclists, is working hard to see that Michigan joins 16 other states who have banned the use of hand-held wireless devices while driving. Please, take action today.
  • Railroad Square Rolling – Shout out to the Village of Kalkaska for bringing in $3.7 million for the Railroad Square project. The project is a centerpiece for creating a vibrant downtown that is more accessible and active. They break ground this spring. Toot! Toot!
  • It’s Sneckdown Season – Due to the sunny weather in February, the streets are clear, and near-perfect conditions exist for #sneckdown pics. When we next see fresh snow, it will melt where traffic is the heaviest and reveal the extra space we reserve for our cars (and speed) that we could reclaim for people & public life. Let’s build up our collection of local examples. Please shoot me an email and post them with #Sneckdown. I’ll share the best ones. Here’s an exemplary example via @BrentToderian

Be safe. Have fun. Send us some #sneckdown photos!

Gary Howe
Advocacy Director

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

Pro Walk/Pro Bike Advocacy

Advocacy Newsletter: Do You Whistle When You Shovel the Sidewalk?

Advocacy Newsletter, January 28, 2020

We believe that an advocate’s work starts at the front porch, includes a
nice snow shovel, and a tune you can whistle.

Hello Friends, 

I hope January is treating you well. This month’s Advocacy Newsletter has a few items to highlight from this first month of year 2020, so let’s jump in.

First, Norte Neighborhood Advocacy established an advocacy committee to assist with strategic planning, provide feedback as issues arise and on-the-street observations and perspectives from across the region. We also look to this group to fuel creativity, camaraderie, and collaboration among citizen advocates across the region. Advocating needs more merriment!

Our inaugural committee members represent the geographic reach of our growing community, from Northport around the bays to Elk Rapids and Kalkaska. Here’s a big-orange thank you to the 12 rockstars on the committee. If you see any of the following people, give them a warm Norte thanks and perhaps share your dreams for a better community.

Thank you Kelly Primo, William White, Jeanne Esch, Corrine Wetherbee, Connor Miller, Janice Beyer, Lauren Dake, Kaischa Smith, Bill Danly, Tracy Halasinski, and John Roberts. The committee is chaired by the newly elected board president, Chris Hinze.

If you have questions or suggestions, please email Chris at

The Bike Life
Are you ready to join Matt on Winter Bike to Work & School Day? 

Quick Spins

  • It’s that CIP Time of Year – CIP is short for Capital Improvement Program or Plan. Local governments use the CIP to review the 5-6 year major infrastructure plan annually. Typically, the further out a project is, the more visionary it is. An appropriate CIP integrates planning between departments and aligns with the budget and policy priorities from previous years. Current major projects proposed for Traverse City include five different bridge projects, reconstruction of Garfield Ave. (Front to Hannah), several neighborhood parks, the Boardman Lake Loop extension, continued sidewalk gap infill, and the annual street reconstruction program. If you want to understand the upcoming walk and bike projects and see where your own positive influence might be useful, there is a public hearing for Traverse City’s CIP on February 4th. If you’re not in Traverse City, you can visit your local government’s website for their CIP process (I’m happy to help, just reach out).
  • Fixing the Stroads – Coined by Strong Towns to describe dangerous, multi-laned corridors, that underperform by almost all measures, stroads are street/road hybrids that need fixing. The City of Traverse City recently asked for our input on How to Make Our Major Corridors More Inviting. After you review our list, let us know your own suggestions. Send them my way and if they are relevant to Traverse City, share them with the city planner, Russ Soyring at
  • 2020 Advocate Academy –  Next Thursday, we begin another year in partnership with Groundwork Center to kick off the third annual Advocate Academy. In the six weekly meetings, participants work together to develop strategies and approaches for effective local advocacy related to the Pro Walk/Pro Bike initiative. There are a few spots left, so learn more and enroll today. Bring a friend!

The snow is still falling, so after viewing our snowy PSA, consider joining the Great Northern Michigan Shovel Experiment.

Be safe. Have fun. Keep advocating for all things great.

Gary Howe
Advocacy Director

P.S. Did you see Norte’s new color? We went Platinum as a League of American Bicyclists Bicycle Friendly Business. We join Higher Grounds and Boomerang Catapult as certified businesses in Northern Michigan. Want to join us? 


1. Take Norte’s Community Walk, Bike Survey

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

Pro Walk/Pro Bike Advocacy

Advocacy Newsletter: ’tis the season for gratitude, exploring, and advocating – always!

Advocacy Newsletter, December 5, 2019

Hello fellow citizens,

As we roll into the holiday season and the gifts to come, I encourage us to look back on the gifts we’ve already experienced throughout 2019. As Norte’s Advocacy Director, for me, that means countless new relationships established and others renewed through a shared cause of safer streets and destinations that provide us great places to be ourselves. Thank you to all our community partners, Business Champions, citizen advocates, mentors, and supporters who make this work richer. Here’s to more and better in 2020.

One of the most significant programs we rolled out in 2019 was the Explore Academy class, “Explore Your Neighborhood, Shape your Community.” The 24 middle and high school students who participated in the program were some of the most exceptional people I was honored to meet this year. With a mix of ages from a blend of schools, they quickly established the program on a strong foundation.

“Explore Your Neighborhood, Shape your Community,” was made possible by a developmental micro-grant from League of Michigan Bicyclists. The class developed over the summer of 2019 in partnership with Megan Olds of Parallel Solutions. We also owe thanks to the support from TC West Senior High and TC Central High civics programs for offering the program as an extracurricular program.

Read the recap at Exploring the streets for opportunities and delights.

Are you thinking about winter cycling? 
Norte’s staff is here to offer encouragement, advice, and a hot cup of coffee.


  • East Bay All the Way – The buzz for better access and more choices to get around is on track in East Bay. Read our latest update.
  • Traverse City Crosswalk Signs – This past Monday, city staff presented several possibilities for City Commissioners to consider in order to maintain the deployment of the popular in-street pedestrian signs at 12 crosswalks throughout the winter. Under consideration is an option to place additional curb mounted signs, thus maintaining extra signage throughout the year. Support for year-round attention and encouragement of walkability deserves our appreciation. Please send city staff and commissioners encouragement for recognizing the importance of year-round safe access at  
  • To Stop or Not – Traverse City continues to take public input regarding the four-way stop sign trial at W. Front and Madison Streets. They are currently processing over 1500 survey results. The intersection is a tricky one and the right tool for regulating who gets to go when is generating lively debateYou are encouraged to share your thoughts with the chair of the traffic committee, Assistant City Manager, Penny Hill, at 
  • Garfield Township Trails – This past Wednesday, 17 Michigan State University students presented conceptual plans for extending the Buffalo Ridge Trail from the YMCA to the Taqueria at Zimmerman Rd. The concepts included connections to the growing neighborhoods along Silver Lake and South Airport Roads and a healthy dose of placemaking attractions. Next year, the Lower Buffalo will be paved from 14th St. to Silver Dr. These conceptual designs are early ideas for an extension that would connect schools, businesses, and the YMCA to residents to South and West of the City. If you are interested in the concepts and want to support this trail, email Garfield’s Planning Director, John Sych at 
  • Snow, Snow, Everywhere Snow – The region has come a long way over the past decade in maintaining clear sidewalks, trails, and bus stops year-round. For example, the Mall Trail is being plowed by TART thanks to the pro-bono services of Johnson Outdoor Services and the County, East Bay, Acme, and Garfield Townships, the City of TC, and others have implemented a plan to clear the East-West multi-use trails all winter. There is a regional effort to be celebrated. Send your snowy-gratitude to County Facilities Manager, Joe Berry, at, TC Director of Public Services, Frank Dituri, at, and in Garfield Township, Supervisor Chuck Korn,

Do you have some extra energy for moving some snow? Burn off some calories through Norte’s Great Shovel Experiment and/or with one of our community partners, BATA. The transit service needs volunteers for its Adopt-a-Stop Program.

Be safe. Have fun. Advocate for all things great.

Gary Howe
Advocacy Director

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

Pro Walk/Pro Bike Advocacy

Advocacy Newsletter: Does your street pass the halloween test?

Advocacy Newsletter, October 31, 2019

Greetings Community-Engaged Ghouls and Goblins,

Happy Halloween! Today is the walktastic holiday celebrating compact, friendly neighborhoods. We observe this holiday of walking by getting into costume, saying hi to neighbors, and sending the young ones onto strangers’ porches for sugary sweets.

The most walkable neighborhoods attract the most trick-or-treaters, so give your neighborhood the Halloween walkability test tonight. Here are key elements to recognize.

  1. More Doors – More doors per mile = more candy per minute.
  2. Porches and Stoops – Doors you can find and porches to welcome you.
  3. Short Setbacks – The closer the porch is to the sidewalk or street, again, the more candy per minute available.
  4. Wide Sidewalks, Skinny Streets – Central Neighborhood is Traverse City’s ultimate Halloween destination due to 6′-8′ sidewalks, healthy trees, and streets narrowed by parked cars.
  5. Healthy Grid – No one has time to get turned around on Halloween. True walkability is found in neighborhoods that connect without switchbacks and backtracking.

On average, children are twice as likely to be killed in a crash on Halloween than any other day. That’s the scary part of Halloween. Use caution and consider leaving the car parked tonight. Instead, join the crowd of scary celebrities, ghosts, and werewolves on a walk. Here are some Halloween safety tips by Safe Kids Worldwide (also in Spanish).

Here are a few upcoming opportunities to help raise the Halloween walkability score for more of the Grand Traverse region.


Friday, Nov. 1, 12:45 to 3:30 – Community Tree Planting Event with ReLeaf Michigan, DTE Foundation, and City of TC. Meet at the corner of Grant and Carver St. to help plant 14 trees in Traverse Heights.

Wednesday, Nov. 6, 5:15 – Planning Commission Open House to collect feedback on the draft Street Design Manual (PDF). The City of Traverse City is a leader in the region and the state for Pro Walk/Pro Bike initiatives. It was one of the first to deploy in-street crosswalks signs, invest in urban multi-use trails, and install a protected bike lane. However, there is plenty of room for improvement in street designs, the process of review, and complete street network planning. This current document is intended to provide design guidance for all city streets.

The quick history is that it is a result of a failed attempt to pass an active transportation plan going back to 2013. The stated goal for the city is safe, inviting, efficient, and inclusive access and this document is seen as an incremental step towards that end. The planning department would specifically appreciate comments on streets and routes to expand the bike network and solve problem intersections. Your comments from Norte’s Advocacy Happy Hour on August 29 have been shared. Hopefully, there is also room to include more commitment to complete streets designed for all ages and abilities. I encourage you to review Traverse City’s Street Design Guide, attend the meeting, and share your opinion.

If you’re looking for inspiration, Vancouver’s transportation AAA design guidelines are a progressive model – All Ages, All Abilities (PDF), as is Boulder’s Low-Stress Walk and Bike Network Plan.

Friday, Nov. 8, 12:00 to 2:00 – Public input opportunity to review preliminary Safe Routes to School plans. This is a chance to have questions answered and to speak in favor of specific aspects of the plan. Norte is already gearing up for the Safe Routes programming in the 10-schools connected to this grant. This meeting will review the preliminary plan for the sidewalks, crosswalks, and traffic calming associated with the Safe Routes to School infrastructure grant of $1.9 million awarded to the city. You can review the schools involved and sign up to be kept up to speed at Norte Safe Routes.

If you can’t make either of these public input meetings, you may email the City Planner Russ Soyring, and and the Traffic Committee Chairperson Penny Hill, 

The All Ages, All Abilities approach to bike facilities.


  • Suttons Bay Strong – There will be a Norte led walking audit next week in Suttons Bay as part of Suttons Bay Strong. The walk begins at 4:30 by the flag pole at Suttons Bay Elementary. Everyone with an interest in a more walkable village is invited. If you’re a parent of a student in Suttons Bay, please take this Safe Routes to School survey by November 11.
  • Kalkaska Strong – Norte is also helping Kalkaska Strong prepare for a Safe Routes to School grant. We need parents of Kalkaska students to also take the Safe Routes to School Survey for their schools by November 11.
  • Community Walk, Bike Survey –You value what you measure and Norte values your input on how the Grand Traverse region is doing to promote walking and biking by design. Our annual survey is now live and ready to document why you walk and bike? As well as why you don’t? You may take it once or at different times throughout the year.  The Community Walk, Bike Survey takes about 5-10 minutes.

As always, there’s plenty of ways to plug-in at Norte. Please check the Norte calendar for events of interest.

Be safe. Have fun.

Gary Howe
Advocacy Director

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Pro Walk/Pro Bike Advocacy

Get to Know the Candidates: Office of City Commissioner, Traverse City

This week, Norte offered the 10 candidates for the five open seats for City Commission of Traverse City an opportunity to speak to the Norte community. We started on Monday with the Office of Mayor and followed up yesterday with the two candidates running for a partial term race for City Commissioner.

Today we hear from the six candidates running for three four-year City Commissioner seats. All candidates were asked to keep their answers to 450 characters. All answers were published as submitted, unedited, and without annotation in the order responses were received.

Office of City Commissioner, City of Traverse City (Four-Year Term)

To start, please describe the most memorable walk, or most memorable bike ride, that you have experienced. This could have been anywhere in the world, for any duration, for any purpose. What made it so memorable?

Evan Dalley:  My most memorable bike ride was when I first rode the perimeter of Mackinac Island. Lake Shore Drive as it winds around the island provides stunning views of Lake Huron and the Straits, but is mostly impressive for being 100% car-free! I don’t remember exactly how old I was at the time but I do remember being struck by the freedom of having a whole road I could ride my bike on without any fear for my safety. There should be more places like that.

Katy Bertodatto: Washington Street to try to find a way to say goodbye to a friend. There were still marks on the pavement where she lost her life riding home. I hit my knees next to her ghost bike and fell apart in a fit of sadness and rage. I was angry when they took down her white bike and paved over the marks because for them it was disturbing to see the literal last marks she left on the world. I still see her everywhere. I haven’t ridden my bike since 2013.

Roger Putman: In 1998 as the first executive director of TART Trails when I walked the Leelanau Trail for the first time. It was mostly gravel and was the target of a great deal of opposition from adjacent land owners along the route, as well as having a large mortgage that had been taken out to preserve the 100′ wide by 17 mile piece of property for public use. I am proud of having the privilege to help develop and preserve this exceptional trail.

Dave Durbin: My first Century Ride (100 miles) was with a friend and we went from TC to Northport to Empire and back to TC on a beautiful fall day. Memorable because it felt like a culmination of all my life’s rides. Throughout life I’ve ridden for fitness, for transport, for pleasure and out of necessity. Growing up on a dirt road in northern Michigan, my Huffy meant freedom to me. Without the lifetime of riding, that Century Ride wouldn’t have happened.

Amy Shamroe: When I was 10, I saved up and bought a Cool Waves 10 speed. It was the coolest bike ever. One day my best friend, brother, his friend, and I all went for a random ride and ended up going up and down every street in the neighborhood where I lived. We were gone for hours. It was a magical sense of exploration and freedom I had never known before and it allowed me to see something so familiar through totally different eyes.

Ashlea Walter: So many! If I have to pick just one, it was my daily bike ride when I was a college student living in Erlangen, Germany. I lived in a little village outside of the City and there was a beautiful, inspiring web of protected bike lanes and forest trails that I took to town. It was the first time that I experienced a completely different way to get myself independently and confidently EVERY place I wanted and needed to go via bike. Inspiring!

Please define effective leadership in the local context. Provide in your answer, a specific example of leadership that has impacted your willingness to serve as an elected official.

Evan Dalley: Local leaders should be patient, humble, have a passion for their community, and – most importantly – should actively listen to the members of their community. Grand Traverse County Commissioner Betsy Coffia is a great example of a leader on the local level who has these characteristics. More than anyone else, she has inspired me to seek elected office myself.

Katy Bertodatto: Leadership in the local context is about knowing what tools you have and how to use them. Grants, subsidies, funding sources, but most of all people. Leaders know that they don’t know everything and they surround themselves with people who are willing to research and learn and advocate. Jean Derenzy does this with the DDA. Warren Call does this with TraverseCONNECT. And I will do this on City Commission.

Roger Putman: Effective leadership means listening to all points of view concerning important issues and making informed, educated decisions that affect the community in a positive manner. In the case of the City Commission, leadership begins with the citizens who are served by those elected officials. Traverse City citizens are engaged and their leadership is an important asset to our process.

Dave Durbin: A strong local leader is one who can understand issues, work with people from different backgrounds, bring consensus and then take action. While in office, Gov. William Milliken showed this type of leadership. He was more interested in finding the right solutions and was a consummate gentleman. He considered ideas from the other side if they contributed to a better option and I think this type of leadership encourages good ideas and unites us.

Amy Shamroe: Local leadership is listening to citizens, using facts from staff and experts, and crafting the best possible policy for the City. Over the last four years I have served on four different Commissions due to unusual turnover. In that time I have lead on projects like Fiber to the Premises and 8th Street. Leading on policy through these changes taught me valuable leadership lessons that will be an asset on a new Commission.

Ashlea Walter: Effective leadership is listening with an open mind, being open to change, empowering others to be a part of action-oriented solutions, and focused on inclusion of different, often marginalized voices. An example of leadership that has inspired me is Michigan Representative Rachel Hood in Grand Rapids. She is a mother, business co-owner with her husband, strident and passionate environmental protector, and coalition-builder. She gets stuff done!

How is a Traverse City of the future, one that is stronger, better connected, and more walk and bike-friendly different than the Traverse City of today?

Evan Dalley: Today’s Traverse City has a lot going for it, but a future, stronger city will have more and better-protected bike lanes for bicyclists to travel, more dedicated non-motorized roads and trails, more and wider sidewalks, engaging and inspiring public spaces where people can mingle, an economy less reliant on tourism and service industry jobs, and neighborhoods where people of all income levels and backgrounds can afford to live.

Katy Bertodatto: My primary concern is safety as we move toward a more walkable, bike-able community. I see every major road project moving forward taking into account safety and support for those who choose to walk and bike. Connecting sidewalks and providing safe walks to school is important and I’d like to see more of that.

Roger Putman: The most important emphasis is to reduce the volume of vehicles on our City roads to help relieve congestion by promoting increased public transportation (park and ride) options along with ensuring bike lanes / paths and sidewalks headline any road improvements and developments in the City.

Dave Durbin: In the future Traverse City, more people will be able choose to safely walk or bike to their destinations (work, social, meetings, entertainment) and BATA will have enhanced routes to transport people throughout Traverse City and neighboring communities. Hopefully more pathway options to connect commerce and residential hubs will make the option to bike or walk more appealing thereby minimizing our reliance on motorized vehicles.

Amy Shamroe: Traverse City of the future will have developments with little to no parking. Easily accessible BATA stops will be built into reconstructions and be in all neighborhoods with more frequency. The City will have human sized bike lanes on streets. We will continue to move the emphasis from cars to people and work with partners for best practices. Education and outreach will make citizens advocates for these approaches.

Ashlea Walter: It’s different than the TC of today, but we are making progress. My vision of a stronger, better-connected TC would be to see more protected bike lanes, in addition to clearly-communicated (painted/delineated) bike lanes and sidewalks all over the region connecting ALL neighborhoods and businesses, and our surrounding communities outside of the City with clear access to businesses, schools, work, etc. via walking and biking.

The City of Traverse City will soon complete a dramatic reconstruction of 8th Street from Boardman Ave. to Woodmere Ave. What is your first response to the new 8th Street? What do you hope that the city can learn from the process and the design?

Evan Dalley: I hope the city will replicate the charrette process for future large-scale projects like the Eighth Street reconstruction, while also finding additional ways to gather public feedback. The more participation we have from all stakeholders in projects like this, the better the outcome. I hope also that the city will continue to look for ways to provide and enable multi-modal transportation options in future street reconstructions.

Katy Bertodatto: It’s done! And it’s beautiful. The process took forever but the construction took a very reasonable amount of time. My children ride their bikes from central neighborhood to the library and I am beyond excited that they have a safe lane with a buffer for their commute. There are other corridors that would benefit from a similar redesign and I hope to be a part of that.

Roger Putman: It depends on who you listen to. There has been a great deal of negative feedback from drivers who thought the project would eliminate the backups and traffic congestion. Refer to my answer to Question 6. I think the project examples a better way to recognize that pedestrians, bicyclists and those with disabilities are just as entitled to commute and expect safe routes throughout the City as someone in a car.

Dave Durbin: The traffic calming steps and lighting are effective, providing more of a safe neighborhood feel. The pedestrian component is a vast improvement both in walking 8th St and crossing it. I feel like a separated street level bike lane may work better, but overall this project is a win for the community and for the 8th St Corridor’s future development. Now that we have this working model, I hope we’ll continue to learn for future city projects.

Amy Shamroe: It has transformed how we interact with the street in the best way. It is not perfect. I have said since the start some will be disappointed no matter what because it does not look like their personal vision. In the end though it is an excellent realization of the community discussions that lead to its plan. It is a good model for involving citizens and interested parties on major City projects.

Ashlea Walter: I love the new 8th Street and it’s just the beginning of how we can create a corridor for all uses (pedestrians, bikers, cars, buses) on a very human-centered scale. It’s not perfect, but it’s significant progress. What we can learn from this is that progress is messy and imperfect, and not to shy away from conflict, but to embrace this part of living in community together. Continue to dream and act BIG.

Finally, what are you for?

Evan Dalley: I’m running to give back to a community that has given me everything I have. As your city commissioner, I will be a fierce advocate for the working people of our city, for the creation of affordable housing options in our community, for the creation and expansion of pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure, for the protection of our precious natural resources, and for smart and sustainable growth. Together, let’s create a Traverse City for All.

Katy Bertodatto: I am for responsible economic development and growth. I am for protecting our neighborhoods and supporting our businesses. I do not believe those two things are mutually exclusive. I am for a commission that is action oriented and ready to get to work.

Roger Putman: I am for many things, but especially those efforts that protect our environment and natural resources. On a different scale, I am for maintaining a positive outlook and interaction that can achieve remarkable results through respectful debate. I am for the people of Traverse City and for a stronger community.

Dave Durbin: I’m for a better quality of life for all. This means better physical health, mental health, financial health, and spiritual health. A commonality for communities with the best health and longevity (like Blue Zones), includes people who get exercise from their everyday activities. A walkable/bikeable city contributes to that. Whether or not TC ever becomes a Blue Zone or even wants to, it’s good that we’re moving in that healthy direction.

Amy Shamroe: I am for a Traverse City that looks forward to what can be, builds on what we have been doing in recent years to improve infrastructure and quality of life, and aims to lead the way for communities in our region and state.

Ashlea Walter: I am for community connection, high quality of life for ALL, inclusion, equity and equality.

Part I | Part II | Part III

Election Details

This fall, the Traverse City City Commission has a total of five seats open on the seven-member council. The fives seats are spread across three separate races. There is the race for Office of Mayor, which is a two-year term and the race for three four-year City Commissioner terms. Additionally, this year there is a special election for a partial two-year term to replace a City Commissioner who recently stepped down. Follow these links to check your own ballot and to double check that you’re registered.

Election Day is officially on November 5. Many voters have already started casting ballots via no excuse absentee ballots. The candidates receiving the most votes in their individual races will be sworn into office on November 11, 2019, at 7 p.m.

Get to Know the Candidates: Office of City Commissioner, Traverse City (Two-Year)

This week, Norte offered the 10 candidates for the five open seats for City Commission of Traverse City an opportunity to speak to the Norte community. We started on Monday with the Office of Mayor and on Wednesday we will hear from the six candidates running for the three four-year City Commissioner seats. Today, we hear from the two candidates running for a partial two-year term race for City Commissioner.

Candidates were asked to keep their answers to 450 characters. All answers were published as submitted, unedited, and without annotation in the order responses were received.

Office of City Commissioner, City of Traverse City (Two-Year Term)

To start, please describe the most memorable walk, or most memorable bike ride, that you have experienced. This could have been anywhere in the world, for any duration, for any purpose. What made it so memorable?

Christie Minervini:  I had the opportunity to visit Venice in the mid 1990s and still consider it to be my “happy place.” Though it was a literal maze of narrow streets, they were all clean, walkable and easy to navigate. I loved exploring the shops, restaurants, museums and cafes all filled with happy people. It was the kind of place where I felt safe and welcome — pedestrians all greeted me with a nod, smile and eye contact!

Tom Mair: Two – Detroit-Mackinaw City round-trip and Windsor-Montreal one-way. Biggest confidence builder .

Please define effective leadership in the local context. Provide in your answer, a specific example of leadership that has impacted your willingness to serve as an elected official.

Christie Minervini:  Effective local leadership is about research, engagement and collaboration. I have a long history of volunteer leadership, but the development of a permanent seasonal emergency shelter for Safe Harbor stands out in this case. Here, being a leader required intensive study, public engagement and education, effective lobbying and inter-agency collaboration, plus the ability to take on a tough project and see it through to completion.

Tom Mair: Leadership is taking responsibility to always be early so as to set an example of perfect attendance and earning trust by knowing that some people inherently don’t trust their employer or government. You need to earn – I earned the trust of the Sheriff and Jail Administration and many others. It took some time .

How is a Traverse City of the future, one that is stronger, better connected, and more walk and bike-friendly different than the Traverse City of today?

Christie Minervini:  I applaud the progress that has already been made in terms of pedestrian and cycle infrastructure, but we have a long way to go. I look forward to the completion of the Boardman Lake Trail, more complete sidewalks and streets and better connectivity and accessibility for those with disabilities. Sidewalk clearing in the wintertime is another area I’d like to see the City and business community focus on.

Tom Mair: I need to say that the community owes it to Norte for teaching kids how to ride on the road. These valuable lessons will last a lifetime .

The City of Traverse City will soon complete a dramatic reconstruction of 8th Street from Boardman Ave. to Woodmere Ave. What is your first response to the new 8th Street? What do you hope that the city can learn from the process and the design?

Christie Minervini:  I think the City has learned that it’s all about public engagement. I’m proud to have participated in a process where the community came together to craft the plan, and that we were able to compromise and accommodate the needs of drivers, pedestrians and cyclists. It’s so cool to see people walking, cycling and using 8th Street in a way that never happened prior to the reconstruction! And I look forward to seeing the economic benefits as well.

Tom Mair: The relief that it is nearly complete. The lack of a traffic light – at 8th & Boardman – is a glaring example of an unfortunate circumstance. The next commission needs to look east and west on 8th and make the road more connected.

Finally, what are you for?

Christie Minervini:  I’m running because I have a desire to protect, nurture and grow Traverse City in a way that honors our history and small-town character while providing the quality of life and opportunities that we need to thrive. Our leaders need to balance the potential economic and tax-generating benefits of development with the desire to maintain the qualities that make us special — I will work hard to meet these challenges and to achieve these goals.

Tom Mair: I am for Traverse City being a Model City – not for the nation – for Michigan and the Great Lakes. I have recently toured many city’s in Michigan and Wisconsin on the Lake Michigan shoreline and I see things we are not doing and I see things the other City’s are not doing that we do. We have a lot to learn and share .


Part I | Part II | Part III

Election Details

This fall, the Traverse City City Commission has a total of five seats open on the seven-member council. The fives seats are spread across three separate races. There is the race for Office of Mayor, which is a two-year term and the race for three four-year City Commissioner terms. Additionally, this year there is a special election for a partial two-year term to replace a City Commissioner who recently stepped down. Follow these links to check your own ballot and to double check that you’re registered.

Election Day is officially on November 5. Many voters have already started casting ballots via no excuse absentee ballots. The candidates receiving the most votes in their individual races will be sworn into office on November 11, 2019, at 7 p.m.

Get to Know the Candidates: Office of Mayor, Traverse City

This fall, the Traverse City City Commission has a total of five seats open on the seven-member council. The fives seats are spread across three separate races. There is the race for Office of Mayor, which is a two-year term and the race for three four-year City Commissioner seats. Additionally, this year there is a special election for a partial two-year term to replace a City Commissioner who recently stepped down.

This week Norte offered the 10 candidates for the five open seats an opportunity to speak to the Norte community. We begin with the two candidates for the Office of Mayor, followed tomorrow by the two candidates for the partial term race, and on Wednesday with the six candidates running for the three four-year seats.

Candidates were asked to keep their answers to 450 characters. All answers were published as submitted, unedited, and without annotation in the order responses were received.

Office of Mayor, City of Traverse City (Two-Year Term)

To start, please describe the most memorable walk, or most memorable bike ride, that you have experienced. This could have been anywhere in the world, for any duration, for any purpose. What made it so memorable?

Shea M. O’Brien: The most memorable ride I have ever had was a Traverse City slow roll as a child. My dad, sister and I all left from our home in the Traverse Heights neighborhood, rode through Old Town and into the Central Neighborhood to visit the public library. It was a pure and simple ride. It’s burned into my memory because it was such a care-free and safe ride. People driving their vehicles gave us plenty of room and waved as they passed by us.

Jim Carruthers: My hike along the Inca Trail in Peru. Hopped of the train along the Urubamba River and traversed Mt Machu Picchu through the Intipata ruins, “the place of the sun,” to the Sun Gate of the iconic city of ruins. Spectacular views of the river valley below and mountains in the distance, with colorful butterflies fluttering everywhere. The history and wonderment of a past civilization highlighted the tranquil scenery of this mountain.

Please define effective leadership in the local context. Provide in your answer, a specific example of leadership that has impacted your willingness to serve as an elected official.

Shea M. O’Brien: I would say effective leadership is listening to those who speak but also recognizing that what they say is not the only perspective of the issues. You have to make the right decisions knowing that it may upset people. During my grandfather’s career as a Traverse City Realtor he often had to make decisions that he knew may upset the community but would help Traverse City thrive in the long run.

Jim Carruthers: As a leader I have persevered scrutiny and ridicule for supporting a more progressive and connected community through diversity as a gay man. Ive worked on several referendums and 4 successful campaigns myself, gaining value in communicating with our citizens while passing a controversial nondiscrimination ordinance. This has ultimately made TC a much more welcoming community for everyone and a place I’m proud to be the Mayor.

How is a Traverse City of the future, one that is stronger, better connected, and more walk and bike-friendly different than the Traverse City of today?

Shea M. O’Brien:The TC for Tomorrow is a population diverse in ages and incomes. A place where people can begin their lives and build equity in attainable housing. A place where we are connected to our community through neighborhood sidewalks, safe bike paths, a civic square and activated parks. Density in neighborhoods that are near transit, bike paths and business corridors to mitigate the need for a vehicle. We must grow responsibly.

Jim Carruthers: Having worked for almost 30 years on renewable energy policy, planning and building of the regional multimodal system of trails, streets and sidewalks and developing a smart growth and traffic calming network, I’ve help create the foundation for a strong future in TC. Let’s keep up the momentum and continue making TC better for tomorrow.

The City of Traverse City will soon complete a dramatic reconstruction of 8th Street from Boardman Ave. to Woodmere Ave. What is your first response to the new 8th Street? What do you hope that the city can learn from the process and the design?

Shea M. O’Brien: My first response to the new 8th Street is, it will be a place for all to enjoy. I’m also impressed with how quickly the project has moved along and I’m looking forward to walking and biking to the future businesses. I know the city has learned that we value feeling safe while biking and walking, I’m hopeful that the city has learned that we value those willing to take action.

Jim Carruthers: My first response is Wow! Look what we as a community can do, together, with outreach, planning and bring groups together to build a better street where everyone can feel safe. What we have learned is that a community like ours, can change status-quo options and think outside the box, to provide a street that shows a sense of community that is comfortable and safe for all users. Let’s work together more to create great streets in TC!

Finally, what are you for?

Shea M. O’Brien: I’m running for mayor because I was raised here by two loving parents. I grew up on Fern Street, I attended Traverse Heights Elementary and Central High School. I work in this community, I volunteer in this community and I want to give my children and other people’s children the opportunity to thrive in this community. I want to work with city staff, other elected officials, area shareholders and the citizens to create a TC for Tomorrow.

Jim Carruthers: I’m for better understanding of all things. Better communication to help get things accomplished and continuing our great efforts at making our city, Traverse City, a better place for everyone.


Part I | Part II | Part III

Election Details

Election Day is officially on November 5. Many voters have already started casting ballots via no excuse absentee ballots. The candidates receiving the most votes in their individual races will be sworn into office on November 11, 2019, at 7 p.m. You can check the Michigan Secretary of State website to double check that you’re registered.


Next Up! A Walk and Bike Network Designed for Everyone

Advocacy Newsletter, October 1, 2019
Greetings Neighbors,

Many of us have attended community meetings where consultants wow us with transformative illustrations of what a street could become. Perhaps the crowd grumbles, saying, “That won’t work here.” Nevertheless, we walk out of the meeting dreaming about our own streets. We persist for decades working on a project. And then, finally, transformation happens. A street is narrowed by 27%, a protected bike lane is installed, and people wanting to cross the street have multiple safe options.

Congratulations everyone! Traverse City’s new 8th Street has turned illustrations into reality. It isn’t perfect, but it is transformative. And it’s a marker of what’s possible when the common goal is access for everyone. That work continues on multiple fronts:


On August 29, Team Orange came together for beverages, solidarity, and giving voice to ideas for Traverse City’s bike and walk network. Most of us have done these brainstorming exercises before. Sometimes the process feel repetitive. Sometimes we wonder, “Is this even useful?”

With the new 8th Street in mind, I argue, wholeheartedly, “Yes!”… {read more}


At Norte, my job is to advocate for healthy, strong, happy communities, doing what I can for safe and reliable access for people of all ages and abilities. I work with individuals, businesses, schools, and municipal bodies to find constructive, implementable solutions to the complex opportunities of public policy, design, and infrastructure.

When it comes to technical solutions to public transportation problems, the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) is an indispensable resource. Their urban guides, education program, and news feed are rooted in the values and ethics our communities need and deserve from transportation planners and engineers.

Last month, I attended NACTO’s Designing Cities 2019 in Toronto. I’ll be processing the week of workshops, tours, and keynotes for a long time. A week of sharing space with 1000 professionals dedicated to building “cities as places for people, with safe, sustainable, accessible, and equitable transportation choices that support a strong economy and vibrant quality of life” is a cure for anyone who occasionally thinks, “That won’t work here.”

Toronto was chosen to host this year’s NACTO because of its recent success in implementing an improvement plan for accessible transit, walking, and biking. I was tweeting up a storm, along with many others, and I’ve included some highlights in my report.

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  • Skip the Carline – Tomorrow is Northern Michigan Walks to School Day. Even if you don’t live within walking distance, as Ty reminds us, you can always Park & Stroll! Do you have a Park & Stroll route recommendation for a school near you? Let us know.
  • Cheers – Thank you to Norte’s First Year Business Champions. We appreciate your support deeply! It was great to see all of you who made it to Silver Spruce for the first Compañero.
  • Election Watch – Traverse City’s City Commission is set for a big change, with 5 of 7 seats on the ballot. On October 7, 8, and 9, Norte will publish responses to our candidate questionnaire. In the meantime, here’s my primer on local government.
  • 8th Street Walking Audit – If you’re interested in helping plan it, let me know. This is a great opportunity to grade a street that we can assume will get some high scores (
  • Park It Here – Norte Bike Racks are ready. These racks support our Excellent Bike Parking program and aim to encourage better access across northern Michigan.

Talk Soon.

Gary Howe
Advocacy Director

Please pass this newsletter on to that friend who is always talking about streets and traffic. They can sign up at our Pro Walk/Pro Bike Advocacy Page.

Are you seeing this newsletter for the first time? Are you ready to engage and represent? Sign up below to receive the occasional Pro Walk/Pro Bike Advocacy Newsletter. It’s delivered once or twice a month and is always packed with information and ways to plug in.

Pro Walk/Pro Bike Advocacy

Designing Cities for Everyone

2.5km of Toronto’s King Street was recently converted to transit priority. Transit demand drove the decision and now the street has room for on-street parklets and bike parking, and, now, transit actually works.

It’s always a welcome reminder that our little corner of the world isn’t alone in the need for transformation. Cities and towns across the world now realize that communities designed solely for driving large, motorized vehicles have cascading negative impacts for public health, wealth, and wellbeing.

When it comes to technical solutions to public transportation problems, the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) is an indispensable resource. Their urban guides, education program, and news feed are rooted in the values and ethics our communities need and deserve from transportation planners and engineers.

Last month, I attended NACTO’s Designing Cities 2019 in Toronto. I’ll be processing the week of workshops, tours, keynotes, and connections for a long time. However, for a taste of the experience I’ve collected a running recap of the week from my own tweets and, those of a few of other attendees,  from #NACTO19 or #NACTO2019. I explored bike parking, intersection design, bike lanes, designing cities for children, congestion pricing, corridor planning, ethics, and more.

The right words from local elected officials.  

Toronto’s best examples of protected bike lanes could be found right outside the front door of the conference center. 

“If you design streets for kids, you design a future that will work for everyone.”

If you haven’t read Janette Sadik-Khan, you need to: Street Fight

Don’t give up on those giant intersections. We workshopped some of Toronto’s most difficult intersections. Lesson: control speeds -> save lives. 

Walkshops took us deep into the pedestrian world of Downtown Toronto. Have you walked the PATH

Where do you park 25,000 bikes? It’s easier than parking 25,000 cars, but still takes a lot of planning. 

Toronto had too much random graffiti. Solution? Treat it as public art and incentivize it where you want it. 

What about ethics? Equity? 

Not everything can be summed up in one tweet and Tuesday’s plenary is an example. It is not your normal engineering conference lineup and, yet, Desiree Williams-Rajee had attendees attention with her address that asked, “Why is equity practice an imperative for people who work in government?” Fundamental to her presentation was diving into the question: who has the power to make change? Are their people shirking their power? Are others kept from having the power? How do we limit ourselves?

Williams-Rajee gave 5 reasons why government must advance equity.

  1. Fairness and Moral Obligation: Is government serving everyone, or only the privilege few?
  2. Collective Action: Inequality inhibits development and positive change by limiting who is allowed to provide input.
  3. Resilient Design: Are those who will suffer most from challenges like climate change afforded the proper consideration they deserve?
  4. Fiscal Responsibility: Equity is a fiscal necessity. When cities are designed for everyone, outcomes of public health, wealth, and well-being see positive returns.
  5. Regulatory Responsibility: The job is to protect the public. If that responsibility is not being fully expressed, then it is time to shift the norms.

She left the room full of transportation engineers, planners, and advocates with this question: Have you shied away from your power? 

Onward. #EngageandRepresent

What’s Does a Better Bike (and Walk) Network Look Like?

On August 29, Team Orange came together for a beverage, solidarity, and to voice their desires for Traverse City’s bike and walk network. It’s an exercise many have done before. It can feel repetitive. One might even wonder, “is it useful?”

With the new 8th Street as a reminder, I’d wholeheartedly argue “yes!” Coming together, voicing desires, and clearly identifying problem spots in your community is not a one-off exercise. It’s more akin to a ritual that empowers the community and energizes the individual. It provides a consistent message to those with the power to change our community for the better. So, thank you to all those who represented and thank you in advance for the continued engagement to come!


Over two-dozen participants provided the following observations to five questions. They were also asked to mark up a bike facilities map provided by the City of Traverse City planning department.

Below, you can read the responses from August 29 and answer the same questions. All of the answers will be passed on to the City of Traverse City. If you’d like to mark up the map, we have it hanging in the Norte Wheelhouse. Stop by, say hi, and provide your comments!

Click to Embiggen

Although the advocacy happy hour was Traverse City-focused, I invite you to use this form to address concerns for any community in the Grand Traverse region. What’s needed for the bike network in Elk Rapids? Elsewhere? (To review People for Bikes better bike lanes, visit: 14-ways To Make Bike Lanes Better)

  • Review People for Bikes 14-ways to make bike lanes Better. Which are your favorite? Which are suitable for your the Grand Traverse region?


What’s Good About Traverse City’s Bike and Walk Network?

  • The push-button for light (RRFB = Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacon) to cross at Front and Elmwood
  • Hawk signals on Grandview work well and would like to see these on 31 by the Commons.
  • Trails are great.

What’s Challenging Traverse City’s Bike and Walk Network?

  • Integrating connectivity. Bike network growth with BATA bus network development.
  • It’s illegal for bikes to pass a car on the right if there’s no bike lane.
  • A lack of political will to GSD.
  • Bike lanes on every street would be an ideal system.
  • More cowbell. 🙂
  • Front St. downtown bike lane in the door zone.
  • Getting through the Filling Station area (Depot Property) on the trail. Connect the trail to the 8th St. cycle track (protected bike lane) via a “Franklin Connector.”
  • Need a Go-To bike education website that can provide: 1) Safe routes to bike 2) Bike etiquette 3) Where to ride, and 4) tips for riding after dark.

What’s One Small Idea You Have to Improve the Bike and Walk Network?

  • Really need to make all of TC streets more bike-friendly with bike lanes or sharrows. Also, signage of every road coming into town showing that TC is a bike-friendly town…Share the Road signs.
  • Mid-block crossings on State St. and Hall St.
  • Ask the police to crack down on cyclists riding on the wrong side of the street.
  • Legalize the Idaho stop
  • Petition City to place a walk/bike advocate on the traffic committee.
  • More share the road signs and give 3’ signs to inform motorists of the law. It could also be painted on the pavement.
  • Add “yield to pedestrian signage” at the TART and 4-Mile, TART-Holiday, and TART 5- Mile crossings.

What’s One Grand Idea You Have to Improve the Bike and Walk Network?

  • Infrastructure investment for crossing Munson Ave. and Grandview Parkway safely and conveniently.
  • Protected bike lanes for two north-south and two east-west routes.
  • Bike lane/bike path on the north side of E. Front St. (US-31) from the Boardman
  • River to Garfield via Peninsula Dr. Connect the waterfront to NMC campus.
  • Create clear paths to the TART from the Civic Center – both west and south from the Civic Center.
  • A separate bike path at the Civic Center from Front/Munson – Fair St. intersection to exist on Garfield. Purpose, to avoid conflict w/pedestrians.
  • Make the road by the Blue Goat (Peninsula) bike only. No right turns for cars on Munson to be a win-win for automobile and bike traffic.
  • Focus on reaching the “interested but concerned” population of bicyclists who are outside the traditional image of “bicyclists”

Are You Ready For Better Bike Lanes?

This is a response to the graphic by People for Bikes: 14-ways To Make Bike Lanes Better

Delineator Posts & Turtle Bumps

  • Prefer bike lanes that use these.
  • Yes! These seem so easy to do
  • No, delineator posts get run over.
  • What if these posts were a different color?
  • Not a fan of simple bumps to separate.

Cast in place curbs and colored bike lanes

  • Great idea if the color is maintained.
  • More separated, protected bike lanes.

Floating Parking Protected bike lanes

  • Cheap. Love these!
  • Great idea for Front St.
  • Could work!

Bike Boulevards/Neighborhood Greenways

  • Put in diverters on the cross-town bike routes and give people on bikes priority

Use of Planters

  • Nice! Yes, love these in Boulder, CO. Adds green to the scene.
  • Yes Please!

Jersey Barriers and Contra-flow

  • Really like the two-way protected bike lanes


Are you ready to engage and represent? Sign up below to receive the occasional Pro Walk/Pro Bike Advocacy Newsletter. It’s delivered once or twice a month and is packed with information and ways to plug in.

Pro Walk/Pro Bike Advocacy

Engage and Represent: Serve on a Local Board or Committee

As local communities gear up for November elections, this is an opportune time to remind Team Orange that there are plenty of additional ways to engage and represent in your local government. Across the Grand Traverse region, several volunteer boards and commissions have open seats. Serving on a board, commission, or committee is an excellent way for citizens to be involved and find their voice for local initiatives.

Below you will find a list of regional opportunities, and resources for many volunteer opportunities. Each municipality handles these citizen appointments differently, but typically openings will be listed online. There is never a wrong time to apply and express interest in serving, even if there are no current openings. Typically, you can do this through the Clerk’s office. Unless otherwise stated, you must be a resident in the municipality that you are seeking an appointment.


Traverse City is always accepting applications and you can do so by going to the Clerk’s office or visiting the City’s website. The following boards have vacancies. Links go to their descriptions, schedules, and minutes.

Apply through the Clerk’s office by filling out this application form (PDF) and returning it the City Clerk.

There are vacancies on 11 of Grand Traverse County’s boards and committees. Please visit their website for the full listings. Below are the openings for opportunities most relevant to our mission for promoting happy, healthy, strong, communities. Note, Parks and Recreation oversees policies related to the Civic Center.
Apply to Grand Traverse County by sending a resume and application form (PDF) to or delivering it to the County Administration at 400 Boardman Avenue.

Leelanau County has openings for the following opportunities.

  • Planning Commission
  • Parks and Recreation
  • Airport Commission
To apply, there is an extensive application form (PDF) and a complete process description (PDF). For more information, For more information, please contact Executive Assistant, Laurel Evans, Download a complete list of expiring terms for all boards and committees (PDF).


  • Garfield Township has openings (PDF) on Planning Commission, Parks and Recreation, and Grand Traverse Joint Planning Commission (think the Commons). If interested, you can download the Board Appointment Policy and Application (PDF) and send a completed copy to Garfield Township to the attention of Supervisor Chuck Korn, 3848 Veterans Drive, Traverse City MI 49684. You may also email him at
  • East Bay Township posts openings on boards and commissions under employment postings and you can see updates by going to the drop down menu, “How do I…” on their website. Each board is different, but typically a letter of interest is requested. If you are interested, you can email Township Supervisor, Beth Friend,
  • Blair Township, apply and express interest by contacting Township Clerk, Lynette Wolfgang.
  • Long Lake Township is always seeking applicants to serve on Planning Commission and Parks and Recreation. To apply, download the Application for Appointment (PDF) and return it to Township Supervisor, Karen J. Rosa, or deliver it to Township Hall at 8870 North Long Lake Road.
  • Elmwood Township asks interested parties to send a completed Application to Become Involved (PDF) form and resume to 10090 E. Lincoln Rd. Traverse City, MI 49684 or email it to Township Clerk, Connie M. Preston, Committees of interest include Planning Commission, Parks and Recreation, Marina Committee, and Public Safety Committee.

For vacancies in Kalkaska County, download this full listing of boards and committees (PDF). The term ending column will give you the current openings. To apply, send an email of interest to  County Clerk, Deborah Hill,

Are you interested in a municipality not listed here? Or, have questions on what it takes to serve on a board or committee, send Norte’s Advocacy Director a message at

Engage and Represent!

Norte Launches Planning Program for Teens

For Immediate Release


August 22, 2019 — Traverse City, MI.  Norte Advocacy is introducing teens to urban planning this fall. Explore Your Neighborhood, Shape Your Community is a six-week, student-informed practical course rooted in experiential understanding of how communities are planned, built, and changed over time. 

The program’s six weekly meetups will be facilitated by Norte’s Pro Walk/Pro Bike Advocacy Director, Gary Howe, and owner of Parallel Solutions, Megan Olds, and will feature guest speakers from Traverse City’s professional planning community.

“Explore Your Neighborhood, Shape Your Community is built around a series of on-the-ground exercises that delve into student experiences and perceptions of community,” said Olds. “Young people have a real interest in learning how, and why, communities work and, in some cases, don’t work. Through the course, we hope to help them develop the skills to identify experiences related to community and place-based design, understand different lenses and contexts, and advocate for the things they want to see in their neighborhoods and community.”

The program is open to 13- to 18-year-olds interested in community leadership and planning. Students will graduate with advanced observational and communication skills in neighborhood planning. Course participants will shape the course’s direction, and will be supported by the Norte Advocacy team in any post-program efforts they decide to undertake.

“The things we can learn about any community are boundless, and when we start to learn about a community from other perspectives, the possibilities for understanding and supporting our neighbors are endless,” said Howe. “The Explore program is designed to give students layer upon layer of tools and skills to create a solid foundation for a lifetime of informed engagement.” 

The course is structured around six unique ways to explore a community, including experiencing mobility challenges from the perspective of someone using a wheelchair and seeing a streetscape through the eyes of an engineer. The advocacy curriculum will grow from participant-defined goals and projects.

The program runs September 29 through November 2 with weekly, 90-minute Sunday meet-ups in locations determined by planned experiences, weather and student input. The class costs $35 per participant, with scholarships available. The program is sponsored by the League of Michigan Bicyclists and Parallel Solutions. Sign up for the program is open through September 8. 

Learn more and sign up:  Explore Your Neighborhood, Shape Your Community

If you are interested in donating to the program’s scholarship fund or in becoming a corporate sponsor, please email Gary Howe at or contribute directly: Donate to Explore

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Program Facilitators

Megan Olds has dedicated her 20-year career to community growth and development, land and water conservation and restoration, food and farming systems, housing, transportation, and access to nature and outdoor recreation. She was a former Director of Regional Planning at Networks Northwest, and served as a past board member of the Michigan Association of Planning and of Michigan’s Complete Streets Advisory Council. She worked for seven years as the Associate Director and Director of Development for the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy. Pairing her professional experience in community and organizational development with a personal zeal for building trust and openness in decision-making, Megan founded Parallel Solutions in 2014. You can find out more about her firm’s services, clients, and recent projects at

Gary Howe brings over 10 years of direct experience in creating and advocating for public policy and planning processes that support healthy transportation and socially-engaging public spaces to his role as Norte’s Advocacy Director. He served as a City Commissioner for the City of Traverse City from 2013-2017, in addition to serving on the Planning Commission and Parks and Recreation Commission, and on the boards of Neahtawanta Center, SEEDS, and International Affairs Forum. He is also a writer and New York Times-published photographer with over 20 years of teaching experience in China, Taiwan and Traverse City, including 15 years as an adjunct instructor at Northwestern Michigan College. You can see some of his photography on Insta at @GLH_Image and follow his writing and advocacy on Twitter @GLHJR.

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:


Continued Learning for Citizen Advocates

We recently shared the story of the 2019 Advocate Academy with the primary funder of this year’s program, the League of Michigan Bicyclists. This is an an adapted version of the original report published by LMB. You can meet this year’s graduates on May 9 at their graduation celebration. There will be a chance to introduce yourself, talk community, enjoy a beverage, and then tour by bike the three project locations identified during the academy.


The Grand Traverse Advocate Academy is a call to community action. It’s aimed at fellow citizens who see missing sidewalks and say, “we can do better than this and I’m going to do something about it.”

We’re all familiar with similar stories because they are everywhere. A mom sees a need for a better crosswalk. A group of downtown office workers wants a bike lane. A family wants safe access to a park. Hopes and dreams are part of the community and it takes work to realize them. The Advocate Academy helps citizen dreamers become citizen advocates.

This year’s 5-week session began like last year with the crafting of a personal narrative. We do this because the values driving our personal narratives are powerful tools for persuasion. When we articulate them as individuals and then as a coalition, our advocacy becomes shared. Those shared stories become the foundation to goals we work to put in place.

In the first week, we borrowed from the author Daniel Pink and used the Pixar Pitch from his book, To Sell is Human. The framing activates our brain’s natural inclination to story–it draws us in. Read the following example from our class and see how you nod in agreement.

‘Once upon a time, there was a mom and her young son. Every day, the mom drove across town with her son to drop him off at preschool and then go to work. Summer traffic was terrible and the 3-mile trip could sometimes take up to 45 minutes! Because of that, the mom became fed up and decided to ride her bike with a bike trailer instead. Because of that, the two had to cross several unsafe intersections and/or risk their safety using bike lanes on busy streets. Until finally, a group of spirited and passionate citizens (GTAA) got together and made changes to improve bike and pedestrian safety in the city.’

The academy is a lot to process. But, as an introduction to local advocacy, we hope three broad lessons come across.

  1. Advocate for Others. That advocating for something larger than yourself is empowering. Speaking up for a better community creates opportunities that can help your cause.
  2. Team Building. That team building is a powerful tool. Joining forces shows wide support and diversifies your coalition’s skillset.
  3. There’s Help. That there are tools and organizations within your reach to help you achieve your goal. Norte’s Neighborhood Pro-walk/Pro-Bike Advocacy program is one such resource.

For 2020, the key questions to examine include the length of each session and the course itself. There is a wide agreement for more time to process information and to work with each other on a real project. Norte will look to refine the course material and presentation. Evaluations suggest that more time learning tactics, strategy, and planning concepts will help build confidence. And finally, we will include more opportunities to learn from one another and practice advocating. This will help build a practical understanding of the concepts and show how a few Citizen Advocates can indeed effect change.

In addition, there will be a continued opportunity for direct, on the ground learning through walking audits, pop-up demonstrations, and tactile urbanism to demonstrate the need for safer, more inviting design of our public spaces.

The 2019 Grand Traverse Advocate Academy was co-sponsored by Groundwork Center. This year’s academy also received a micro-grant from the League of Michigan Bicyclists. Norte says thank you to both of these awesome partners.”


Northern Michigan Winter, Transit and a Professional Mom

My eyes were opened to a new way of living last year during my first trip to Europe when our family stayed with friends, a busy family of 6 in Munich, Germany for two weeks. What I saw there inspired me. So, last month I set out to see what it would be like to use public transportation and my walking boots to get to work. I live just south of Suttons Bay and work on 8th Street. I committed to doing this for the three days per week that I work in Traverse City for one month. I purchased a 31-day BATA pass for $35 allowing me to ride any village or city loop routes and off I went!

I expected to feel a loss of freedom; but it was quite the contrary. All of the days I rode the bus in December, the roads were snowy or icy making it a luxury to step on a warm bus and settle in with headphones to enjoy a podcast, read the news, or simply relax with my own thoughts far away from the stress of driving on icy roads. When I stepped off the bus at Hall street, I loved stopping to grab a cup of coffee across the street and set out on my walk through downtown Traverse City. Although it was cold and snowy, I was dressed for the weather and comfortable. It is amazing how different the city looks and feels outside of a car. I noticed places that I had never realized were there. I enjoyed saying good morning to the occasional fellow walker or “sidewalk shoveler”. Most of all, I appreciated getting 40 minutes of exercise in a purposeful manner (note: if needed I could choose city loop route 2 to deliver me closer). I admit to feeling a bit smug when I walked past people struggling to scrape ice off of their windshields at the end of the day.

There were also challenges. Planning ahead to arrange for rides to and from the bus stop and figuring out how to run errands without the carrying capacity of a car required forethought. Another challenge turned benefit was the extra space that graced my days. Depending on my schedule, there were times I had 30-45 minutes to kill before my bus departed. What I thought would be an inconvenience turned out to be a great way to combat the busyness that can become overwhelming. My pace slowed down, yet my productivity and creativity were enhanced simply by having the structure of a bus schedule to follow.

After this 30-day trial, I have decided to continue, and extend a warm invitation for other professionals to join me. This is where true change happens; when everyday people step outside of their own comfort zone to try something new. Let’s start changing our culture of convenient parking and automobile centric thinking that has been a factor leading to sedentary yet too busy lives and overcrowded streets. Become a part of developing a vibrant and bustling public transportation system in the Grand Traverse area by using it. Then, let’s watch as this one effort creates a domino effect that transforms the lives of people on both a personal and collective scale.

Christa Kiessel is a nurse practitioner, co-founder of Table. Live Better., and organizer of TC Health, a meet-up with the purpose of igniting grass-root efforts that improve the health of people, communities and the environment in and around Traverse City.

Because a walkable town is a bikeable town is a transit town. Passionate about a more liveable Grand Traverse region? Get involved with our grassroots advocacy initiative.