What grade would you give Garfield Avenue?

Greetings Citizen Advocates,

I’m writing to relay the results of the Garfield Walking audit, share a peek at our first protected bike lane and invite all of you to help with three tasks: 1) map Traverse City’s future bike network, 2) suggest candidate questions for upcoming elections, and 3) invite you to participate in the PeopleForBikes annual survey.

On July 18, two-dozen engaged citizens took part in a walking audit of Garfield Ave Walking. We were joined by representatives from the City of Traverse City’s Planning and Engineering departments, Planning Commission, Michigan Department of Transportation, and Team Norte, including graduates of the Advocate Academy.

Giving the mixed contexts and conditions of the corridor from Bryant Park South to Hannah Avenue, it was a challenge to zero-in on one takeaway other than that there are a lot of opportunities for changing this corridor into a street that is safe and inviting for all ages and uses. The aggregate score for that specific question was a dismal 32%. Contributing factors that need to be addressed include:

  • Confusing and missing crosswalks
  • Missing and narrow sidewalks
  • Heavy and noisy motorized traffic
  • Wide (and prioritized) driveways

There were also some positives. Sections of sidewalks and many ramps were just built in July. Participants also learned about the coming improvements to the intersection of Peninsula Drive and M-37 by Bryant Park. This notoriously wide and nearly impossible-to-cross intersection will be narrowed by nearly 50% and squared off. This will slow people in cars down and improve the visibility of people on foot or bike.

Did you know? Wherever there is a T-intersection, like here at Webster and Garfield, it is a legal crosswalk. There are 6 of these unmarked and undefined crossings along this corridor.

The results of our audit will be used by Traverse City and MDOT to seek additional improvements in coming resurfacing projects. If you couldn’t make this walking audit and would like to contribute an observation, nominate a street for a future walking audit, or contribute a donation to support these efforts, please do so with our Walking Audit Survey. You can review the full report and images at Walking Audit Results.

The big news this week was that 8th Street construction will likely be done in just over a month, barring any major weather interruptions. For many of us who have enjoyed the quieter streets, the reopening may be bittersweet. However, the wider sidewalks, protected bike lane, street trees, midblock crosswalks, and roadway that is 27% narrower will make up for it. Who’s looking forward to this new experience?

First Look: 6-foot sidewalk, divider, and 6-foot separated bike lane.
Do you bike in TC? Do you want to bike more? We have an opportunity to come together, take out our sharpies, and identify Traverse City’s future bike network. We know where the current multi-use trails, bike lanes, and even a few sharrows are located. Where should the next protected bike lane be? What about the first protected intersection? If you’re interested in contributing to our movement, let me know today (reply to this email or at gary@elgruponorte.org). Once I have the numbers, I’ll schedule advocacy happy hour where we will mark-up a giant map. Currently considering, August 29. You can view the City’s multi-use transportation map  here.DO YOU HAVE A QUESTION FOR CANDIDATES FOR TC CITY COMMISSION? 
There are local elections this fall in Traverse City and the ballot will feature 2 candidates for Mayor, 6 candidates for 3 four-year seats, and 2 more for a two-year seat on the 7 member Commission. Norte will be inviting each of them to take our Pro Walk/Pro Bike survey which we will then publish. Submit your questions here for consideration.

Lastly, I encourage everyone to participate in PeopleForBikes annual survey. If we can generate 50 or more responses from Traverse City that data will kick out a ranking to be compared with other communities. It’s quick. It’s easy. Everyone is encouraged to participate no matter how often, where, or why you ride. Take the survey: PlacesForBikes 2019 Community Survey.

PeopleForBikes is an amazing national organization and true Norte partner for creating happy, healthy, strong communities. They contributed $7,500 towards the coming traffic garden and pump track at the Civic Center!

Norte’s Neighborhood Pro Walk/Pro Bike Advocacy has been busy this summer and it seems like it is only just beginning! We will soon be offering Norte-styled bike racks, the Business Champion program is picking up steam, and an exciting new educational program for teens is about to launch – watch for Explore your Neighborhood, Shape your Neighborhood program soon!

Talk soon!

Gary Howe
Advocacy Director

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

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

Pro Walk/Pro Bike Advocacy

Mid-summer shout out to citizen advocates

Greetings everyone!

I hope your July is full of enjoyable walks to local cafes and easy rolls past long lines of people stuck in traffic. Ah, summer. Nothing quite like it. And, for your summer advocacy fun, we have many opportunities to engage and represent.

I encourage you to take some time to read Kaischa Smith’s story in our latest blog post. Recovery Through Advocacy, One Step at a Time is an interview about her near fatal crash last July 22 at Elmwood Ave and Hall St. News about crashes is too often distant, lacking in broader perspective, and the human element. Kaischa’s words are a personal and powerful reminder of the importance of the Pro Walk/Pro Bike movement. We’re all in with her goal for safer crosswalks for everyone, everywhere – we certainly need them!

Sunday/Monday, July 21/22, time TBA. 
Please help share her story, and consider joining her on the one-year anniversary of the crash with a flower planting outing (details at the end of her interview).

The improved crosswalks at Elmwood Ave and Hall St have been in place almost a month. They’ve been surprisingly well received! Now that locals are used to them, it’s time to collect some data. If you’re interested in some participatory observation, MDOT has provided us with a checklist that will help identify issues and improve signal timing. Let me know if you can help with group or solo observation.

Thursday, July 18 4 pm
Bryant Park (walk to Hannah Ave)
Due to sidewalk construction, the Garfield Ave Walking Audit is happening on Thursday, July 18. Meet at 4 pm at Bryant Park and we’ll walk to Hannah Ave and back. MDOT and the City of Traverse City officials will be on hand to participate and introduce future projects. If the June date didn’t work for you, here’s your opportunity to join!

RSVP to Gary@elgruponorte.org (What’s a walking audit?)

Recently, the City of Traverse City addressed long-standing concerns at two intersections: Boon & Barlow, and Madison & W Front. Both now have stop signs that control right of way. In theory, the stop signs will improve access for people on foot and bike, as well as people in cars. They should also reduce severe crashes, a particular concern on Barlow. If you frequent these intersections, please send me your observations. I’m curious not only in compliance, but behaviors (and speeds) after someone leaves the intersection.

How are these new stop signs working for ya?   

Finally, we’d love to have more people reading the advocacy emails.  You can send a friend to sign up at our Pro Walk/Pro Bike Advocacy Page.

Thank you!


Gary Howe
Advocacy Director

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

Pro Walk/Pro Bike Advocacy


Recovery Through Advocacy, One Step at a Time

by Gary Howe, Advocacy Director

Last July 22, Kaischa Smith was riding her bike to the Leelanau Trail from her home in Traverse City. A beautiful midsummer stillness was in the air. But before she reached the trail, it abruptly gave way to a storm of trauma and disorientation. A driver going 35 mph in an Audi crashed into her while she was crossing Grandview Parkway at the Elmwood Avenue crosswalk.

The impact was devastating. Both of her legs snapped. Her right elbow shattered. She suffered internal injuries. Given her pre-existing blood clotting disorder, it is remarkable she survived. Smith owes her life to the exceptional efforts of emergency responders and health professionals.

Kaischa came to the Norte Clubhouse this spring to share her story because she wants to help make crosswalks safer for everyone, everywhere. Since then, she has told her story multiple times to the press. One account of her experience can be found in the June 22 Northern Express. She has also participated in the Lucinda Means Advocacy Day in Lansing, and has advocated for people crossing Traverse City’s Division Street to have more and safer options as the Michigan Department of Transportation works on its upcoming Division Street reconstruction

I recently sat down with Kaischa so that she could share her story directly with the Norte community. 

It’s been almost a year since the crash. How are you doing?

Well…I’m doing. That doesn’t sound like much, but to me, it means a lot. Part of my identity and personal pride was in being an active, capable, independent young woman. The injuries I sustained from the crash stripped that from me. I couldn’t stand, walk, use the bathroom, bathe, dress, or do a myriad of other daily activities without help. It’s taken this whole time to not just regain those abilities, but to do them without debilitating pain and with better efficiency, stamina, and confidence. Yes, I’m doing. I’m so grateful and proud of myself for that.

A few weeks ago you met me at the new and improved crosswalk on Grandview. You crossed for the first time since last year. It was very moving to witness what was clearly a powerful emotional experience for you. After you crossed, you took some time to decompress. Can you walk us through what was running through your head? 

Oh boy. How can I put this in words? I’ve heard it put that we have a full keyboard of emotions available to us but that we have a tendency to deny ourselves the right and humanity to play all those “emotional keys.” If we’re leaning in and fully engaging with life though, we allow ourselves to strike them all. And they don’t have to be played one at a time. It’s possible to hit an entire chord built of terror and grief and gratitude and pride, and then move right on to the next notes. It’s a bittersweet melody, but it’s beautiful. I really felt it all in that moment – and over the course of this year, for that matter.

So there I was crossing Grandview with that powerful emotional song inside, in tears, and trying to catch my breath. And around me was the morning rush hour audience in their cars at full stop. Then just as I cleared the road, someone near the rear of the line started honking because the front cars weren’t proceeding right away through the flashing red lights. You know that record scratch sound? It felt kind of like that, and I remember thinking, “Wow. What a poignant example of our social interactions.” So many of us carry around some really heavy yet invisible baggage. I wish we all would be just a little more patient, a little more kind. Life’s hard sometimes.

In the spring, you came to Norte’s Clubhouse wanting to engage with Norte advocacy. A definition of advocacy I like is “actions of public support for a particular cause or policy” – in particular, causes or policies directed toward those most vulnerable in a community. With that in mind, why is engaging in advocacy work important to you?

I think there are two sides to this coin for me – a personal side and a community side. For starters, I scrolled through the social media response to the crash when I was in the hospital. Call it my morbid curiosity getting the better of me.

That was a major punch in the gut. There was so much bickering and victim shaming and so little condolence. And a lot of the narrative about the event – and our roadways, crosswalks, and commuting roles in general – was uninformed, even prejudicial. To watch and listen to the narrative of “my” story – and the driver’s story, for that matter – be grabbed and perverted by public discourse created another layer of trauma for me. Being able to find and use my voice has been a way to recover something intensely personal.

At the same time, the power of our attitudes and words really hit home. I don’t want the crash to define me. There’s so much more to me than that, and frankly, I don’t feel like a human tragedy. I’m a survivor, and more and more, a thriver. I would much rather people discover who I am as a person, how I’ve moved forward from adversity, and how I’m using the power of my story to advocate – and hopefully transform – the roadways in our community to better consider the safety of everyone who uses them.

You have really put yourself out there during these last few months. Thank you for stepping up as a citizen advocate! What’s the initial experience been like as you tell your story? And, what are some of your goals going forward?

It’s been an important part of my recovery. Recovering from trauma involves so much more than recovering from injuries or illness. So much is about recovering your Life – with a capital “L.” I feel empowered. It gives me hope that good can come from even the worst situations. I can’t erase that the crash happened, but I can whitewash it with as many positive experiences as possible to dilute the trauma. The result is something more constructive and encouraging.

For me, the common goals of the opportunities I pursue boil down to supporting and advocating for safer, more equitable roadways for all users. That could entail pursuing changes in how our roadways are designed, policy changes, or plugging in wherever political support is needed. I want to see more safer crosswalks and really appreciate the changes at Elmwood and Hall Streets. 

I also hope sharing my story builds compassion, patience, and personal accountability in how we move and interact in our community. Crashes like the one I experienced are thankfully rare but can happen to anyone, anywhere, at any moment. 

It may be too soon to fully answer this, but we know that survivors of roadway crashes often carry with them lasting impacts. There are physical injuries, of course, but also psychological trauma. I know you’re aware of these, so I’m curious if you can describe that transformation.

I think the most transformative impact was something I realized while still laying on the pavement after the crash. I realized that living was not – and is not – anything to take for granted. And, that my presence or absence in the world was going to matter in a more significant way than I ever imagined, even if only to my family.

Eventually, it didn’t take long for waves of cards, flowers, hospital visits, and other gestures from friends and school family to roll in, and I realized that my existence mattered to more people than I expected. That’s a really empowering realization to make, and I feel immense gratitude. I’m not only deeply appreciative for my life, family, and friends – it extends to countless other members of our community who serve us, and me directly, in the public safety, health, and wellness arenas.

As a result, I choose to engage with life more consciously, openly, and actively, not just with and for my family and friends, but also by leaning in to my community. A deep sense of gratitude has been personally transformative for me, but it’s been magnified and socially impactful when expressed in words and actions.

If you’re grateful for someone or something, don’t hold it in. Let it out and watch what happens.

Anything you’d like to add or share with the Norte community?

Do your part as an individual because at the end of the day, the only way we can improve our community is by consistently holding ourselves personally accountable, managing our own behaviors, and continually advocating for safer conditions on our streets. We need to be role models on the road, no matter if we’re walking, biking, scooting, or driving. There is definitely transformative power and strength in numbers. Let’s do this together!


You’re Invited: Kaischa will be planting flowers at the base of the new crosswalk signals at Elmwood Ave. to celebrate her year of recovery. She invites the Norte community to join her. Plans are tentative for the morning of July 21 or July 22. If you’re interested in joining Kaischa, please email gary@elgruponorte.org.

For more information on the rules regulating the new crosswalks on Grandview Parkway at Hall St. and Elmwood Ave., read our introduction to HAWK signals. To see how you can join Norte’s advocacy efforts and sign up for advocacy alerts, visit our advocacy page

Why language matters and accidents aren’t accidents

by Gary Howe, Advocacy Director

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

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

Institutional Language

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

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

Forging a Better Path

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

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

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

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

The Pledge:

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

What’s your experience?  


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

Further reading:


Getting past the myths that persist

2019 is shaping up to be an awesome year for people who walk and bike in Traverse City. In June, MDOT will install HAWK (High-Intensity Activated CrossWalk) signals on Grandview Parkway. These will go in at Elmwood and Hall street. This fall, Traverse City will cut the ribbon for the reconstructed Eighth Street. The new Eighth Street is narrower (slower) and even includes one of Michigan’s first separated protected bike lanes.

All too often, good news for the pro-walk, pro-bike team attracts naysayers. These two projects won’t be any different (they already haven’t). This inspired Norte board member, Chris Hinze, to examine a few of the usual suspects and offer a little Myth Busting.

“Bikes don’t belong on the road…get on the sidewalk!”

People have a right to bike on both the roadway or the sidewalk. For people new to riding or those still building up confidence, riding in the roadway is intimidating. For them, riding on the sidewalk may be an attractive option. But, there are reasons that this isn’t the safest decision. 

People on bicycles on community bike ride in Downtown Traverse City Michigan. First, riding a bike on the sidewalk can lead to conflicts with people on foot. Second, in certain locations riding on the sidewalk is against the law.  Downtown Traverse City is an example.   

Last, and most important, riding on the sidewalk is more dangerous. 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 sight lines and speed of the person on a bike. Protected bike lanes and trails are designed to reduce this conflict. Sidewalks are not.

Again, the streets are multimodal. Outside of limited access highways, everyone has a right to bike in the streets. To brush up on your Michigan law, visit the Michigan Vehicle Code.

“Traverse City has a perfectly good TART trail…get on the trail!”

A close cousin to the “get on the sidewalk” denouncement is “get on the trail.” What “get on the trail” fails to understand is that, by and large, trails are for recreational purposes. When people bike they tend to do so to get somewhere. And, to get somewhere with the least amount of hassle and in the least amount of time. We don’t ask people to only drive on highways so why ask bicyclists to only use trails. People on bikes have places to go. When they do so on a bike, they are freeing up street space that can help relieve congestion–besides to freeing up a parking space.

“Bikes don’t pay taxes!”

Well, this one is true; bikes don’t pay taxes. But, neither do cars. Or any other inanimate object for that matter. People pay taxes; we all pay taxes. Those taxes pay for the expense of constructing, maintaining, and policing streets. The majority of this comes from property taxes, which we pay regardless of how we move around. For local streets, less than 10% comes from user fees like gas taxes and registration fees. The user fee dollars predominantly go towards big projects like highways.   

Countless studies have shown that walking and biking break even as a cost to society. Meaning, for every $1 you spend on biking, society chips in less than a dime. For driving, every private dollar spent on motordom, society is paying around $9. That’s a Hefty subsidy no matter how you slice it.

“Bikers don’t obey the rules so they don’t deserve nice things!”

This is the ultimate “straw man” fallacy. This argument references the time someone saw that one person on a bike run a stop sign (confirmation bias). As a result, the community doesn’t deserve better bicycle infrastructure. If bicyclists don’t follow the rules and thus don’t deserve bike lanes, what then of drivers and streets? Local law enforcement agencies dedicate entire portions of their department to “traffic enforcement.” Does that mean because some people in cars speed or run red lights that we should not allow cars to use the streets? As someone who uses cars as well as bikes and walks, that doesn’t seem logical.

Here at Norte, we encourage everyone to be courteous regardless of how they move around town. When we walk, bike, drive, or otherwise roll we need to be aware of our surroundings and understanding of others who, like us, are simply trying to get through their day.  Safer sidewalks and better streets will only be that much sweeter when do.


What myths and biases do you see at play in the community? 



Continued Learning for Citizen Advocates

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Bikes. Friends. Adventure: The Bike Más Project to Empower Kids to be Active for Life at 22 Schools in the Grand Traverse Region this Spring

The Bike Más Project teaches confidence, independence, and bike safety skills to 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th graders through empowerment, education, and adventure. Mucho adventure!

The Bike Más Project kids will:

  • Learn how to bike safe and bike smart
  • Develop bike repair and maintenance skills
  • Become a bike handling ninja.
  • Build confidence. Get fit. And have FUN!

Spring 2019 schedule:

Each session meets immediately after school and is 90 minutes long. The program begins/ends at school except for a few schools which will meet at the Clubhouse or Wheelhouse. Transportation from the school to the Clubhouse/Wheelhouse is not provided.

We meet once a week for 4 weeks and sessions start the week of May 13, 2019.


  • East Middle (meets at the Clubhouse at 4pm)
  • Elk Rapids-Cherryland
  • Northern Michigan Partnership (meets at the Wheelhouse at 2pm)
  • Northport – 3rd-5th graders
  • Old Mission Penisula (meet at Wheelhouse at 4pm)
  • Westwoods
  • Woodland


  • Central Grade
  • Long Lake
  • West Middle


  • Willow Hill
  • Traverse Heights
  • Glenn Loomis
  • Courtade
  • Northport – 6th-8th graders
  • Grand Traverse Academy (meets at the Clubhouse at 4:30pm)
  • Elk Rapids – Lakeland


  • Blair
  • Pathfinder (meets at Clubhouse at 4:30pm)
  • Silver Lake
  • Eastern


  • Immaculate Conception (meets at Holy Angels)
  • Cherry Knoll
  • Trinity Lutheran

Helpful Information:

  • Bring a water bottle, helmet, bike and snack to all sessions.
  • Sessions are limited to five (5) participants. If 5 participants do not register, the session will be canceled and a refund provided.
  • Participants will meet the instructor in the school library immediately after dismissal.
  • In the host school is closed, no LEAP activities will be held per TCAPS policy. There is no guarantee of a make-up date in the case of inclement weather. Missed sessions will only be made up if schedules allow.
  • Bikes are available for participants to borrow from Norte’s Bike Library if needed.

Every Bike Mas Project participant will also receive:

  • a sweet Norte shirt
  • a free family membership to our Clubhouse

Program requirements:

  • A positive attitude
  • Can comfortably ride 5-8 miles (4th-5th grade) or 8-10 miles (6th-7th grade)


  • $35

Norte Scholarships:

  • We’re committed to making every Norte program accessible and affordable for all families. Details HERE


Huge thanks to our sponsors for supporting happy, healthy, strong kids and making The Bike Mas Project very affordable:

Traverse City’s Revisioned 8th Street: Lots to like

Thanks to the fabulous Envision 8th public engagement process of 2017, a new and improved Eighth Street is coming in 2019. The final design is currently in the works and will again be discussed at the City Commission meeting tonight.

We’re super excited for this revisioned Eighth Street. A beautiful, welcoming and inviting street where we can conveniently and safely access neighborhoods, businesses, workplaces, parks, food markets, Boardman lake, the library, and public transit by foot, bike, or car.

Alongside our members and partners, we are committed to helping make this happen.

Our three Revisioned 8th Street priorities:

1. A walkable street. Wide, inviting sidewalks flanked by beautiful canopy trees. Raised and highly visible crosswalks at all intersections and mid-block crossings.

2. A bikeable street. Highlighted by a world-class cycle track that encourages bicycling for daily transportation all year round.

3. A safe street. A street design that discourages speeding and reduces the likelihood of serious injury for all road users. A street that provides dedicated space for all users of the street. Narrow vehicle travel lanes. Proper lighting for drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians.

Here at Norte, what we are expecting in the final design is what the Envision Eighth process called for – dedicated, welcoming space for all road users. Ultimately a healthy and vibrant place that is walkable, bikeable, and safe for all users.

Check out the 60% completed design HERE (starts on page 7 of this City Commission meeting handout)

A few things we love about the current design:

  • raised mid-block crossings
  • pedestrian refuge islands
  • narrow travel lanes
  • a shorter crossing of Railroad Ave

A few things we’d still like to see:

  • A safe, welcoming space for people on bicycles that is physically separated from motor vehicles with minimal conflict points (especially at driveways/intersections)
  • A buffer between the sidewalk and cycle track
  • Wee bit wider sidewalk: NACTO guidelines state, “Sidewalks have a desired minimum of 6 feet”
  • Wee bit wider cycle track: NACTO recommends 6.5 feet
  • Consideration for how people on bikes will make left turns off of Eighth Street
  • Guarantees that utility boxes, lighting poles, signs, etc are not located in the right of way for bicyclists or pedestrians

Here’s a quick sketch we did that shows a bit wider sidewalk and cycle track and a small buffer between the two.

While we are committed to building a stronger, better connected and more walk/bike friendly Eighth Street, we are only one piece of the puzzle.

We need YOUR voice.

We need YOU to advocate for safe, convenient and accessible opportunities on Eighth Street.

We need YOU to take action.

If you care about the health, happiness, and safety of all Traverse City residents, here are some ways you can help:

Email City leadership and share WHY a walkable, bikeable, safe Eighth Street is important to you.

A Wishlist to Help Norte Launch a New Bike Mechanics Program at Traverse City Area Middle Schools

The Solution in School is part of Norte’s broader community-wide bike mechanics education initiative dedicated to empowering people of all ages and abilities to learn the skills that help promote self-assurance, confidence, creativity and lifelong bike independence. We believe that understanding basic bicycle maintenance and repair is a lifelong skill that gives the young and young at heart the knowledge and confidence to ride more, venture further and embrace a happy, healthy lifestyle.

This pilot program teaches 6th-8th graders basic bike repair skills in an engaging, hands-on manner. It will also do good in the community as students will be working on Norte’s Bike Library bicycles, which will be loaned out to local kids in need.

The Solution in School is going to launch this spring. If you have any of these tools collecting dust in your garage, please consider donating them. We promise to put them to very good use.

  • Gently used 20″ and 24″ youth mountain bikes with handbrakes and gears. No big box store bikes, please and thank you.
  • Metric allen keys: 2mm, 2.5mm, 3mm, 4mm, 5mm, 6mm, 8mm
  • #2 phillips screwdriver
  • Straight slot screwdriver
  • Metric box wrenches: 8mm, 9mm, 10mm, 13mm, 15mm, 17mm
  • 12″ adjustable wrench
  • Needle nose pliers
  • Bicycle work stands
  • Chain breaking tools
  • Cone wrenches 13mm-19mm
  • Headset wrenches 32mm/36mm
  • 15mm pedal wrench (Park Tool PW-5, for example)
  • Hammers
  • Rulers
  • Curve jaw channel lock pliers (headsets)
  • Spoke wrenches
  • Crank pullers for square taper spindles (park tool example)
  • Freewheel removal tools
  • Cassette lockring tools
  • Chain whips
  • Bottom bracket wrench (HCW-4)
  • Bottom bracket lockring wrenches (Park HCW-5)
  • 20 pin bottom bracket tools (BBT-22)
  • Diagonal cutters
  • Cable/housing cutters

Questions? Get at us.


Yo, Kids! Here’s to Less Swiping, Scrolling, Tapping and More Wrenching, Fixing, Learning this Spring Break

Sticking around Traverse City this spring break?
Hop in one of our 10 fun bike mechanics classes at the Wheelhouse to turn some wrenches and get your learn on.

Knowing how to maintain and fix your bicycle is the BEST! Understanding basic bicycle maintenance and repair is a lifelong skill that gives you the knowledge, confidence, and independence to venture further and have more fun.

The Solution is Norte’s new educational series that is designed to progress participants from zero knowledge to advanced skills. Ideally, classes will be done in order but if you already have the skills to say, skip the 101 /102 classes and go right to 201/202, you’re welcome to do that but instructors will assume participants know all beginner skills when teaching the intermediate/advanced skill classes.

Current classes offered to upper elementary, middle school and high school students:

101 – Basic

Shop and tool orientation
Bicycle anatomy
ABC quick check
Get to know your tires and floor pump

102 – Basic

Sun’s out, wheels out!
Nuts about QR’s
Brake pad care
Sparkle-clean bike

201 – Beginner

Fix a Flat
Tube replacement & patching

202 – Beginner

C2ShiningC: Chains to Cables
Chain dissection
Cables and housing, cable maintenance

301 and 401 courses coming soon

Spring Break Classes:

Morning classes: 10-11:30 am
Afternoon classes: 3-4:30 pm

Monday the 25th

Morning class: 101 for 4/5th graders
Afternoon class: 101 for middle schoolers

Tuesday the 26th

Morning class: 102 for 4/5th graders
Afternoon class: 102 for middle schoolers

Wednesday the 27th

Morning class: 101 & 102 for high schoolers
Afternoon class: 201 for middle schoolers

Thursday the 28th

Morning class: 201 for 4/5th graders
Afternoon class: 202 for middle schoolers

Friday the 30th

Morning class: 101 for 4/5th graders
Afternoon class: 101 & 102 for high schoolers


  • Norte Wheelhouse at the Civic Center


Helpful Information:

  • Bring a bike, or let us know ahead of time if you need to borrow one.
    Wear clothes that can get dirty.
  • Class size is limited to five (5) participants.
  • The Wheelhouse is our awesome new old building on the north side of the Civic Center Park. The nearest parking lot is at the Civic Center. From there, you’ll have to walk or roll.

Every Solution participant will also receive:

  • A sweet Norte tube patching kit! Why not recycle your tube?!

Program requirements:

  • A positive attitude and a willingness to learn awesome things

Registration online:

Or register in person at the Clubhouse.

Lots more classes in April including some for adults and lower elementary students. Details HERE.

Need more details? Email ben@elgruponorte.org, call 231-883-2404 or stop by the Clubhouse 9-5 PM weekdays.

Norte to Launch New Learn-to-Wrench Community Project

The Solution is a new community-wide bike mechanics education initiative dedicated to empowering people of all ages and abilities to learn the skills that help promote self-assurance, confidence, creativity and lifelong bike independence. We believe that understanding basic bicycle maintenance and repair is a lifelong skill that gives the young and young at heart the knowledge and confidence to ride more, venture further and embrace a happy, healthy lifestyle.

This learn-to-wrench community project is made up of four programs:

Solution Classes:

  • A series of structured educational classes for people of all ages and skill levels.
  • Learn more and sign up for a class HERE.

Solution at School:

  • A pilot program at West Middle School that teaches 6-8th graders basic bike repair skills in an engaging, hands-on manner. It will also do good in the community as West Middle students will be working on Norte’s Bike Library bicycles which will be loaned out to local kids in need.
  • Details of the Titans Solution HERE.

Solution Summertime Meet-ups:

  • El Barrio Bike Fix is a free, weekly summertime community meet-up in La Plaza, the lush green space next to the Clubhouse, where we get our hands dirty, turn wrenches and learn basic bike repair and maintenance skills from our professional bike mechanics and volunteers.
  • More info HERE.

Solution in the Community:


Join our once in a while, always informative, never spammy and very orange newsletter, El Periodico:



I winter bike

Ben Boyce spends most of his time at work riding around town with kids on bikes as the program director for Norte. At least, it works out that way in the spring, summer and fall. In the winter, there is far too much computer time involved, so biking to work is Ben’s chance to get away from the screen, stretch his legs a little, and appreciate being outdoors. “Even if it is just for a few miles from a park and ride spot, getting myself around town or to work under my own power is a big mood-boost for me”, says Ben.

A couple of go-to’s for Ben’s winter biking:

  • Sunglasses or goggles to keep the snow flakes out, and protect against the polar vortex
  • Mittens!
  • Go slow on the turns.

World Class Walk/Bike Infrastructure on Traverse City’s Revisioned 8th Street? Yes, please

After last night’s Traverse City Commission Study Session, I’ve been thinking and researching a lot on best practice cycle-track design, which I truly believe is what we should be shooting for with this project – bike infrastructure that is world class.

This document that was shared yesterday referenced Vassar Street in Cambridge, MA as an example of a cycle track that co-exists with driveways. I reached out to a few friends in the Boston area to get their thoughts on Vassar. The feedback was luke-warm: wasn’t great, wasn’t terrible. Per these frequent users, the main issue with the Vassar cycle track is with the proximity of the cycle track and the sidewalk, a concern that Mayor Carruthers raised in the meeting last night. In fact, Cambridge has since changed the way they design cycle tracks since Vassar St. to better separate bicyclists and pedestrians.

My MA friends gave an example of Western Ave. in Cambridge, MA as an example of a cycle track done even better. The main difference here is the green space/tree space is placed between the sidewalk and cycle-track. This reduces potential conflicts between bikes/peds and also places bicyclists in a more visible position to drivers on the roadway or entering/exiting driveways.

Here at Norte, what we are expecting in the final design is what the Envision Eighth process called for – dedicated, welcoming space for all road users. Ultimately a healthy and vibrant place that is walkable, bikeable, and safe for all users.

A few things we love about the current design:

A few things we’d still like to see:

  • A safe, welcoming space for people who bike that is physically separated from motor vehicles with minimal conflict points – closing as many driveways as possible is critical.
  • A buffer between spaces for bicyclists and pedestrians
  • Less “green space” (meeting last night I heard anywhere from 10′ to 11.5′) and more space for bikes/people walking & rolling (NACTO guidelines state: “Sidewalks have a desired minimum through zone of 6 feet and an absolute minimum of 5 feet.”) A few extra feet of width to the sidewalk would be great!
  • Consideration for how bicyclists will make left turns off of Eighth Street
  • Guarantees that utility boxes, lighting poles, signs, etc are not located in the right of way for bicyclists or pedestrians

While Norte is committed to helping build a stronger, better connected and more walk/bike friendly Eighth Street, we are only one piece of the puzzle.

We need YOUR voice.

We need YOU to advocate for safe, convenient and accessible opportunities on Eighth Street.

We need YOU to take action.

If you care about the health, happiness, and safety of all Traverse City residents, here are some ways you can help:

1) Email City leadership and share WHY a walkable, bikeable, safe Eighth Street is important to you.

2) Write a letter to the editor to help educate your neighbors about why a healthy Eighth Street is so vitally important to the immediate and future health of our City.

3) Sign our change.org petition HERE

Chris Hinze is a husband, dad, physical therapist, Cleveland Browns fan, Norte board member and chair of the Traverse City Pro Walk/Pro Bike committee. He lives in the Old Town neighborhood with his wife and two daughters. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisHinzePT



The 6th Annual Traverse City Winter Bike To Work + School Day is 2 Weeks Away

Celebrate riding bikes all year long and help Traverse City become the Winter Biking Champion Of The World as we compete against northern cities in Canada, Europe, and the US.

Our sixth annual Traverse City Winter Bike To Work Day and School Day is in 2 weeks on Friday, February 8th and it’s sure to be awesome. Promise.

How It Works:

Step 1: Commit here: winterbiketoworkday.org

Step 2: Tell your buddies! WBTW+SD is best with friends. #BikeTVC

Step 3: Be awesome on February 8th and ride your bike to work or school. Don’t forget to stop by any one of these shops for a free cup of coffee:

Step 4: Celebrate! Join us for happy hour at The Filling Station Microbrewery from 5-8pm.

Now get out and practice! The best way to become a better winter biker is to ride your winter bike more, of course.

Just remember to dress warm, take it a bit slower, make those turns wide, and smile!

Like Sabrina, our uber-talented and always pedaling WBTW+SD graphic designer, told us, “ Two winters ago was the first one I bike-commuted through. The roads were plowed well most of the time, making it extremely easy to ride. There have been so many bike-friendly improvements to the streets and a drastic increase in community awareness here that I think it’s going to keep getting easier to bike to work year-round.”

Don’t forget to commit!





Once you’ve committed, help us spread the word by sharing one of our digital pins:

Stay up to date by joining our WBTW+SD Facebook event.

Email us at hello@elgruponorte.org with questions.

HAWKs, 8th Street and an Academy: January’s Grand Traverse Pro Walk/Pro Bike Update

Happy new year!

Here are 3 things happening on the active transportation front:

1. Tonight!

City Commissioners will hear a proposal from MDOT to install High-intensity Activated Crosswalk (HAWK) signals at crosswalks on Grandview Parkway – specifically at Elmwood and Hall streets. These crossings (plus Oak Street), serve as key connections between our TC neighborhoods and the bayfront. We think HAWK beacons are a good option to improve the comfort and safety for people crossing Grandview at all non-signalized crosswalks while MDOT works toward a safer street design with planned reconstruction in the coming years.

2. Eighth Street

We’re continuing to push for a more walkable, bikeable, and all-around safer Eighth Street. Read more here about how you can help weigh in: elgruponorte.org/8th

3. Advocate Academy

We’re excited to bring back the advocate academy in 2019 for all Grand Traverse County residents. Applications are accepted through 2/1/19: elgruponorte.org/academy

Stay up to date on all things active transportation in the Grand Traverse region by joining our grassroots Pro Walk/Pro Bike group:



Pro Walk/Pro Bike Advocate Academy Now Open To All Grand Traverse Residents

After a successful first year, we’re excited to expand the Advocate Academy county-wide in 2019.

The Grand Traverse Advocate Academy is a community-driven program that empowers ordinary people to be effective leaders for policies and infrastructure that encourage walking, biking, transit use, and other forms active transportation.

The end result is an ever-growing coalition of citizen advocates engaged in community decisions in support of building stronger, better connected and more walk/bike friendly communities by empowering the young and young at heart.

Highlights of the five-week curriculum include:

  • Developing and telling your own story
  • Understanding how policy, budgets, and planning impact community
  • Honing observation skills to identify and document how spaces are used and opportunities for change
  • Choosing an issue and setting obtainable goals
  • Learning the ins-and-outs of effective communication with decision-makers, the media, and the community
  • Refining leadership skills and working as a team

The Grand Traverse Advocate Academy is an engaging, hands-on, classroom setting facilitated by experienced advocates. Sessions require active participation by participants as we explore the topics of effective community advocacy. A combination of reading, individual and team projects as well as guest speakers to connect “classroom” learning to real, current efforts occurring throughout our community.

The Grand Traverse Advocate Academy curriculum is designed to help develop both hard and soft advocate skills:

Hard skills include:
  • The science behind the public benefits of walking, biking, transit, and other public transportation
  • Ability to evaluate the built environment and current conditions related to public policy
  • Knowledge in specific policies and campaign areas, such as Complete Streets, access to transit and “Vision Zero”

Soft skills include:

  • Communications, relationships, and building trust
  • Fostering a local advocacy movement with diverse stakeholders
  • Engaging effectively with decision-makers


  • 6pm Thursday evenings
  • The Academy features five, 90-minute, mostly weekly sessions, starting February 21. 



  • You bet. Thank you, League of Michigan Bicyclists and Groundwork Center.

2019 Advocate Academy Timeline:

  • Application process opens: January 14th. Closes February 1st
  • Notification of acceptance: February 8th
  • Five sessions: late February – April

Criteria to apply:

  • Must be a Grand Traverse County resident
  • Commitment to attend all five sessions is recommended (We need your input!)
  • By the end of the academy, be prepared to help lead an effort for positive change in your neighborhood or community

Why Travel Lane Width Matters for Traverse City’s Revisioned 8th Street


While flipping through Jeff Speck’s fantastic new book “Walkable City Rules“, and although the entire book is valuable, rules #48 and #49 are especially well timed for Traverse City’s new 8th Street design.


Here are two key passages:
  1. “Lane widths of 10 feet are appropriate in urban areas and have a positive impact on a street’s safety without impacting traffic operations…Narrow streets help promote slower driving speeds which, in turn reduce the severity of crashes.”
  2. “Ten feet should be default width for general purpose lanes at speeds of 45 mph or less.”


Narrow lanes can still move plenty of cars and there is no reason for anyone to be driving faster than 25 mph in our city.

Let’s design 8th Street for 25 mph so people drive 25 mph.

We’re dreaming of a truly great 8th Street that is welcoming for all people no matter how they’re getting around. While we are committed to making this happen, we are only one piece of the puzzle.

We need YOUR voice. We need YOU to advocate for safe, convenient and accessible opportunities on Eighth Street.

We need YOU to take action.

If you care about the health, happiness, and safety of all Traverse City residents, here are some ways you can help:

1) Write a letter to the editor to help educate your neighbors about why a healthy Eighth Street is so vitally important to the immediate and future health of our City.

2) Email City leadership and share WHY a walkable, bikeable, safe Eighth Street is important to you.

3) Sign our change.org petition HERE

Norte To Host Bike Mechanics Class For Kids This Winter Break

Kick the year off by fixing something with your smart brain and your strong hands!

Knowing how to maintain and fix your bicycle is the BEST! Understanding basic bicycle maintenance and repair is a lifelong skill that gives you the knowledge and confidence to keep your ride rolling.

The Solution, our hands-on, 2-day learn-to-wrench class for kids, teaches participants how to:

  1. Fix a flat
  2. Adjust brakes
  3. Adjust shifting
  4. Patch a tube
  5. Fix a broken chain
  6. Remove/install pedals
  7. Clean/lube a chain
  8. Basic maintenance tips


  • January 3 & 4, 2019 from 10 to noon


  • Norte Wheelhouse (the large orange building on the north side of the park)


  • The Solution is for all awesome middle and high school’ers. No bike repair skills necessary – this is bike fix 101.

Cost for 2 day program:

  • $25

Class size is limited to just 5 future mechanics, so reserve your spot today:

Scholarships available. Contact Ben at ben@elgruponorte.org

Participants are welcome to bring in their bike or use one of ours to learn on. Just let us know!

Need more details?  Email ben@elgruponorte.org, call 231-883-2404 or stop by the Clubhouse 9-5P weekdays.

Pro Walk/Pro Bike Traverse City: The 2018 Best Of List

2018 was an incredible year for a healthier, better connected, and more walk/bike (and transit – Go, BATA!) friendly Traverse City.

Big thanks to our partners at the City of TC, Grand Traverse County, BATA, DDA, TC Parking Services, DTCA, and TART Trails.

Here are 23 awesome things we can all be proud of:

  1. $4.5M sidewalk bond approved for 9.16 miles of new sidewalk primarily in the Traverse Heights neighborhood  (East Front and South Garfield will also benefit)
  2. $2M Safe Routes To School featuring 4.9 miles of walk/bike improvements around 10 TC schools was conditionally approved by MDOT
  3. 11,616 linear feet or 2.2 miles of sidewalk rated poor and very poor west of Boardman Ave was replaced
  4. City Commission approved a resolution supporting a Stop for Pedestrians State Law
  5. Permanent installation of the 7th St contraflow bike lane
  6. BATA launched the Bayline, a free transit service running East and West. The program was financially supported TC Parking Services, The DDA, the DTCA, Munson, National Cherry Festival, Traverse City Film Festival, and TC Tourism
  7. Grand Traverse County launches an employee bike share program
  8. Several driveways that crossed sidewalks were eliminated including include three on East Front Street (US31) and one on Eighth Street
  9. Oryana installed a bike fix-it station at the Boardman Lake Trailhead 
  10. Curb-Extension for traffic calming at Monroe and Bay Street
  11. Planters on W. Front added this fall for traffic calming and gateway features
  12. New shelter and bike fix-it station installed on East Front Street thanks to TC Parking Services
  13. Peninsula Drive narrowed thanks to a new bike lane
  14. The DDA invested $486,000 for Boardman Riverwalk Phase 1 Project for riverwalk boardwalk between Union Street and W. Front Street. A new riverwalk will be constructed, the old wood structure by Union Street bridge replaced and an ADA access will be installed at Lot E
  15. Norte opens the Wheelhouse, a new learning center at the Civic Center
  16. The City invested $161,000 for improvements at Clancy Park including bike racks, accessible playground equipment, pathways, shelter, benches, and other amenities
  17. New Lake Ave sidewalks and raised crosswalks at Lake and Cass (but still need improvement as they are impeded by utility poles and lighting)
  18. Lake Ave bike racks provided by TC Parking Services.
  19. Norte’s bike valet operations at the Farmer’s Market provided by TC Parking Services and Taste The Local Difference
  20. Boardman Lake Loop fundraising, design and engineering will be complete in 2018 with planned construction beginning in 2019
  21. Traverse City Parking Services launched Destination Downtown, a program where parking funds are utilized to purchase commuter bus passes for employees within the DDA District
  22. Traverse City Parking Services added to on-street bike rack inventory, adding a rack at State Street Marketplace and The Dish
  23. Enhancing the walking experience, the DTCA installed a public art piece of wings on the 300 block of E. Front Street and the DDA facilitated through a donation from John Socks hearts on the public restrooms on Park St., a tribute to the heart wall the was once on the 200 block of E. Front St.

Did we forget something? Let us know!

Passionate about a more walkable, bikeable, liveable Traverse City? Get involved:





Have 45 seconds to help Norte measure its health impact?

Did your child participate in a Norte program this year? If so, please take 45 seconds to complete this short but sweet and very important survey.

The data allows us to make better-informed decisions to ensure that our programs are effective and impactful.



Learn more about Norte’s youth programs HERE.