Advocacy Newsletter: Hey, Go Take a Walk ūüĎü

Advocacy Newsletter, October 15, 2020

We have 42 stellar students enrolled in the¬†2020 Explore Academy, and the first meet up this week was fantastic. We’re looking forward to learning from their perspectives on the community. Big thank you to our underwriter,¬†Traverse Area Association of Realtors, with a national Smart Growth grant¬†and my co-facilitator, Megan Olds of¬†Parallel Solutions.

Hello Supporter,

As fall deepens and winter approaches, I’ve been walking more and more. There’s something about the crispness and colors of fall that draws me to the sidewalks, reconnecting me to parts of the Grand Traverse region I don’t visit as much during the summer hustle.

The pace of a lovely walk ‚Äď 3 mph ‚Äď is the perfect speed for checking in on neighbors, exploring my neighborhood’s new sidewalks, and percolating ideas for future infrastructure improvement projects. Three mph is also the ideal speed for catching up with friends and meeting new people. Walking opens up opportunities to interact in intimate ways.

Walks ground us in community, and they’re a political act. With every step, we claim and solidify the area around us as public space. Rebecca Solnit hits the mark in her absorbing book¬†Wanderlust: A History of Walking.¬†“Walking is only the beginning of citizenship, but through it the citizen knows his or her city and fellow citizens and truly inhabits the city rather than a small privatized part thereof.”

Last week, hundreds of children participated in Norte’s¬†Walk to School Day. Walking to school was once the norm for American schoolchildren ‚Äď now we reserve a special day for it. Starting the day with a walk has excellent physical and emotional health benefits. It also gets to the root of what it means to be part of a community. Perhaps we could do a lot of good by walking more.

For the last three weeks, I’ve been hosting Norte’s new “Let’s Walk Together” weekly meet up. It’s like Norte’s summer slow rolls, just on foot and without bells. So far, we’ve been a small group, but there’s room for more.¬†We meet on Saturdays at 9 am under the Mercury sculpture in Hull Park.¬†We walk at a leisurely pace and go as far as the group desires. Thanks to Kaischa, Steve, Michelle, Sharri, and Suzie, for walking with me. There’s room for more.¬†Our last walk is November 7, so you have four more chances to join.

So join us. Walk with someone, walk with a dog, or walk by yourself, but do take a walk. Today, in our car-dominated world, walking is direct advocacy and a bold political statement.

Watch Norte’s Calendar for more walking events.

Over one million Michiganders have already cast their vote for the Nov. 3 election ‚Äď what’s your plan?

Up and down this fall’s ballot are seats and issues close to our hearts at Norte. This election matters much for things like streets, roads, parks, and recreational facilities.

I encourage everyone to visit the Michigan Secretary of State voter information page to check your registration status. There, you can also see what’s on your ballot, find your polling station, or request an absentee ballot. Suppose you’re one of the million Michiganders who already voted. In that case, you can also double and triple-check¬†that your clerk’s office received your ballot.

Visit MI SOS or


‚ÄĘThree Mile Trail Open House‚Äď‚Äď It’s happening in East Bay Township! East Bay Township’s Planning Department and the Three Mile Trail Coalition invite you to an outdoor open house on¬†Thursday, October 22, at the Grand Traverse Academy. We will meet from 4:30 to 6:00.¬†The time is now to put this vision into place.

‚ÄĘ Mountain Biking at the Commons Goes Legit‚Äď‚Äst A huge thank you to everyone involved in writing letters, talking to legislators, and building the support necessary to allow mountain biking at the Grand Traverse¬†Commons. Thank you, State Senator¬†Wayne Schmidt, for leading the way in Lansing.¬†And thank you to TART Trails and Garfield Township for doing your part to make it happen. If you love biking and hiking at the Commons ‚Äď Team Orange certainly does ‚Äststay tuned for a planning process to improve the trails.

With mask on, hands squeaky clean, and from a minimum six-feet away,¬†onward and upward. Let’s walk together.

Gary Howe

Advocacy Director

P.S. Is your business ready to be certified a Bicycle Friendly Business? Next application deadline is October 20, 2020. Join Norte, Higher Grounds, and Boomerang Catapult as Bicycle Friendly Businesses in Grand Traverse. 

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

Pro Walk/Pro Bike Advocacy

Advocacy Newsletter: What’s Your Safe Route this Fall? ūüĎü

Advocacy Newsletter, September 3, 2020

With all the uncertainties ahead this fall, looking both ways and making safe, healthy choices is as important as ever. Thankfully, there are miles of new sidewalk to help make some things, like taking a walk to school, a lot easier.

Hello Supporter,

The idea of a Safe Route to School certainly has added meaning this fall. You may even still be deciding on whether or not your child is going to school, let alone how they are getting to and from school safely and responsibly. That said, along with our community partners, Norte has made great strides to create options other than the carline to transport children to and from school. That work continues even during the pandemic and, with the added uncertainties, is even more critical.

Some things remain certain. Starting our day with an active walk, bike, or roll of any kind helps ignite the mind and prepare us for the day ahead. This phenom is real for students as well as adults. This has us thinking: if your children learn at home this fall, how can we help you make a habit of stepping outside to start the day? Norte is hosting balance bike meetups and other programs, but how do we work together to integrate some habitual daily activity?

If your children are learning at school, how can we help you include a walk or bike ride to get them there? Sometimes, it’s as simple as a park and stroll option. Instead of spending 20 minutes in the school carline, you can spend 10-15 minutes walking with your child on the final stretch. It’s amazing what they notice.

Last spring, we put together walk and bike routes, including park and stroll options, for our partner schools in preparation for the new school year. With so much in the air this summer, the rollout didn’t go as planned. However, Norte is still here to help. We want to hear from our school champions.

What do you need? How are you getting to school this year? Does your child have a favorite route? What do they see on the way? Is there a friendly golden retriever who smiles at them along the way? A favorite stump they jump on and off? If there’s enough interest, let’s come together and make some new, illustrative maps (I ūüß°maps).

Please shoot me an email or sign up to become a school champion.


2020 Explore Academy registration opens on Tuesday, September 8.  
Explore Academy is an opportunity for students to change the world, beginning with their neighborhood and community. It engages and activates youth ages 13-18 around hands-on, feet-on-the-street material and discussions. Teen participants gain an experiential understanding of how the built environment changes over time, how it impacts our lives, and their role as citizens to shape it.



‚ÄĘ East Bay Walk and Bike Audits¬†‚Äď‚Äď As part of the ongoing efforts to create more connections for students and families in East Bay Township, we join our community partners in East Bay to invite you to participate in self-guided walking and bike audits around four schools: East Middle School, Cherry Knoll, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, and Grand Traverse Academy. East Bay Township planning has¬†put together all you need to get started.¬†They are available to help you, or a small group, complete the audits that will assist in planning and grant opportunities on the horizon.¬†More details:¬†East Bay Township Safe Routes to School¬†

‚ÄĘ Getting Passed Parking Minimums¬†‚Äď‚Äď It’s not every day that a change in the zoning code here in Northern Michigan attracts a guru’s attention, but that happened Tuesday night. Parking expert¬†Professor Donald Shoup took notice on Twitter¬†when Traverse City’s Planning Commission considered, and then passed, eliminating parking minimums in the city. As¬†Shoup has written,”minimum parking requirements act like a fertility drug for cars. Why do urban planners prescribe this drug?” The progressive recommendation now heads to the City Commission.¬†We urge everyone to congratulate the City on this move and to ask¬†City Commissioners¬†to support the amendment. If you’d like to learn more,¬†shoot me an email.

‚ÄĘ BIKE IT! to End Distracted Driving¬†‚Äď‚Äď Our advocacy partner in Lansing,¬†League of Michigan Bicyclists, has partnered with¬†The Kiefer Foundation¬†to stop distracted driving through awareness and legislation. The BIKE IT! challenge is a commuter challenge that will raise 50 cents for ever mile we ride for the essentials. It’s not too late to put a team together and ride in support of a worthy cause.¬†Get riding!

With mask on, hands squeaky clean, and from a minimum six-feet away, onward and upward.

Have a great Labor Day weekend!

Gary Howe
Advocacy Director

P.S. Is your business ready to be certified a Bicycle Friendly Business? Next application deadline is October 20, 2020. Join Norte, Higher Grounds, and Boomerang Catapult as Bicycle Friendly Businesses in Grand Traverse. 

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

Pro Walk/Pro Bike Advocacy

Advocacy Newsletter: Change Begins with a First Step

Advocacy Newsletter, July 22, 2020

Join us tomorrow (Wednesday, July 22) in rolling with the Northern Michigan Anti Racism Task Force. We riding to oppose racism and elevate the discussion of systemic racism in our community, institutions, and homes. And to spread some joy. More Info: Solidarity Slow Roll

Reading Time: 4+ Minutes

Hello Supporter,

Grand Traverse recognizes what’s right and shows up when it’s time to represent. We are wearing masks and taking precautions to stop the spread of the coronavirus. We’re also joining the cause to end racial injustice and discrimination. We have plenty of work to do on both efforts, yet we stand together, committed¬†‚Äď thank you.

In this month’s Advocacy Newsletter, I’m sharing what I’ve been reading since nationwide protests erupted in response to the murder of George Floyd. These essays and news reports highlight the broader picture of systemic racism expressed¬†in the design of our communities.¬†We’ve generally talked about these issues before when we talk about a¬†happy, healthy, strong community by design. The struggle for ending racial discrimination runs on parallel tracks. The following reading list will make that clear.

  • Walking While Black¬†‚Äď A ProPublica report sheds light on the disproportionate use of pedestrian tickets against Black people¬†in Jacksonville, Florida. Jacksonville is also notorious for the lack of pedestrian infrastructure. Predictable, and¬†#dangerousbydesign, the city consistently ranks in the top five most dangerous cities for people on foot.
  • Who¬†Was More Likely to be Ticketed for Violating Stay Home Orders?¬†‚Äď Yup, you guessed it. Back in early May, the data already clearly showed that black people were being ticketed for participating in a “non-essential activity” at a far higher rate than white people.
  • Placemaking When Black Lives Matter¬†‚Äď As we rethink our cities and devote resources towards transforming places for people, Annette Koh rightly argues that we need to use that process to address “existing injustices.”
  • How Race Shaped America’s Roadways And Cities¬†‚Äď As America rapidly expanded post-WWII, it was the disenfranchised communities of color that suffered. They often continue to suffer from those policies today. “Oftentimes, communities of color have the wrong complexion for protection,” says professor and writer Robert Bullard. Extra:¬†America‚Äôs Cities Were Designed to Oppress.
  • The Curb-Cut Effect¬†‚Äď Angela Blackwell describes how policies and programs that benefit vulnerable groups have cascading positive effects for everyone. Striving for equity helps everyone and the humble curb cut stands as exhibit A.
  • GirlTrek and the Power of Walking Together¬†‚Äď For over a decade,¬†GirlTrek co-founders Vanessa Garrison and T. Morgan Dixon have been leading healing walks for women of color.¬†GirlTrek¬†empowers members through improved health, deeper community connection, and dedication to being change-makers.¬†Garrison and Dixon’s¬†TED¬†Talk is a powerful statement.

What’s on your reading list? If you’re willing to share, I’m eager to read.¬†Shoot me an email¬†or tag me at¬†@NorteGary.

The above reading list relied heavily on America Walks Walking College study materials and #blacktwitter, which has been on fire in 2020.


It’s not too late to contribute to the Safe Crosswalks Rock effort. As we highlighted in last month’s Advocacy Newsletter, this year, Kaischa Smith is inviting us to paint happy rocks. When you’re ready, place them in the Elmwood crosswalk garden along Grandview Parkway. “Be safe. Be kind. Be thankful!” You rock, Kaischa.


  • Boardman Lake Loop Construction Begins¬†‚Äď‚Äď Congratulations and gratitude¬†to all the organizations, municipalities, and individuals making the loop happen. By the end of 2020, a safe, accessible, and beautiful trail from 16th Street to NMC’s University Center will be real. Whoop!
  • Construction Zone and Better Access¬†‚Äď‚Äď Thank you to the City of Traverse City for addressing consistent and safe access through construction zones.¬†A¬†policy amendment¬†is making its way through the adoption process. The proposed changes are encouraging and have spurred a joining of forces among builders, engineers, and advocates to address the issue.

Thank you, everyone, for supporting Norte’s efforts towards a more Pro Walk/ Pro Bike Grand Traverse. Our work is really a reflection of the great community already dedicated to community improvement. Please share this newsletter with friends and family and encourage them to sign up. Thank you!

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

Gary Howe
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

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 ‚Äď‚Ästthank you,¬†Honor State Bank¬†‚Äď‚Ästbut¬†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 wheelchair.¬†Construction 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‚Äôm 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 ‚Äď 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.


  • Bikes May Use Full Lane¬†‚Äď‚Äď 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¬†‚Äď‚Äď 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¬†‚Äď‚ÄstIt‚Äôs 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, ‚ÄúI invite everyone to not take safe crosswalks ‚Äúfor granite‚Ä̬†by painting Happy Rocks ‚Äď colorfully designed rocks with messages of kindness and inspiration.¬†Your colorful creations¬†may be placed in the garden on July 22 (her ‚Äúcrashiversary‚ÄĚ) or whenever convenient this month. Be safe. Be kind. Be thankful!‚ÄĚ


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

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

Gary Howe
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

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.”


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‚Äďthank 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 or 616-233-8634. ¬†You can learn more about the trial, visit the Mayo Clinic’s trail website at¬†

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¬†‚Äď 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‚Äď‚Äďthis 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 ‚Äď‚Äď 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 ‚Äď‚Äď 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 

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


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!


  • Pipe Up¬†for the Civic Center¬†‚Äď‚Äď 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¬†‚Äď‚Äď 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 ‚ÄstBe Counted for Michigan.
  • Norte’s Neighborhood Yard Sale is¬†Rolling¬†‚Äď‚Äď 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 24,¬†April 8,¬†April 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
Advocacy Director

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

Organize, Organize, Organize is Key Lesson in 2020 Advocate Academy

The 2020 Advocate Academy Graduates


This year, Norte strengthened its partnership with Groundwork Center and jointly delivered curriculum to 15 participants for the 2020 Advocate Academy. I was joined by Groundwork‚Äôs Policy Specialist Jim Bruckbauer to¬†co-vacillated the six-week Pro Walk/Pro Bike training program. This year’s participants brought with them a wide variety of experience in community planning, group organization, and campaigning.¬†The insights of a nurse union leader, housing advocate, public transit planner, and many others added valuable depth to discussions and team projects.


Above: Policy specialist Jim Bruckbauer of Groundwork Center describes working with state institutions like Michigan Department of Transportation.


The Advocate Academy focused on the need to organize, and to revisit and feed the organizing process continually.  This effort is necessary whether a campaign is working on improving a single corner in your neighborhood or undertaking a community-wide policy change. Eight broad steps for an advocacy campaign framed the training, and the measures in the graphic below were expanded upon and refined each week. Ultimately, we recognized that these aren’t steps to follow one by one in sequential order, but are interconnected measures feeding into one another through the ups and downs of any meaningful campaign.


Organize Your Advocacy

Although my advocacy dreams involve housing and a totally different community (Petoskey), I learned so much about what it means to advocate for a community and its needs. I now notice areas in my community that could use attention when it comes to Pro Walk/Pro Bike.

– Julia Johnson


In the end, four teams presented their case for four different initiatives.

  • Walk the Heights¬†organized around promoting Traverse City’s Traverse Heights Neighborhood as a walk first neighborhood.
  • Safe Passage¬†galvanized around the announcement of TCAPS Montessori moving to Franke Rd. to call for improved access at the Silver Lake, Franke Rd. and Silver Dr. intersection.
  • Street Defenders¬†zeroed in on the inadequacies of the City of Traverse City’s newly drafted, yet to be implemented, Street Design Manual.
  • Midblockers recognized the success of mid-block crossings on Traverse City’s 8th Street and drafted a campaign to create a policy requiring more mid-block crosswalks beginning with Hall St. and 14th Street.


As in previous years, we devoted considerable time to crafting personal and team messages. This effort is important because the art of persuasive storytelling goes beyond having the facts on your side. Persuasion is a practice, and advocacy is, in large part, figuring out how to persuade a decision-maker to do something in the public’s interest that they’d otherwise wish not to do or not do in the time-frame desired. We can have the best goals and the smartest strategies, but they are likely to fall flat if the delivery isn’t crafted in a way for the intended audience to absorb it. This is all part of finding your voice¬†and learning that language matters.

As we did last year, we borrowed from the author Daniel Pink’s To Sell is Human and kicked off the first week with a homework assignment to write a personal Pixar Pitch. This lesson accentuates the heroic story we all face, and as citizen advocates step into as we step into leadership roles. Plus, it’s fun!

Once upon a time, there was a kindergartener named Maya. Every day, she walked to school with her mom or dad and her baby sister. One day, they built a new school farther away and across two scary, dangerous, busy roads. Because of that, she couldn’t walk anymore. Because of that, she had to climb into a car every morning instead of getting fresh air, exercise, and a chance to greet her neighbors. Until finally, safer road crossings became a reality, and she could ride her bike to school (by the time she was in 7th grade).

-Kate Hofmann, team Safe Passage

What’s your heroic tale?

The 2020 Advocate Academy’s last session was on the eve of Michigan’s stay home order. ¬†The world has undoubtedly changed in that short time, and yet the importance of informed and poignant advocacy remains vital. We wish all of the graduates continued success. Norte is here to help.¬†Thank you.


If you’re interested in learning more about Norte Advocacy, please sign up for our advocacy newsletter, and don’t hesitate to send me a message at



This year’s Advocate Academy was presented in partnership with Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities and was made possible through the generous financial support by the Grand Traverse Regional Community Foundation.


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‚Äď‚Äďmainly on the expressways‚Äď‚Äďfewer 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‚Äď‚Äďin 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.



  • Japan’s Disaster Parks¬†‚Äď 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¬† ‚Äst 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¬† ‚Äst 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 ‚Äď‚ÄstBicycles are essential transportation.

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

Gary Howe
Advocacy Director

P.S. Is your business ready to be certified a Bicycle Friendly Business? I 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.¬†‚ÄúI said, ‚ÄėFunny thing is, I actually do chalk art. I‚Äôm going to go on this hike and then come back.‚Äô¬†She didn’t think I was going to come back, but I keep my word,” said Richardson. ‚ÄúIt was a weird coming together of all these different walks of life, and we‚Äôre all doing sidewalk art, 6-feet apart. We were in the right place at the right time. I had a blast doing it,‚ÄĚ 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. 



TAAR and Norte Join Forces For 2020 Explore Academy

The Traverse Area Association of REALTORS¬ģ (TAAR) has received a $4,250 Smart Growth Grant from the National Association of REALTORS¬ģ (NAR) in support of Norte‚Äôs Explore Academy. The Norte advocacy training program introduces teenagers to smart growth principles through its hands-on, active curriculum. Through the course, students are empowered and encouraged to impact their community in positive ways. TAAR is contributing a $475 local match to the national grant funding.

“We are thrilled to work with such a positive and impactful organization like Norte,” said Kim Pontius, CEO of TAAR. “This type of program directly advances smart growth principles like walkable neighborhoods and community planning. It’s these types of partnerships and educational opportunities that will help our region continue to build strong and resilient places to live, work, and play.”

TAAR’s support of Norte‚Äôs Explore Academy is rooted in the shared goal of broadening understanding of the role that citizen advocates play throughout their lives in community development and planning.

“Teenagers are a key part of our communities, and their voices are not only important, but they are also insightful and rooted in a desire for positive change. I’m excited we will be able to offer the course‚ÄĒwhether in person or virtually‚ÄĒthis fall,‚ÄĚ said Gary Howe, advocacy director at Norte.

Partnership with TAAR puts the Explore Program in a strong position as it enters its second year. The inaugural six-week academy in fall 2019, Explore Your Neighborhood, Shape Your Community, introduced students to community design, infrastructure, and advocacy. ‚ÄúI was blown away by the enthusiasm and interest of the students,‚ÄĚ Howe said about the first group of 25 students to graduate from the course.

Classes explore the way the built environment impacts the experience and access people have in a community. Topics covered include planning concepts, mobility challenges, and the role citizen advocates play in shaping solutions to common community problems.

This fall’s program is open to all teens in the Grand Traverse Region, ages 13-18. The course can satisfy community service and extra credit requirements. Enrollment opens at the beginning of the fall semester. Howe and Megan Olds of Parallel Solutions co-developed and co-facilitate the course.


Learn more at¬†Norte’s Explore Academy. Businesses and individuals interested in donating to the program’s scholarship fund or in becoming corporate sponsors can email Gary Howe at


The Traverse Area Association of REALTORS¬ģ is dedicated to promoting advocacy, education, ethics and professional standards for REALTORS¬ģ in the five-county Grand Traverse area, which includes Grand Traverse, Leelanau, Antrim, Kalkaska, and Benzie Counties, as well as the immediate surrounding counties of Missaukee, Wexford, Manistee, and Charlevoix. For more information about the Traverse Area Association of REALTORS¬ģ, please visit or call 231-313-9826

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.


While El Peri√≥dico 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 ‚Äď to stay active and social ‚Äďthe 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.


Parks ‚ÄstLet’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 ‚ÄstIt’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 ‚ÄstAlthough 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 ‚ÄstAs 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?


  • Fighting COVID-19 with Comm(unity)¬†‚Äď ‚ÄúThink of bicycles as ridable art that can just about save the world.‚ÄĚ
  • Public Space During a Pandemic¬†‚Äď ¬†‚ÄúIt takes a crisis sometimes to understand certain things are central to our lives.‚ÄĚ
  • Making Traffic Signals Fair for Pedestrians¬†‚Äď “Beg buttons assume that cars always matter, but pedestrians don‚Äôt.”
  • Stoop dreams¬†‚Äď “One urban amenity [is] made for this crisis‚ÄĒone that, at least from my anecdotal observations, has seen a big uptick in use: the stoop.”¬†The front porch as social infrastructure‚Äďlove it!

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
Advocacy Director

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

Pro Walk/Pro Bike Advocacy

The Wearing of Cloth Masks/Norte Buffs During this Pandemic

UPDATE: Recent studies now show that buffs and neck-gators may no longer be suitable face coverings to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. If you wish to wear a Norte Buff as a mask, we recommend the fold and hook method. Otherwise, try one of our real masks.

Norte’s online store has the orange you need


Face coverings, aka masks, are now required across Michigan and recommended by the CDC to protect those around you and their families. Norte is masking up and we’re here to help you mask up in orange as well. ¬†Norte has two kinds of cloth masks available, a regular and a more breathable performance mask.

To stay safe and to stay active, responsibly, please be aware of the following regarding wearing any cloth mask as a protective face gear during the COVID-19 Pandemic. 

  • Cloth masks don‚Äôt replace the need for physical distancing.¬†
  • Frequently wash your hands for 20-seconds, with soap and water.¬†
  • Wash your hands before placing a clean mask on and after use.¬†
  • Place the mask over your mouth and nose.¬†
  • Wash or dispose of your cloth mask after use.¬†
  • Wash masks with soap and water or machine wash.¬†
  • When wearing any cloth mask, treat it like your face. Avoid touching it.¬†

Covering your mouth and nose with a mask is a reasonable response to an unprecedented time for the community. Masks help slow the spread of the virus, and with the new CDC recommendation, masks are now a common sight. This is a positive sign that the community is taking the COVID-19 pandemic seriously. 

CDC Guidelines: Using Cloth Masks and Homemade Masks

Wearing cloth masks doesn’t make you invincible; it merely lessens the chances for you to spread the virus. We must continue to develop healthy habits by monitoring our health (staying home when sick), maintaining physical distance, and washing our hands regularly.¬†Be respectful and kind. We are in this together. Wash your hands. And, mask up when out in public.¬†

Learn More

Visit the for the latest statewide

updates and the latest in public health recommendations. 




Are You Keeping a Six Foot Distance from Others on the Sidewalk?

Bikes Belong on the Street


If there’s one thing we are learning from the global pandemic and stay home orders, it’s that in many places, the public space we have allocated to people on foot and in wheelchairs is woefully inadequate. This is the reality on neighborhood sidewalks, in downtowns, and along many older multiuse trails. Although this issue is far more revealing in our country’s more populated cities, the lesson applies everywhere.

As Mr. Rather so prominently pointed out this past week.



Part of staying active, responsibly, is being aware and courteous to others. We won’t be fixing narrow sidewalks or trails in the short term, so as more of us are out and about in our neighborhoods for our essential outings, we urge everyone to follow the rules and be extra courteous of others while maintaining appropriate physical distancing.

Staying active, responsibly, includes giving extra room and consideration for people in wheelchairs, using a cane or walkers, or out with a stroller. Faster users of the sidewalks and trails, including runners, fast walkers, and people on bikes need to avoid putting others in a dangerous and challenging situation. Please give 6-10 feet distance when approaching others and use the streets when safe to do so.

Excellent PSA from our friends at TART Trails



Although people on bicycles are allowed to ride on sidewalks in certain areas, it doesn’t mean it is an accepted practice. For starters, although it may provide comfort to the person on the bike, it endangers others using the sidewalk. Others may be going at a slower pace and may not be as mobile.

We only recommend sidewalk riding for children 8 and under, and when they do, the rule is to treat every intersection crossing as a stop sign. They also still need to give plenty of distance to other users, even if that means stopping and dismounting to wait until it’s clear.

Also, it is important to know that the evidence doesn’t support riding on a sidewalk from a safety concern. It is more dangerous as the risk of a crash between someone on a bike and a car is higher when the former is on the sidewalk. The person driving is often caught off guard because of the sightlines and speed of the person on a bike. Protected bike lanes and trails reduce this conflict; sidewalks do not.

Finally, in the denser locations riding on the sidewalk is usually against the law. For example,¬†Downtown Traverse City¬†doesn’t allow bikes or coaster equipment, including scooters and skateboards.

If you do find yourself riding on the sidewalk, please follow these rules.

  1. Go Slow¬†‚Äď Think of yourself as a slow jogger and avoid startling other users.
  2. Yield to Others¬†‚Äď If you approach others from behind, politely announce yourself, and wait for an excellent time to ask them to let you pass. You may even consider walking your bike past them.
  3. Watch the Crossings¬†‚Äď For your safety, approach every driveway, street crossing, and an intersection with extreme caution.
  4. Walk Your Bike¬†‚Äď This is the best solution if other people are present on the sidewalk, and you don’t feel safe on the street‚ÄĒconsider pushing your bike until you reach a place where you feel comfortable. There’s no rush.



Bicycle organizations like our friends at League of Michigan Bicyclists have advocated strongly for safer conditions on our streets and roads for when we bike. We have a right to the street, and with few exceptions, they are multimodal. 

Norte shares the commitment¬†to continually improving conditions for a happy, healthy, strong communities. The introduction of separated protected bike lanes, like on Traverse City’s 8th Street, has proven to reduce conflicts between people on bikes and those on foot while increasing safety for all users. Where cars aren’t moving fast, a traditional bike lane is sufficient. We are advocating for cities and towns to create a network of conventional and protected bike lanes, along with broader bike trails.

Also, expanding sidewalk networks with wider sidewalks where the number of people warrants, so that runners also have a safe, comfortable place to get out while having the room to give the distance to other users.

We encourage everyone to stay active during the stay home order and to be extra careful to help others and give plenty of space. Let’s get through this together. Thank you.

Sign up for¬†Norte’s Advocacy Newsletter¬†to stay up to date on ways that you can join the cause.

Stay Home. Stay Safe. Stay Active, Responsibly.

When you do have to leave home, please follow these preventive measures for viruses like COVID-19, influenza, and the common cold recommended by public health officials. 

  • Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for 20 seconds. If not unavailable, use hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or upper sleeve when coughing or sneezing.
  • Avoid contact with people who are sick.
  • If you are sick, stay home and avoid contact with others.
  • Stay at least six feet away from others when in a public setting.
  • Replace handshakes and high-fives with a friendly wave from 6 feet away.

Visit the for the latest statewide updates.


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 Urbanism:¬†Vol 1,¬†Vol 2;¬†Better Block How-to Wiki;¬†NACTO Guides;¬†Walkable 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!¬†‚Äď 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¬†‚Äst 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¬†¬†‚Äď “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¬†‚Äď 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 ‚Äď 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 Tourism, Downtown Traverse City Association, and Elk Rapids DDA. The Village of Northport, Village 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¬†‚Äď 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¬†‚Äď 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¬†‚Äst 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¬†‚Äď 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¬†‚Äď 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 ‚Äď 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¬†‚Äď 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¬†‚Äst¬†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 ‚Äď 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 ‚Äď 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¬†‚Äď 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¬†‚Äď 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 debate.¬†You are encouraged to share your thoughts with the chair of the traffic committee, Assistant City Manager, Penny Hill, at¬†
  • Garfield Township Trails¬†‚Äď 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¬†‚Äď 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


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: 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¬†‚Äď More doors per mile =¬†more candy per minute.
  2. Porches and Stoops¬†‚Äď Doors you can find and porches to welcome you.
  3. Short Setbacks¬†‚Äď The closer the porch is¬†to the sidewalk or¬†street, again, the more candy per minute available.
  4. Wide Sidewalks, Skinny Streets¬†‚Äď 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¬†‚Äď 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 ‚ÄstCommunity 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 ‚ÄstPlanning 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 ‚ÄstAll Ages, All Abilities¬†(PDF), as is¬†Boulder’s Low-Stress Walk and Bike Network Plan.

Friday, Nov. 8, 12:00 to 2:00¬†‚ÄstPublic 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¬†‚Äď 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¬†‚Äď 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¬†‚ÄďYou 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

Sign up to have pass this newsletter delivered to your inbox or pass it on to that friend who is always talking about streets and traffic.

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 Рmost importantly Рshould 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‚Äôm 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‚Äôs 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.