Laura Otwell: Traverse City’s Pro Walk/Pro Bike Matriarch

This story first appeared in the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

When Johanna and I moved to Traverse City from Arizona in 2006 and bought a house on Washington Street, we knew we were moving into a great neighborhood, but we didn’t know that we were moving three blocks away from someone who would become one of our favorite people.

Laura Otwell, a Detroit girl and graduate of Cass Tech high school, is a special human being. A mom of three incredible girls, Laura, is smart, kind, generous, and humble. She is curious, thoughtful, empathetic and a long-time advocate for stronger, better connected, and more walkable, bikeable neighborhoods. I repeat, Laura Otwell is an extraordinary human being.

Laura started Smart Commute Week in 1995 and served on the TART Board of Directors in 1998, where she led their bike advocacy efforts. She was also instrumental in the founding of Norte in 2013. She was an original Team Orange Board member before joining Norte’s staff for a year as an Americorps VISTA in 2016. 

Ever passionate about providing better opportunities for kids to walk and bike more, Laura was there in 2016 when Norte began the process to assist the City of Traverse City with their ambitious $2 million Safe Routes To School grant. This grant will improve access and connection around ten in-town schools. It will transform the way neighborhood kids get to their neighborhood school and finally come to fruition this summer.

An ardent champion of fairness and equity, Laura was also a supporter of the $4.9 million sidewalk acceleration project, primarily in the Traverse Heights neighborhood. You can see an outcome of that advocacy right now on Hannah, Bates, Grant, Centre, Barlow, and Boyd Streets. These new sidewalks are a gamechanger for improved opportunities for active living and social connectedness in a neighborhood that’s been underserved for generations. They will provide safe access now and for generations to come.  

Laura fully realizes that she’s building on the work of those who came before her. This history includes the work of the talented June Thaden, who she describes as “Quite the gal!” However, I don’t think there’s any doubt that Mrs. Otwell is the current matriarch of Traverse City’s Pro Walk/Pro Bike movement. A movement that continues to gain momentum with a revisioned 8th Street, a pedestrian-only Front Street, a shared Washington Street, and an easier to cross Parkway.

Laura is a natural grassroots community leader who knows that actions, not slogans or fancy words, is the key to real enduring change. She knows that change can be hard and unpopular, but others’ resistance is part of the deal when we sign up to disrupt the status quo.

As we see the light at the end of this pandemic tunnel, I look to Laura for inspiration on how we should navigate this new normal.

Let’s prioritize our public spaces, including our neighborhood streets, and give more to this fantastic place we call home than we take from it.

Let’s contribute more to our neighborhoods’ health and measure success on the ideas we spread, the causes we stand for, the lives we help transform, and how others fare because of our efforts.

Let’s go to bat for inclusion, fairness, dignity, and equitable mobility options. And for each other. Our neighbors.

Let’s be more like Laura. Our Pro Walk/Pro Bike matriarch and an exceptional human being.

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’s 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

HANDS-ON LEARNING

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.

CRAFTING THE MESSAGE

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 gary@elgrupnorte.org.

 

SPECIAL THANK YOU 

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.

 

Happy, Healthy, Strong: Read Norte’s Very First Annual Report

We’re excited to share our first hot-off-the-presses Annual Report!

A lot of love, sweat, and grateful tears went into this project. There are beautiful stories penned by the young and young at heart, a jog down memory lane, and a whole lot of high impact numbers and Team Orange names of which we’re very, very proud.

Through reflection on past adventures, we’re humbled by this summary of our collective work to build community and a happy, healthy, strong future. Thank you for joining us on this incredible 7-year journey — I can’t wait for what’s next. By dreaming big and working hard, together, we’re building a tomorrow of more active-for-life kids supported by safer, better connected, and more walk/bike-friendly neighborhoods.

Team Orange is keeping our eyes and heart focused on this vision which I believe is more important than ever. Thank you for keeping us rolling, especially in these uncertain times!

Stay safe, stay healthy and viva Norte.

Ty Schmidt, Executive Director

Read the report online or download a PDF version below.


Download “Norte's 2019 Annual Report” NorteAnnualReport2020-final.pdf – Downloaded 151 times – 25 MB

 

 

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.

Hello,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quick Spins (FROM THE WEB)

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

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

Stay home. Stay safe. Stay active, responsibly.

Gary Howe
  @NorteGary 
Advocacy Director

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

Pro Walk/Pro Bike Advocacy

Stay Home. Stay Safe. Stay Active, Responsibly

Stay Home. Stay Safe. Stay Active, Responsibly

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

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

Outside is not canceled. It has been deemed essential. 

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

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

Physical Distancing, Social Solidarity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Stay Home. Stay Safe. Stay Active, Responsibly

 

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. 

  • citycommissioners@traversecitymi.gov
  • mcolburn@traversecitymi.gov
  • phill@traversecitymi.gov
  • rsoyring@traversecitymi.gov

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

Quick Spins

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

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

Gary Howe
  @NorteGary 
Advocacy Director

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

Pro Walk/Pro Bike Advocacy

What are the Best Ways to Walk or Bike to a School Near You?

As part of our three year systems acceleration project with the area schools and funded by Rotary Charities,  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.  If you were a new family, would the following informational pages be helpful? Each page offers encouragement, a route map, park and stroll locations, and answers to frequently asked questions.

Example Route Map for the Eastern Stars
What’s missing? What routes do you suggest? Let us know at hello@elgruponorte.org
Currently,  the following pages are ready for review.

 

Thank you! 

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 chris@elgruponorte.org.

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

Quick Spins

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

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

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

Gary Howe
Advocacy Director
  @NorteGary 

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? 

TWO HELPFUL EXTRAS

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

VIDEO: Winter Walk Wednesdays to Bus to Greenspire School

How to Make Our Major Streets More Inviting?

Traverse City’s major stroad, Garfield Avenue

 

Improving Major Streets

Recently, the City of Traverse City has been exploring ideas to improve major corridors for people on foot, bikes, wheelchairs, and other human-scaled means of getting around. This effort certainly isn’t new, and past efforts haven’t been without success. Last year’s improvement of two relatively new crosswalks on Grandview Parkway is a case in point. The HAWK signals have made the crosswalk additions considerably safer.

Also, the five corridors study, W. Front and 8th St. Form-based code recommendations, and the Eighth St. visioning process all have specific recommendations for positive changes that are applicable across the region. We here at Norte are also big fans of NACTO’s Urban Design Guide.

Most recently, the new and improved section of Eighth Street provides real-life successes that can be made standard. The following isn’t comprehensive, but it’s some highlights from 8th St. that apply to corridors across the region.

  • Narrow travel lanes – 9′-10′ travel lane widths on all city streets. Skinny streets save lives, reduce noise pollution, save money, and allow reallocation of space for other uses.
  • Narrow Turning Radius – Tightening up corners shortens crossing distance and slows the driving speeds. (We’re excited to see MDOT’s improvements at Peninsula Drive!)
  • Pedestrian Scale Lighting – Done well, it increases comfort and safety while creating a welcoming context. Both W. Front St. and Eighth St. have been made more welcoming with lighting.
  • Separated, Protected Bike Lanes – TC’s major streets are a critical part of the network. Many people who are comfortable on a bike on neighborhood streets, lose that confidence on TC’s major streets.
  • Raised Crosswalks – Not only do raised-crosswalks slow traffic speeds, but they also improve accessibility by improving drainage. This time of year, it is really noticeable.

TC’s 8th Street, before and after

#SlowtheCars

With a few exceptions, all of Traverse City’s major streets have official speed limits set at 25 mph. That’s an opportunity because the primary objective should be streets designed to encourage minimum speeds. Where current speeds are posted higher than 25 mph, we recommend adopting targets to reduce them by design and practice.

One suggestion to achieve this is reconfiguring the streets to only two lanes by default with any re-construction. With under 15,000 cars per day, there’s little need for Garfield Ave. to continue to be a four and five-lane stroad. The City also currently dedicates considerable space to turning lanes that needlessly run the full length of a corridor. Installing raised and protected midblock crossings on a street like 14th St. would help break long blocks up while also lowering speeds.

A running thread for #SlowtheCars

Make Streets Sticky

Ultimately, creating sticky streets where people feel welcome and can’t help themselves but linger is the goal. For the most part, Traverse City has achieved this downtown and serves as the model for future planning needs to embrace.

At this week’s City Commission meeting, city officials will be discussing this topic under the narrow agenda concerning setbacks. The focus on the walking environment is appreciated. We trust that the discussion will be expanded to include more substantial impacts like the ones listed above.

 

What are your suggestions for major corridors in the City and elsewhere across northern Michigan? 

 

 

Winter Walk Wednesdays with the Grand Traverse Regional Community Foundation

https://youtu.be/MhQQ3Eg-8D0

Norte Goes Platinum!

Norte is stoked to announce we’ve been recognized as a Platinum Bicycle Friendly Business from The League of American Bicyclists. We’re joining nearly 1,400 local businesses, government agencies, and Fortune 500 companies in a shared commitment to building safer, stronger, and better-connected communities.

Norte joins two other area businesses in this recognition: Higher Grounds Trading Co., known for its coffee-by-bike delivery service, and downtown investment firm Boomerang Catapult.

 

 

 

The Bicycle Friendly Business program is run by The League of American Bicyclists. It provides recognition and guidance for businesses to showcase and enhance their bicycle-friendliness. As Northern Michigan embraces and promotes more walking and biking, we want to celebrate the companies that are part of the solution. Part of that Norte’s goal is putting northern Michigan’s businesses on the national map for bike friendliness and then celebrating the heck out of their achievements.


“We are proud supporters of Norte’s efforts to get more people outside and living healthier, more active lives. Our Bicycle Friendly Business certification will hopefully serve as a model for others: if our small business can do it, anyone can do it,” said Emily Modrall, Boomerang Chief of Staff. “Norte helped make the application process easy and successful. I look forward to seeing a cluster of BFBs in Traverse City. We can put Traverse City on the map as the most bike-friendly business community around.”

BFB BENEFITS

Bicycle Friendly Business certification provides national recognition for businesses that are leaders in wellness, sustainability, and corporate responsibility. It also serves as a unique recruitment tool for retaining and attracting talent. The BFB application provides useful feedback on ways a business can become even more bicycle (and walk!) friendly. The League is a link to resources, ideas, and best practices.

Check out our Business Champion program and let us know how we can help your business apply for Bicycle Friendly Business certification.

Learn more about the League’s Bicycle Friendly Business program at bikeleague.org/business.

 

Bicycle Friendly Business is a Service Mark of the League of American Bicyclists; used with permission.

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

Advocacy Newsletter, December 5, 2019

Hello fellow citizens,

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

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

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

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

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

QUICK SHOUTS

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

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
  @NorteGary 


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Pro Walk/Pro Bike Advocacy

Exploring the streets for opportunities and delights

“Overall, I was surprised by how much I liked this. At first, I was skeptical, one, because my dad signed me up for this without asking. But I gave it a try and ended up liking it. It gave me a new perspective on the community that never would have seen. Thank you!”

Norte designed and launched its inaugural “Explore Your Neighborhood, Shape Your Community” course this fall. The program created opportunities for teens to learn more about community design and infrastructure, and the way these elements impact our experience of the community. This will, we trust, help them engage and learn how they can affect positive change.

The foundation of this course is a belief that when we explore our communities with curiosity, careful attention, and intention, undoubtedly, we begin to see things that we haven’t noticed. We then start to ask questions. What is this? Why is it here? How does it impact my experience of this place? Ultimately, as we continue to explore, we begin to see both what we like and appreciate, and how we might make improvements. The process becomes part of our own story and the story of our community and our role in shaping it.

For six Sundays, 24 students aged 13-18 gathered for 90-minute meetups. These meetups introduced them to the built environment, planning concepts, mobility challenges, and the role citizen advocates play in shaping solutions to community issues. In the end, students identified opportunities they’d like to champion and developed an action plan for change.

“The strength of the Explore Academy is to show teenagers that they are part of the community, have a voice, and can help to make it better through advocating and taking action on something that they strongly believe.“

The meetups incorporated six themes aimed at introducing the students to tools and ideas to help them engage with and see the neighborhood. On most Sundays, students spent half of the session exploring the surrounding area by foot or by bus, before returning to discuss observations and ideas. The two most popular meetups, week three and week five, incorporated longer student-led walks. In these walks, students proved proficient in applying concepts introduced in previous meetups. For example, they quickly learned to empathize with others when evaluating a space or a piece of infrastructure that is an obstacle or creates isolation.

The most popular exercise was the “Frame It” task from Meetup 3, The Experienced Neighborhood. The students were sent (in the pouring rain!) by bus to one of the more challenging spots in Traverse City and were asked to walk back. They were instructed to document the positives and opportunities for improvement with photos, using a blue frame to frame the former and orange for the latter. “Frame It” is a coding method adapted from a similar concept invented by landscape architect Isami Kinoshita in Toyko in his attempts to animate public life.

We trust that Explore Academy graduates will continue to pursue ways to impact their community positively. In the near term, students left with a plan of action on a specific opportunity identified during the program. Long-term, we hope that they took away a fundamental understanding that our communities are shaped by design. Each design element in our community represents a choice and value. We want them to understand that someone or someones made a decision. Because of this, another approach is always possible. Decisions can be influenced and can change.

Cities, neighborhoods, and communities are continually evolving. Our job at Norte is to help those who wish to shape them to understand those evolutions better. The skill to be developed is to observe one’s community by reflecting on personal experiences and those of others, researching the issue, then telling your story to shape the community. Done well, the impact will result in one’s values being represented in the community.

“Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.”

– Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities

“Explore Your Neighborhood, Shape your Community,” was made possible by a developmental micro-grant from League of Michigan Bicyclists. Norte developed the program over the summer of 2019 in partnership between Norte’s Advocacy program and Megan Olds of Norte Business Champion Parallel Solutions. We owe thanks to the support from TC West Senior High and TC Central High civics programs for offering the program as an extracurricular program. And, finally, thank you to the engaged and motivated students who made the program a success. We look forward to working with all of them in the coming years.

* The above quotes are from anonymous student evaluations 

 

 

Are you thinking about winter cycling?


NOTHING CAN STOP YOU!

Believe it or not, the climate is not the deciding factor on whether or not people cycle. People the world over, including the Grand Traverse region, cycle year-round, and through all sorts of weather. In fact, some of the world’s most bicycle-friendly communities share our wintery climate. The leaders do so by investing in dedicated infrastructure and its maintenance.

That said, there are certainly some best practice tips the individual can use to make winter cycling more appealing. Gear heads certainly have all sorts of advice. Still, for everyday neighborhood cycling, it doesn’t take much to enjoy the quiet, snowy thrill of rolling along on snow.

Norte has visited this topic before. Our Traverse City Bike Life series highlights tips from local champs like Kyle SmithPatrick MierClaire Karner, and Norte Program Director, Ben Boyce. Our Executive Director, Ty Schmidt, even presented at the International Winter Cycling Conference in Montreal a few years back.

There are two things in common in all of these stories: 1, winter cycling, isn’t by default complicated. It’s still as easy as riding a bike. 2, there are magical moments in winter riding. There’s simply nothing like the quiet of less traffic, streets muted by a layer of snow, while snowflakes gently fall.

PRO TIPS

For this post, I asked Norte staff for one piece of advice that other recommendations may miss.

  • Ty Schmidt: “A fancy bike isn’t necessary. Take the turns wide. And, smile.”
  • Ashlea Walter: “Be social! There is power in numbers and if there are two or more people cycling in the winter together, it’s more visible and more fun. I usually walk more in the winter though than bike, and plan extra time in my schedule.”
  • Jamie Burley: “Don’t feel guilty about it. Bike when you can, drive if you want. Either way, be considerate of others. We’re all just trying to get somewhere.”
  • Mike Decker: “Keep your bike clean and well maintained. Dedicate a space out of the elements to store it and wipe it down regularly.”
  • Ben Boyce: “Slow down, watch out for ice, and cut through the Oakwood Cemetery whenever possible. It is awesome in the winter!”
  • Gary Howe: “On sloppy, slushy days, I recommend walking. If the distance is too far, combine your trip with a bus ride. You might even take your bike on the bus if you know conditions will improve on your return.”
  • Roger Amundsen: “Dress the part. Being on your bike in the snow is awesome, but it’s considerably less awesome if you’re underdressed or overdressed. My advice is to always layer well and to dress for about 10 degrees warmer than the actual temperature you’re riding in. You don’t want to ride with a chill, but you also don’t want to overdress & end up overheated by the time you get where you’re going.”
  • Abby Havill: “Walking or biking outside in the snow can be truly magical. With proper attire, it’s so much easier to enjoy the cold, and it’s lessons of calm and quiet. The earth seems to slow it’s pace in the winter whilst being covered in the layer of white magic. Therefore, it’s a perfect invitation to slow down for yourself. We must pay closer attention to our bikes and the movement of our body in relation to our bikes in the winter because of the ice and sometimes slush. It’s far more invigorating to get your bike tires over a mound of frozen ice and snow than it is to do so in your vehicle. Just saying…”

Our Volunteer Director, Mike Decker, also contributed a winter cycling 101 he previously wrote.

Mike’s Winter Commuting 101

  • The fatter and grippier the tires, the better.
  • Replan your route based on conditions. Your summer bike commute won’t work here.
  • Get off the bike. Sometimes it’s the safest option. Get back on when the road is better.
  • The sidewalk is your friend. In a pinch, get up on it. 
  • Invest in a good pair of lights. 
  • Wear the right clothing. Running/skiing/hiking stuff transfers well for biking. Bright and reflective is a plus, while a pair of bike-specific winter gloves are absolutely worth the cost. 
  • Don’t mess with ice. Put a foot down, get off the bike, bike on the sidewalk until it’s clear. 
  • Avoid cars but assert yourself when necessary. If the bike lane is full of snow and ice, get into the street. Cars treat bicyclists like lepers in the winter; they’re more afraid of hitting them.
  • Install some flat platform pedals. Your feet won’t slip off, and you can wear boots.
  • Find a good space to store it in your home or garage. And, keep it clean. Invest in Simple Green and dilute it with water in a spray bottle. Find rags and wipe down bike if it gets dirty. Clean that drive train!
  • Utilize Norte Clubhouse Member Program. You’ll have access to a workspace where you can clean and maintain a bike. A year’s membership and a great investment. And, a great gift!

WHO’S IN?

If you’re new to winter riding, why not join others while exploring the Christmas decorations around Traverse City. Wednesday, December 18 is Norte’s annual See the Lights ride. A slow roll in the snow passing by some of Traverse City’s best-lit homes. If you need the perfect winter hat, we have the Very Orange Winter Hat to top off your gear.

On February 7, 2020, join us for the annual Winter Bike to Work and School Day. You and your co-workers can commit now at winterbiketoworkday.org. The goal is to put little ol’ Northern Michigan on the Winter Bike to Work map. Winter bike to work also includes a happy hour, which might be another pro tip for winter cycling!

TC Rides to See The Lights

 


Connect your business to the Pro Walk/Pro Bike movement with an annual Norte Business Champion sponsorship.

 

 

Advocacy Newsletter: Does your street pass the halloween test?

Advocacy Newsletter, October 31, 2019

Greetings Community-Engaged Ghouls and Goblins,

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

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

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

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


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

TRAVERSE CITY: TREES, STREETS, AND SAFE ROUTES

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

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

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

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

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

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

The All Ages, All Abilities approach to bike facilities.

QUICK SHOUTS

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

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

Be safe. Have fun.

Gary Howe
Advocacy Director
  @NorteGary 

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Pro Walk/Pro Bike Advocacy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Finally, what are you for?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Part I | Part II | Part III


Election Details

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Finally, what are you for?

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

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

 

Part I | Part II | Part III


Election Details

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Finally, what are you for?

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

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

 

Part I | Part II | Part III


Election Details

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

 

Week 4: Grand Traverse Youth Mountain Bike Team Update

 Week 4 newsletter

This season has flown by as fast as a 2nd grader skids through a rear tire! Tuesdays’ rain cancellation gives me about 10 minutes to crank out a quick newsletter to everyone involved in this awesome collection of kids, bikes, and energy! Thanks for all the support!

  • Team Orange is looking really nice out there, but we can always be nicer. This letter was in this week’s Express:

The coaches and I hatched a plan last week to keep the kids off of the Civic Center path before and after practice, and I’d like to ask you parents to give the park trail users a break as well by waiting for your kids in the grass, and being aware of all the traffic that this path gets in an afternoon. Lots of neighbors on the trail!

  • A friendly reminder to not use That’sa Pizza’s parking lot for pick up and drop off–it’s only for patrons. Free parking is on Fair St. and in the Civic Center Parking lot.
  • Can’t wait until the Iceman? Peak2Peak, arguably the prettiest mountain bike course in the state, therefore the country, is right around the corner. This is a super fun race: Sign up soon!
  • Tour de Traxs for the 6-16 year old crowd is the same day as the big  Peak2Peak. Full details and registration link here.
  • Is your child enjoying this after school program as much as we are? We want to keep the awesome bike riding energy going all the way to November, so we are opening an extra, 3-week season for the kids and coaches to meet at Timber Ridge Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4:30 to 6:00.  Keep an eye on elgruponorte.org/mountainbike for registration details later today.