Life is always better on a bike. Just ask Amy.
Ready to suit up and be counted?
Real winter is finally here, let’s get out there and enjoy it.
I love to ride a bike. I don’t love driving a car. Naturally, those preferences led me to become a bike commuter, and increasingly so over the years. I’m now more into the habit of grabbing my helmet instead of the car keys. At times, that meant slogging it out through the wettest Seattle hill climbs, the sauna-like afternoons in Thailand, or, now, the snowy trails and streets of Traverse City.
I don’t recall ever wishing I was in a car. The reasons are myriad. For one, I like letting my mind wander while I pedal. I like breathing steady under my own effort. I like seeing things and chatting with people. I also like changing the oil and buying gas less frequently. More than anything, I still really enjoy riding my bike.
Working at home this winter has cut down on my commuting time, but I still make an effort to get out and ride. I know many of you share my affinity for winter bike riding, and I invite those who haven’t quite embraced it to give it a try. Maybe it will become a habit.
Winter Bike Commuting isn’t complicated, but it has a few challenges you won’t find during the rest of the year. Here are a few tips to consider:
- Drive and ride. I recognize the value of a motorized lift, and in the winter, I usually load my bike onto a car to drive to the TART Trail. This move is for safety as my commute includes Three Mile Road. Someday we’ll see a safer connection from East Bay into Traverse City, but for now, I’ll choose to be multimodal rather than white-knuckling it down Three Mile.
- Dress in layers. It’s freezing out there, but with the right clothing, you’ll be toasty inside. I’ve found wearing a base layer made from wool, coupled with a windbreaker, my $5 Norte Buff, and a thin hat under my helmet takes care of my core. Roomy, thick mittens give me enough dexterity to shift and brake, but I will add pogies (handlebar pockets) when it gets frigid since my hands are historically cold. For the winter, I swap out the clip–in shoes for flat platform pedals and hiking boots with heavy socks for my feet—partially for warmth but also for quickly putting my foot down.
- Watch the ice. It is not to be taken lightly. Riding bikes with wider tires and slightly dropping the tire pressure will help improve traction. If you can afford them, studded tires are excellent for providing traction in the snow and ice. Hugging studded mountain bike tires is exactly like hugging a cactus, but that’s what I’d like to do every time they save my bum because they mean that much to me. They cost a little extra and are worth every penny.
- Plan ahead. The winter bike commute is slower. You can’t expect to make up time by pushing harder. If it isn’t the conditions slowing you down, it’s the 15 extra pounds of clothing and studded tires. You can also blame the extra effort on the air density, which I fully intend to do next time someone asks. Our friends at Ice Bike ran the numbers on this very topic: This Is Why You Are Cycling Slower in the Winter.
If you’re a winter bike commuter, consider committing to ride this Friday for World Winter Bike to Work Day. If you’re not a regular winter bike rider, consider giving it a try. Commit to ride by entering your location at WinterBiketoWork.org and put northern Michigan on the map. The more people who embrace winter biking (and walking), the more normal it will become.
Whatever your reason for riding through the winter is, thanks for sticking with it. I’ll see you out there.
Ben, Program Director
Doing Better, All Winter Long, Everywhere
We applaud the City of Traverse City for continuing to improve on a decade of improvement. Ten years ago, the City didn’t give wintertime sidewalk and trail clearing priority. Over the years, they gradually invested in additional equipment and labor to clear more sidewalks and maintain access to numerous multi-use trails. As they continue to look for ways to improve, we welcome recent discussions to strengthen the snow clearing efforts and policy.
Norte is committed to helping. We are in our third year of The Great Northern Michigan Shovel Experiment. The program connects neighbors to neighbors in the spirit of community interdependence. It’s aimed at residential neighborhoods helping individuals who want to keep their walkways open but need help. The Great Northern Michigan Shovel Experiment works because people stand up, say they want to help, and pledge to do so. In addition to helping neighbors, Neighbors clear crosswalks and bus stops.
This year we’re adding another layer and looking to connect people who support winter accessibility with Traverse City’s Downtown Development Authority. The DDA, TART, and Norte collectively seek volunteers to become Snow Angel Ambassadors. This will be an elite force to attack trouble spots downtown to improve accessibility and reduce ice and snow build up.
The DDA invests thousands in removing snow from downtown. Local businesses invest in clearing the sidewalk in front of their storefronts. The Snow Angel effort asks for help to clear pesky, hard-to-reach sidewalks and crosswalks where snow berms make crossing a nightmare. There hasn’t been much snow this year, but Punxsutawney Phil did see his shadow yesterday, and snow is in the forecast. To join, text WINGSTC to (231) 622-6171.
Still, it’s not enough. City Commissioners deserve our support as they consider clarifying the snow clearing policy. After a substantial snowfall, adding a specific timeframe provides clarity and expectation when a property owner must clear the sidewalk. If they model it after a city like Madison, Wisconsin, property owners could sign up for notifications when snow needs removing. Adding clear expectations is a good step forward, and a notification program would be a helpful addition.
There are over 80 miles of sidewalk in the City. Keeping clear passage during heavy winters is impossible without all of us chipping in where we can. There are champions among us, for sure. Those individuals who wake up at 5 am to snow blow entire blocks, chip ice off bridges, and shovel entire routes around schools. We can thank them by doing our part a little more.
For a destination like downtown, where every trip ends in a walk regardless of whether you drove, rode the bus, or walked, clear sidewalks and crosswalks are necessary. In our neighborhoods, clear sidewalks mean people can safely and comfortably access friends and local businesses. Clear sidewalks mean freedom to move and inclusion for everyone—throughout the year.
A walkable city is a happy city. Here’s how you can help.
Measuring Inspiration Three Hours at a Time
Each spring and fall, we’re fortunate to spend three hours a week with some amazing kids. The young riders who participate in Youth Mountain Bike Team or Bike Más inspire us all as they inspire each other—with friends old and new. These three hours are full of laughter, riding, running, exploring the wilderness, and getting up close and personal with local landmarks.
We’re also highly interested in what happens during the remaining 165 hours of their week: classes, homework, laughter, music, family time, and other active pursuits. How these hours are spent is different for every student, even within the same family.
Why are we interested in these other hours—the time not spent in Norte‘s saddle?
Our programming’s ultimate goal is to create active-for-life students who are confident and independent participants in and for their community.
We aim to foster “healthy, happy, and strong” as a life-long pursuit. And being “ready-to-learn” directly prepares our students for what’s next in their education: whether today, tomorrow, or next year. The lessons learned at Norte extend far beyond the hours shared riding bikes together. The habits learned in these three hours of riding are investments in the other 165 hours of the week.
Independent kids won’t only be free and strong on the trails; they’ll be fearless leaders in their schools and communities. What they discover during after-school rides leads to questions about the region’s history and turns into family excursions, led by the young tour guides excited to show off what they learned at Norte.
Whether we spend three hours per week or per year together, we want to see how the skills your student has taken away from Norte programs have impacted their life. That’s why we send the occasional email asking you to check in with us in the form of a survey. We appreciate immensely all of your insights and feedback. It always provides motivation and inspiration.
We invite you to look through our past surveys and responses on the reports page. Here, we have post-program statistics for the 2020 Summer Bike Camp, the Fall 2020 Youth Mountain Bike Season, and the camp’s academic in-school impacts months later.
What goes on in the other 165 hours? From the look of the responses, it looks pretty fantastic.
Here’s to happy, healthy, strong, ready-to-learn, active-for-life, incredible Norte kids.
Communications Coordinator, Norte
Let’s See What We Can Do, 2021
Before we get too far into the New Year, let’s reflect on the accomplishments of 2020. Specifically, on Norte’s advocacy efforts, which never stopped. Indeed, they broadened and deepened to include public health messaging, access to essential transportation, and opposition to racism.
In the effort for more equitable communities where people of all ages feel safe, comfortable, and welcome to walk and roll where they wish, we saw progress.
- In Traverse City, Norte has a seat on the newly formed Active Transportation Committee. This committee advises staff on upcoming infrastructure projects and policy while bringing forward lighter, quicker, cheaper possibilities—improvements that may not solve everything but move a community in the right direction.
- In early May, Norte partnered with TART Trails to help the City of Traverse City implement a City Commission directed Shared Street initiative in two city neighborhoods. The project provided a more inviting space for people to stay active while social distancing. Norte also joined the downtown open streets initiative with our first parklet.
- Norte continues to engage in projects across Northern Michigan, from Northport south around both bays and back north to Elk Rapids. East Bay is busy with the three-mile trail extension and a major Safe Routes to School project. Elk Rapids has a bike hub in need of safe connections.
We see action and need towards improved accessibility for all everywhere, from street design to construction zones, to schools and parks and businesses. If you’re interested in helping your community move towards these goals, let me know. I’m here to help.
If you want to learn more about Pro Walk/Pro Bike advocacy and find your role in the effort, consider enrolling for the 2021 Advocate Academy (we start on February 4). You’ll walk away understanding better how decisions happen, how to have a positive impact, and have connected with natural allies.
As our Executive Director wrote last week, we need action and imagination. The time is now.
So, welcome, 2021. We’re ready for you. Let’s see what we can do.
Advocacy Director, email@example.com
P.S. Learn more about the 2021 Advocate Academy, hosted by Norte and the Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities. Registration for the February start date is now open.
Happy. Healthy. Strong.
Action and Imagination to do Better
Norte is committed to continued hard work, persistence, and engagement to find solutions.
As I reflect on 2020 and look towards the new year, I’m reminded that our gorgeous corner of the world—Northern Michigan—isn’t immune to ongoing global challenges. 2020 made that abundantly clear.
Before the pandemic, the crises of climate change, inequality, racism, health were ever-present. These will only persist without action and imagination.
Action and imagination to do better. With haste. Not tomorrow. Today. We can no longer wait for the right time or proceed with business as usual.
Norte is committed to this hard work, persistence, and engagement. We act for better health, connections, and solutions and imagine a time when we have access and opportunity for everyone.
In 2021, Norte will press on with this sense of urgency. Right now. Everyday.
Notwithstanding an impactful year of new riders, happy and active families, and loads of smiles, we’re not satisfied. And we’re enthusiastic about doing more today.
This is our undertaking—our fight.
From our family here at Norte to yours, Happy New Year.
In health and hope,
P.S. The easiest way to join Norte with a donation is to text “ORANGE” to 44321 or donate online. We appreciate your support.
Photo: Kaischa Smith
Happy. Healthy. Strong.
How Can We Help?
There’s one definite take away from this strange year. And it’s that helping each other is supreme. It is also one of our core values here at Norte. As Lauren wrote here last week, we’re always asking, “how can we help?” The pandemic only reinforced that commitment. We stopped, brainstormed, rerouted, and picked up with slightly different tactics and goals.
One early question was, how do we still provide children the much needed time outside with their friends and keep it safe? Well, we mask up, wash our hands—a lot—and keep them moving at safe distances.
Another question, how do we still give back to our community for the annual Cranksgiving? The answer, we change the start to a remote location for each team, send a manifest via text message, and instruct teams to deliver the goods in a decentralized manner to the Wheelhouse. This massively successful day contributed over 3500 lbs of food to area pantries.
There’ve been countless other questions. Numerous small ones; a few large ones. How do we still help people in need of transportation? Provide support for schools? Offer an advocacy class for teens? How do we see the magic lights of the holiday together without a gathering of bikes, lights, and smiles? Each time, we found a way.
Now we ask, how do we help keep our communities accessible when the snow starts to pile up? We know the streets will be plowed, but what about the sidewalks and bus stops?
I love shoveling. It wakes me up. It’s an easy way to get outside when the couch is it’s most appealing. It’s a chance to breathe in the crisp air, give myself a boost, and, with a little extra effort, help my neighbors.
By taking care of the sidewalks and the paths in front of our homes, we make winter brighter for others. This includes the neighbor walking to the store, children dashing to the sledding hill, health care workers walking to another shift, and delivery champions dropping off that last-minute gift.
We’re in this together, folks. In the next few weeks and months, join me by lifting your shovels to the sky, letting out a cry of joy, and clearing the way for a magical new year for all—one shovel load after another.
Happy Holidays. We love you.
Program Coordinator, Norte
P.S. The Great Northern Michigan Shovel Experiment is live. If you need some help or if you can help, let us know. Norte will make the connection.
Happy. Healthy. Strong.
Together We Stand, Northern Michigan
Lauren Dake reflects on standing together as a community in Northern Michigan.
This past weekend I enjoyed the first ski of the season on the Vasa trail. As I glided into the trailhead, a smiling face greeted me, “do you work at Norte?” The skier next to me asked, nodding to my very orange Norte winter hat.
“Yes, I do,” I replied.
“You all do such great work for our community. We love what you do,” my new friend and favorite person exclaimed.
Thank you, Laura. I speak for all of Team Orange when I say we love what we do, too. It puts a smile on our faces when people light up at the sight of Norte gear. It is a validation of our work and recognition that what we do is from caring about others and dedication to making our community better—happy, healthy, strong communities.
In a short six-years, Norte has grown-out from a handful of young riders tooling around Traverse City to now working with communities across the Grand Traverse region. We’re now encouraging active-for-life kids and families in Northport, Kalkaska, Suttons Bay, Elk Rapids, and the list keeps growing. We firmly believe that everyone deserves a happy, healthy, strong community, and we are here to help make that happen.
One of our strengths at Norte is that as Team Orange expands its reach, we understand that no two towns are the same. Each community has unique needs and community dynamics. When we develop our programs in different corners of Northern Michigan, we engage and listen to the community’s needs and scale. We do our best to adapt.
It is an honor to be Norte’s Outreach Coordinator during this time of growth. One of my jobs is to foster connections across Northern Michigan. I’m here to listen and ask how Norte can help. We’re confident that Norte programs and voice bring neighbors together for a happier, healthier, stronger region—from bike libraries and summer camps to slow rolls to Cranksgiving.
The Grand Traverse region is our home, and together we stand. And, yes, Laura, we love what we do, and we love you too.
Outreach Coordinator, Norte
P.S. If you’d like to help secure Norte’s work across Northern Michigan, the easiest way to donate is to text “ORANGE” to 44321 or visit elgruponorte.org. We appreciate your support.
Happy. Healthy. Strong.
What’s next? Here’s the plan.
Norte responded to 2020 and the new challenges of the pandemic in innovative ways and deeper resolve to happy, healthy, strong. As a result, we reached more families than ever across the Grand Traverse region.
Here are only a few reasons to celebrate 2020 and look forward to an incredible 2021:
- 928 spots filled with young riders in summer and fall programs.
- 244 bikes lent out from Norte’s Bike Library in TC and Elk Rapids.
- Over Two miles of new sidewalk in Traverse City—mostly in the Traverse Heights neighborhood.
Happy, Healthy, and Strong for Everyone
Norte’s illustrious board recently adopted a two-year strategic plan to assert our priorities and guide our path forward. Everything that Norte does daily works towards one of the following focus areas, each with primary goals and actions for the team:
- Active for Life Kids
- Happy, Healthy, Strong Communities
- Grassroots Advocacy
- A Leveled-Up Team Orange
We affirm that living happy, healthy, and strong is for everyone. One specific area we’re emphasizing in this year’s strategic plan is accessibility and equity. Norte thrives when our programs and the community campaigns we support are rich in diversity and further equity.
If you share our goal of a happier, healthier, and stronger Northern Michigan, please consider a gift to Norte today. Please read through the Norte Strategic Plan and reach out to me if you have any questions.
We are moving forward as a community. We increasingly understand that an active, connected community is a resilient community. Norte, with your support, is at the forefront of this progress.
With resilience and gratitude,
Ty Schmidt, Executive Director
P.S. The easiest way to donate to Norte is to text “ORANGE” to 44321 or visit Elgruponorte.