Bikes For All: The Amigos Crush Giving Tuesday

It was a big day for the Amigos program yesterday. We met our $1,000 Giving Tuesday goal by 10am and then crushed our $2,000 stretch goal later at The Little Fleet dance party. Thanks to 36 awesome people, we raised $2,250 in all.

$2,000 of this will be matched dollar for dollar by Teter Orthotics & Prosthetics, 4Front Credit Union and the Down Syndrome Association of Northwest Michigan for a total of $4,250. Amazing.

This year’s Giving Tuesday awesomeness will allow Norte to continue to build a happier, healthier, stronger communities by empowering young people – and those who love them – to be active for life. The Amigos program which teaches confidence, independence, and bike/pedestrian safety skills to young people with special needs through empowerment, education, and adventure is going to rock in 2019.

Thank you for supporting Norte’s vision of inclusion and the idea that all young people – no matter their ability – should have the opportunity to experience the joy of independent mobility that comes with riding a bicycle.

And don’t forget! My Secret Stash is selling this beautiful hand oxidized art piece by A State of Copper with 100% of sales going to the Amigos.


Move More, Move Often – The 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines

BIG NEWS! Just last week, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released a new and improved 2nd Edition of Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. This document, authored by some of the brightest researchers in the country, highlights just how much we should be moving as a society and why.

But first, what exactly is physical activity? Well, the World Health Organization defines Physical Activity as “any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that require energy expenditure.” Hold up…does that mean something as simple as walking to school or riding your bike to the park counts as physical activity? You betcha!

Okay, so we all know being physically active is important, right? But why is it important? Well, according to the report, in kids as young as six physical activity is associated with improved cognition, decreased depression, and improved health of the heart and lungs. In adults, the benefits are even more pronounced. Decreased risk of cancer, dementia, heart disease, improved sleep, and reduced anxiety are just a few of the many benefits of being physically active.

Sound good? Yeah, we think so too. So just how much of this physical activity do we need to reap all of these amazing rewards? Well, the good news is that every little bit counts. As little as 10 minutes of activity can lead to immediate, short-term effects like lower blood pressure and reduced anxiety. But why stop at just ten minutes?

According to the report, kids age 3-5 should:

  • Be physically active throughout the day

Older kids (age 6-17) should:

  • Be physically active for at least 60 minutes per day (things like running, walking, riding bikes)
  • Do muscle strengthening activities at least 3 days a week – this would include playing on the playground, climbing trees, and lifting weights (we think climbing hills on the mountain bike counts, too!)

For the grown ups, we should:

  • Be physically active at least 150 minutes/per week (about 20 minutes per day) by performing moderate-intensity activity – things like walking, bicycling, swimming or even doing yardwork
  • Bonus (health) points if you can get that activity level up near 300 minutes/week (around 45 minutes per day)
  • Perform muscle strengthening activities at least 2 days per week – think lifting weights or doing body weight exercises like squats and push ups work great, too

At Norte, we believe in happy, healthy, strong kids and grown-ups here in Northern Michigan. We realize that we can’t be our best – our healthiest – without daily physical activity. That’s why we’re working hard to make sure more opportunities for physical activity are engineered into daily life. Not all of us have the time or the desire to work out at the gym or don the spandex for a day-long cycle tour. But we all have to get from Point A to Point B. Whether that’s from home to work, to school, or the store – these can all be opportunities to be physically active. But we need safe, well-connected infrastructure to make moving (not driving) an easy choice. We need land use decisions that allow people to live near the services that they need to access on a daily basis. And we need awesome people like you to live out our mission of a happy, healthy, strong Northern Michigan.

Chris Hinze is a 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 @chinzept



Shedding Light on the Traverse City Light Parade

Interested in joining us for the 100 Families + The Traverse City Light Parade but not quite sure what to expect? Here’s everything you need to know.

Date of the event: Saturday, November 17
Time: Event starts at 7:00 pm but meet-up is at 6:45 pm
Where:  Staging is on the 200 block of South Franklin at 6:45 pm – look for our flags. We’re #23 which is near the end.
What to wear: Orange of course. Dress warmly and have your walking shoes/boots on. The more orange the better.
What to bring: Lights, lots of lights…flashlights, battery-powered Christmas lights, glow sticks, if it lights up, bring it and wear it or carry it.
Do I bring my bike? You can bring your bikes. However, per past experience, we have found that the parade can get a little slow at times and you end up walking with your bike. Bike or walk, doesn’t matter. Do what makes you happy!
Parade route: East Front to Franklin to Union (Just a few blocks!)
What are we doing in the parade? Well, we will be blasting the tunes and getting you pumped up to walk, skip, dance and dish up high-fives to everyone you see along the route. Line up will be as follows: 2 flag bearers up front, walkers behind them, next will be the orange trailer with music and then bikes will bring up the rear.  
Can I invite friends to be a part of our group? Yes! Just share this page with them and they can sign up below. Easy peasy.
We are so excited!!! Be sure to tell all your friends!

Last Call for Coast Coffee: Higher Grounds’ Delicious Blend That Benefits Norte


Last week to get you some delicious Coast coffee from our friends at Higher Grounds. Coast is a smooth medium roast with a milk chocolate, brown sugar, and white peach profile that benefits our adventure-based empowerment program, The Bike Más Project.

Use code NORTE10 to score 10% off your purchase of Coast coffee.

The Bike Más Project is all about teaching upper elementary students “bike smarts”, confidence and independence through pedal powered adventures. What started in 2014 at Traverse Heights Elementary as a Safe Routes To School funded program, The Bike Más Project expanded to 17 area schools this fall.

The Bike Más Project aims to empower more – lots more! – young people to healthy, happy, and active for life through bike safety, education, and adventure. Funds generated by Coast sales will help this dream happen.

Coast can be purchased online HERE.

What’s next for the 3 Mile trail? More waiting

Another school year starts in less than a month.

Unfortunately, it’ll be another school year – the 12th school year to be exact- of the 3 Mile trail going nowhere.

Despite lots of momentum last year with the East Bay Parks, Planning Commission and Board of Trustees each passing a resolution of support to move ahead with a Safe Routes To School grant application, four walking audits completed at Grand Traverse Academy, Grand Traverse Area Catholic Schools’ SEAS, EMS and Cherry Knoll Elementary , a community-wide action planning meeting, the design study to assess trail costs and possible location (a study that TART Trails fundraised $10,000 and East Bay budgeted $40,00 for) will not happen in 2018.

Instead, we’ll wait. Wait for what? The results of the Grand Traverse County Road Commission’s East-West Corridor Transportation study, that’s what.

While 3 Mile obviously goes north-south, it’s width, design, and right of way may be affected by this study that won’t be finished until 2019.

With four schools, a library, a BATA bus stop, a grocery store, and many other businesses, the 3 Mile/Hammond intersection deserves better.

Much better.

If you support a safer, healthier, happier and better connected East Bay Township that will not only benefit students but township residents, business owners and visitors alike, please contact:

  • Jim Cook, GTCRC Director,
  • Beth Friend, East Bay Supervisor,
  • Julie Clark, TART Director,

and tell them that extending the 3 Mile trail to Hammond and beyond matters to you.

Stay up to date with all things #Extendthe3MileTrail here:





Remain Aware, Northern Michigan

We’ve all experienced that moment when we pull up to a light alongside another person driving their car and we do everything in our power to avoid eye contact. Summer is perfect for this as we normally have sunglasses on and people can’t really see where we’re looking. “Oh they’re just looking off into the distance,” we think but really they’re looking right at us while we look right at them.

Humans subconsciously love closed spaces, it’s why our beautiful downtown feels so nice when you’re walking through, those buildings being right on the street to make you feel comfortable and confident. The trees separate us from the street. We all walk like we’re ten feet tall. Vehicles tend to create this feeling as well. Those tight spaces with four wheels make us feel comfortable and confident. It’s probably why we avoid eye contact, we subconsciously refuse to believe that anyone outside our space is there next to us. It’s safer.

The problem with comfort in a vehicle is just that, we are comfortable in a vehicle. A 3,200+ pound moving sedan is not our bedroom with the door closed. It’s not walking downtown. It’s not coffee at your favorite coffee shop with a good friend. It’s a large moving vehicle.

The other day I was driving my boss’s truck (oh my gosh! Shea!) and I tried to note the feelings I had. I definitely felt extra safe in the air-conditioned, cushy seated, closed cab. And I started to let my guard down a bit and I definitely found myself speeding up ever so slightly. It’s funny how those silent cabs can allow your foot to push the gas pedal closer to the floor.

Everyone remembers their first car and if you were anything like me it was… a junker. I remember going over 35mph and the steering wheel would rattle a bit and the car as a whole would make all kinds of odd noises. The trunk refused to open and the tires barely held air. The air conditioning was just more heat on those hot summer days. But those frigid winter days? Oh, baby, you got even more cold air pumped into the cab. Needless to say, because of all these odd quirks I was never comfortable in that car and because I wasn’t comfortable I felt I was more alert than I am in cars today.

Biking for me is such a great way to engage with my surroundings. I come to a stop light and instead of ignoring that person next to me on their bike, I say hello or just a simple nod to acknowledge their existence. I wave or ring my bell (ding, ding) to people riding by on the TART trail. I feel so much more aware of traffic because I’m basically forced to be aware. I’m out there in it.

If my experience in the modern car is not unique to me, then other drivers are also getting rather comfortable in the cab. They are losing that awareness that there is a world outside. This is what forces me to pay more attention to what is happening around me, knowing that there is probably at least one driver who is a bit too comfortable.

Thinking this way about the experience of driving a vehicle versus biking has humanized the drivers. I feel as though they may not be maliciously crowding me while I ride downtown, they may just be victims of their immediate surroundings. This does not give them the right to crowd bicyclists but it does make me think twice about becoming overly angry. They are not simply chunks of metal welded together to create this giant vehicle, they are human.

Also, I think simply acknowledging that I become a bit too comfortable while driving a car has caused me to remain aware. To not give in to that air-conditioned, cushy seated, closed cab. To say to me, there is a world outside of these four walls and that world is full of people.

So, this is a call to action for anyone using our roads during these busy summer months, to remain aware that you are surrounded by people and that they are all probably very nice. Don’t become too comfortable and don’t become too angry. We are all victims of our brains and that’s a subject too complicated for a single blog post. We are all human.

Let’s ride fast, let’s ride hard, let’s ride but remain aware!





Shea O’Brien is a Traverse City native, Civic Center neighborhood resident, Traverse Heights Elementary alum, Clubhouse member, Marketing Specialist at Superior Physical Therapy, lifter of weights, Traverse City Advocate Academy participant, and proud book worm. Follow his adventures at @shea.m.obrien.

Sidewalks – July Update

Once again, the issue of sidewalk gap and infill will be before City Commissioners at their meeting Monday, July 16th. Commissioners have already voiced support to invest $4 million dollars to repair all of the City’s poor/very poor sidewalks and to add new sidewalks to key areas where they are non-existent – primarily in the Traverse Heights neighborhood. Initial work on this project has already begun, with sidewalk repair occurring in many neighborhoods this summer.

The next step in the process occurs Monday night. A “resolution of intent” must be adopted, which authorizes the City Clerk to alert Traverse City voters of the City’s intent to issue $4.9 million in capital improvement bonds to cover the costs associated with this large scale investment in sidewalks.

Passing this resolution is the next step in ensuring that the Traverse Heights and East Front neighborhoods will receive the new sidewalk infrastructure that they desperately need.

Proposed new sidewalks

How you can help:

  1. Send an email to City Commissioners requesting their support of this “resolution of intent”. Email the entire City Commission with this address:
  2. Attend the meeting Monday night and show your support in person: Monday, July 16th 7:00pm, 2nd Floor of the Governmental Center, 400 Boardman Ave

Thank you!

Traverse City Advocacy Alert – Keep the Grandview Parkway Pedestrian Signs!


*UPDATE 6/15/18 5:30pm*

“Thank you for your note supporting the new crosswalk signing on Grandview Parkway.

Complaints about close calls involving pedestrians and bicyclists – generally situations with drivers in one lane stopping, but drivers in the second lane not seeing or yielding to pedestrians – prompted us to renew conversations with Traverse City officials about the effectiveness of the new signing. While these new crosswalk signs were installed last summer, there remains some confusion as to motorist and driver responsibility. Some of that, we suspect, is due to the local ordinance that requires drivers on city streets to stop for pedestrians waiting to cross, which many pedestrians experience just a few blocks away on Front Street.

State law does not prescribe the same behavior when it comes to crossing state highways, but the Uniform Traffic Code puts responsibility on both drivers (requiring them to stop for pedestrians who are already within the lane they are traveling in) and pedestrians (requiring them to identify a safe gap in traffic before stepping into the street). We have signs on the side of the road directed at pedestrians, reminding them of that responsibility. The in-street signs on Grandview Parkway are being used to draw attention to drivers that they should expect pedestrians to be crossing in the area. These crossings represent our cooperative effort with the city to make crossing safer.

That’s not to say there isn’t room to improve. We’re working with the city to look at other future improvements or modifications. At this time we plan to leave the signs in place through this season, in order to have two years of data to review on the crossings’ safety. That experience will give is a true safety comparison to the crosswalks prior to the new signing. We have to ensure that the perceived safety improvement matches with an actual safety improvement borne out by the data, and not just a perception. Safety was our goal in starting this pilot project, and will be our goal as we move forward and consider options and improvements.

Thank you for your note. Safe travels.

Last year, three in-street “Yield for Pedestrians Within Crosswalk” signs were installed on Grandview Parkway at Elmwood, Oak, and Hall Streets. While these signs certainly have not transformed Grandview into a pedestrian paradise, they have made crossing the high speed, 4-lane stroad a bit safer and more comfortable for people walking.

Unfortunately, the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) is already considering the removal of these signs. This would be a huge step in the wrong direction. Removing the in-street signs without a superior alternative would be a clear message from MDOT that the efficiency of moving automobiles at a high rate of speed is more important than the safety of people trying to move between our neighborhoods and our bayfront.

We need your help.

Please contact MDOT today and share your support for a safer and more pedestrian friendly Parkway. Use THIS FORM to share your feedback.

Looking for additional info on in-street pedestrian signage, here you go:

On Traverse City Budgets – and Values

When budget season rolls around, you’ll undoubtedly hear the phrase “a City’s budget reflects its values,” getting tossed around. YIMBYs and NIMBYs will use this phrase to frame their arguments for what should or should not be included in the City’s budget.

But if we’re going to reference our values, where do we begin? What are Traverse City’s values?

The 7 “Core Principles” in the City of Traverse City Master Plan is probably the closest thing we have to a core document that outlines our collective values as a City.

These Core Principles are:

On Monday night, City Commissioners will have an opportunity to put our money where our values are.

Before the City Commission will be the budget for 2018/19. Hanging in the balance (again) is funding for sidewalk infill and repair throughout the City. Yes, the proposal that the City Commission has already publicly supported with a 5-2 vote on December 18, 2017 will need to be approved as part of the overall city budget.

Unfortunately, the proposal before commissioners has been reduced by a million dollars down to $3.5 million.

$3.5 million is a sizeable sum and it certainly is nothing to complain about. But it’s not what our City Commission approved. It’s not what a room full of supporters and dozens by email spoke in favor of back in December. A reduction in the sidewalk gap/infill proposal is in direct conflict with our core principles:

Core Principle 6: “Transportation choices are important to our vitality and environmental health.”

Core Principle 7: “Maintaining  health and vibrant City is important to the region.”

Traverse City Commissioners need to hear from you on this topic one more time.

Tell them that you support the full $4.5 million sidewalk gap/infill proposal approved in December.

Email all Traverse City Commissioners here:

Join our grassroots pro walk/pro bike advocacy group HERE.

From Bike To Work Day to Bike To Everywhere (Every) Day?

On a beautiful northern Michigan spring morning, 120+ awesome big people from 51 area workplaces took on students from 18 elementary and middle schools for a Kids vs Adults National Bike To Work Day/Fridays Fantasticos Smackdown.

For the third straight year, the kids “won” with 210+ bikes counted in school racks. So great.

Congrats, kids.

Huge thank you to these workplaces for playing along:

Great Lakes Environmental Center
45 North Vineyard & Winery
The Arnold Family Co-Work Compound
CMB Construction
Adaptive Counseling and Case Management
Keen Technical Solution
Great Lakes Stainless
Cowell Cancer Center
The Towne Plaza
Judes barbershop
Conservation Resource Alliance
Plante Moran
Central Grade School
GT Pavillions
Grand Traverse Children’s Clinic
MyNorth Media
Superior Physical Therapy
Munson Medical Center
Crystal Lake Medical
TART Trials
Munson Community Health Center
JRW Photography Studio
McLain Cycle & Fitness
North Flight Aero Med hangar
CS Sewing (South Airport and La Franier)
The Greenspire School
Bayview Plaza
Great Lakes Stainless, Inc.
Chemical Bank
The Franklin
Habitat for Humanity-GTR
Acme Township
National Cherry Festival
Networks Northwest
Cherry Capital Foods
Cherryland Accounting & Tax Services
Northwest Michigan Works!
Superior Physical Therapy
RF System Lab
Thirlby Clinic
Cherry Capital Foods
Conservation Resource Alliance

Let’s keep ‘er rolling, OK? Not just to work but to the park and the market and the library and the theater and the store and your friend’s house.

Because getting around on your bicycle is often the most practical, convenient and enjoyable way to get to the places we need to go, of course. And everybody wins when more adults, kids, communities choose bicycles as an everyday way of getting around.

National Bike To Work Day rocked. Here’s to an even awesome’er year of Bike To Everywhere Day. Every day.


Let’s fix our sidewalks, Traverse City

The Traverse City City Commission will be considering a proposal this coming Monday, April 16th to approve roughly $1 million to repair all of the sidewalks in the City rated as poor/very poor (map below) during the 2018 and 2019 construction seasons.

This proposal did not receive the necessary 5 votes to pass when it was discussed on April 2nd and will be before commissioners again this Monday. Again, it needs 5 affirmative votes to pass.

Meeting agenda HERE.

Meeting packet HERE.

How you can help:

  • Email City Commissioners voicing your support. Make it personal. Explain why this matters to you, your family, your neighbors. Email all Commissioners with this one address:
  • Attend the meeting Monday, April 16th at 7P at the Governmental Center (400 Boardman Ave.). Show up and voice your support. RSVP HERE.

Because sidewalks are more than just pavement, of course.


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

#Changemakers: 2018 Traverse City Advocate Academy

Traverse City Advocate Academy Graduates and Facilitators

You know that feeling you get when you know something incredible is about to happen? Part anticipation, part giddiness, part desire to be part of the movement? The first time I remember feeling this feeling was on November 2, 2008. It was less than 48 hours until election day and I happened to be in Cleveland, Ohio for a Browns game against the Ravens on the same night that Barack Obama would deliver one of his last speeches before being elected the 44th President of the United States. Following the game, my wife and I left the stadium and joined a nearby crowd of 80,000 people and listened to Bruce Springsteen warm up the crowd on Cleveland’s Public Mall.  I honestly don’t remember what songs The Boss sang and I don’t remember what our future President had to say on that cold and drizzly November evening. But I do remember what I felt standing there in the wet grass that night:

Hope. Anticipation. A feeling that something awesome was about to happen and a desire to be part of it.

That also sums up how I’ve felt since last Thursday evening when the first twelve participants of the Traverse City Advocate Academy (TCAA) officially became “graduates.”

The Academy started on a cold night in January downtown Traverse City. Twelve strangers came together to embark on an eight week journey to sharpen their skills to be advocates for a more welcoming Traverse City to walk, bike, and roll. Led by Urban Planner Shawn Winter, TART Trails Staff Kate Lewis and Madison Meter, and Norte Vice President Chris Hinze, the first class aimed to break the ice – literally. Participants engaged in a few fun icebreakers to get to know their classmates and facilitators a little better. The first week wrapped up with learning more about how to share a personal narrative in a public setting. Over the next eight weeks, participants would each share their personal story with the class. These individual stories would serve as the collective fuel that would propel the group forward through the program and beyond.

As the Academy rolled along, guest speakers were invited to share their expertise with course participants. City of Traverse City Planning Director Russ Soyring spoke on “policy and planning tools”, including specific infrastructure elements like bike lanes and sidewalks, as well as policies, such as the City’s Traffic Calming program which aim to make Traverse City a better place to walk, bike, and roll. Christie Minervini shared her experience advocating for people experiencing homelessness through her work with Safe Harbor. Learning about Safe Harbor’s goals and strategies to secure a permanent shelter in Traverse City helped participants realize the effort and persistence necessary to bring a meaningful campaign from an idea to project completion.

Participants then learned more about tactics from Jenn Cameron of Up North Pride, Sarna Salzman of SEEDS, Jamie Kidwell Brix of Earthen Ales, and Gary Howe former TC Commissioner and community advocate. Members of the local media – Nate Payne from the Traverse City Record Eagle, Jeff Smith from Traverse Magazine and Aaron Selbig of IPR – helped participants learn how to share their campaign through various forms of media. City Manager Marty Colburn and City Commissioner Tim Werner shared their expertise on leadership and how to engage with City government and departments to bring problems and potential solutions to the table. The program concluded with an inspirational session where John Lindenmayer, Executive Director of the League of Michigan Bicyclists (LMB), gave participants a timely update on important legislative happenings at the State level and TART Executive Director Julie Clark and Norte Executive Director Ty Schmidt reminded participants that they are supported by these two powerful groups moving forward.

A few of our amazing TCAA guest speakers

Academy graduate Shea O’Brien summarized his thoughts on the program:

“I walked away having learned that there are people in our local system fighting really hard to improve the walking and biking infrastructure. It’s not just about giving pedestrians and bicyclists access to our roads, it’s also about protecting them and protecting the people in vehicles from taking part in a collision or worse, a death.”

Throughout the program, participants worked in small groups to address a specific problem they identified in their respective area of the City. Mary Mantei, Shea O’Brien, William White, and Josh Brandt identified Peninsula Drive from Munson Ave to Bryant Park to be particularly unsafe for all road users – especially for people who walk, bike, and roll. Sherry Murray, David Page, Rick Venner, Mitch Treadwell and Chris Wendel realized that Division St. serves as a “great divide” in Traverse City and have been considering options for safer ways for people to cross Division. Last, but certainly not least, Jennifer Yeatts, Andrea Diebler and Michelle Reardon identified a similar divide created by Eighth St. and have been working to identify options to make crossing Eighth a safer and more pleasant experience, especially for people walking, biking and rolling. Academy graduate William White reflects on working with his fellow graduates: “There were so many great ideas that came out of the program for improving Traverse City’s walkability and bikeability! Our class was full of smart, creative people.”

And now comes the exciting part. The part that has left me with that hopeful, giddy excitement for what comes next. Now the Academy graduates, empowered with support from Norte and TART and armed with the knowledge and skills to be successful advocates, will go out into their neighborhoods and into our City and lead.

Academy graduate William White sums it up very well:

“I learned that I have the ability to cause productive change with something I am passionate about, no matter how big/small the issue may be. Now that I know that, I am going to do something about it!”

By Chris Hinze, Norte Vice President and ProWalk/ProBike Traverse City Chair

The Traverse City Advocate Academy, TART Trails and Norte would like that thank all of our program guest speakers listed above for volunteering their time and talents to the program. And a huge thanks to our weekly food sponsors: Oryana, The Filling Station, Raduno, The Blue Tractor, Lucky’s Market, Jimmy Johns, Mama Lu’s, The Little Fleet & Milkweed – your support of the Academy is so appreciated!


Traverse City Bike Life: Mary Mantei

Ed. note – This personal narrative was written by Mary Mantei during the Traverse City Advocate Academy.

I am a privileged woman. I am privileged to have access to many resources; energy, health, enough money, good friends, a great life partner, a fun and loving family, and at this point in my life, time to do pretty much what I want to.

Some might say that I earned my privileged life. I made a plan and worked the plan. Growing up on a huge dairy farm in the central Lower Peninsula with 9 brothers and sisters certainly gave me a strong work ethic. I have always been grateful to my parents for that. I was the first and only sibling in my family who chose to go to college. That decision, along with other factors, opened doors for me I could not have imagined, and I walked through most of them.

But it doesn’t really matter if my privileged life was handed to me, or I earned it. The end result is the same. I am a privileged woman. And in my life experience, privilege comes with responsibility. I grew up watching my parents’ involvement in organizations and causes they believed in. They both assumed leadership roles and encouraged us to do the same in our youth. My parents believed that no matter how busy you were, or how much you had going on in your life, other people needed your time, energy, and “smarts”, as my Dad called it.

In my first career, as a teacher of middle school students for 18 years, I engaged with such a varied and diverse group of young people and their families. I loved it. They took me to the school of life every single day. I met the single Mom, or Dad, who were doing all they could to meet the needs of their children and raise happy kids. I met the two-parent families who were doing the same, and those who were not. And I met the parents who were working multiple jobs and still couldn’t pay the field trip fees for their kids. And I met the grandparents who were raising their grand-kids because for any number of reasons their parents weren’t capable. And I met the bright, shiny penny kids, who appeared to be sailing through life just because.

One of the many realities of life that I have always remembered from those days is that some peoples’ days are consumed with just making it through the day. Their minds are full of “how will I’s”. They may not have the luxury of contributing their time beyond their family dynamics and needs.

But I do have that luxury, that privilege, and that is one reason I am so happy to be part of this academy.

I have been riding bikes for 40 years. For fun, for transportation, for tripping, and even a little racing. When my husband and I decided to move to Traverse City 4.5 years ago, a top priority was to live in a neighborhood where we could walk or bike to most places we wanted to go. So we moved from 10 acres and a house in the woods to a half city lot and a house half the size of what we left. For us, it has been a “less is more experience”.

In no time at all, the advantages of a safe, bikeable, walkable community became evident to us. We regularly talk with so many of our neighbors because we are on bike or on foot. We know and care about one another. We save time and money when we travel around town on our bikes. If you know anything about T1 Diabetes, which I live with, you know that movement is the second best tool for managing a healthy glucose level. And the simple fun and pleasure one gets from moving under their own power, the self-sufficiency, the freedom, the independence, support our well-being and happiness. Our choice of Traverse City for a bikable, walkable community has been exceptional. And we also see there is more work to be done.

Every member of our community deserves the opportunities all of us here are striving to create. We are working in the name of everyone in our community and perhaps particularly for those who don’t have the time, energy, or awareness to participate, and yet, will benefit from all the advantages that a safe walkable and bikeable community offers. As Toyota has been saying all through the Olympics, “When We are Free to Move, Anything is Possible”. Not only do I love that notion, I believe it.


Mary Mantei is a former teacher and current leadership development/life coach, Oak Park neighborhood resident, Norte bike train conductor and Traverse City Advocate Academy participant. She likes the U.P., her husband, Pete, and adventures to awesome places.

Traverse City Bike Life: Jennifer Yeatts

Ed. note – This personal narrative was written by Jennifer Yeatts as part of the Traverse City Advocate Academy.

I started commuting on a bike about eleven years ago while attending graduate school in Marquette. The two-mile round trip from my apartment to my TA office in NMU’s Gries Hall presented few challenges—the most direct route took me amidst the traffic of Third Street, which, despite lacking a bike lane, accommodated me along with the fairly-slow-moving cars pretty comfortably. Helmet-less and fancy-free, I cruised back and forth to office hours and class. Look at me, I thought. I’m avoiding carbon emissions. I’m a biker. I bike.

When I met Jordan (who eventually became my husband), I was fairly humbled. Here was a guy who commuted twenty miles round trip to work from his home outside of town. I mentally rescinded my self-congratulatory biker status. He also wore a helmet, something I had not thought seriously about. Safety first, he said. Good point, I thought. You can’t ride your bike if you’re dead.

My riding evolved slowly from there. I added to my school commute by cycling around Marquette for errands and fun, then embarking on a 30-mile trek to a friends’ Fourth of July party off the grid west of Ishpeming, and when Jordan and I moved out west for a few years, I upgraded my hand-me-down junker to a Specialized cycle-cross commuter. We found we could do just fine getting around Moscow, Idaho—another college town—on two wheels. We sold our car. We pedaled everywhere. It was liberating: no car payment, no guzzling gas tank, no circling the block for parking. If we ever needed a motorized vehicle, we borrowed or rented one. We found that for us, life was easier, simpler, and more enjoyable without a vehicle. Why don’t more people do this? I thought. We’re saving money, burning calories, not polluting the environment, and moving around this beautiful world by the power of our own bodies.

Fast forward to our life in Traverse City. While we did move here with a car and kept one for five years, we reverted back to our two-wheeled lifestyle last spring. When I hop on my bike, I feel the weather (whether that means sweat, sun, or sleet), I feel my own body working, and I breathe the actual world. And I am surrounded by motors. Exhaust. Distracted drivers. Crowded streets. And I get grumpy. Why don’t more people do this? I think.

Herein lies my struggle, and the reason I need this class, these lessons in smart advocacy. I’m a self-righteous brat. I’m too proud of my choices. I judge the drivers everywhere, the petite suburban housewives in Hummers, the grumbly F-250s roaring down Division while I not-so-patiently wait to cross. I roll my eyes and sigh. And when they see me carrying my helmet or unlocking my bike on a less-than-perfect Northern Michigan day and ooh and ahh and congratulate me on my fortitude or loudly proclaim how they could never do what I’m doing, I cringe even as I smile politely. Sure you can, I think. Sometimes I even say it out loud, but I know they don’t believe me. I want them to believe me. I want them to see biking not as an insurmountable challenge but as a fun, carefree means of moving around in the world, not just as leisure but also as functional transportation. And I want to get better at sharing how do-able—and how super fun—it actually is.

Jennifer Yeatts is a proud Michigander originally from Champion and now thriving in Traverse City. She can often be found at Higher Grounds Trading Co. where she is the Director of Coffee. Jennifer likes yummy food, poetry, cats, and her husband, Jordan. You can follow her adventures @jjyennifer.

Admisision of Fear

I am a cyclist. But unfortunately and I am ashamed to admit this, I’m also a closet motorist. I hate saying it because I know the benefits of my bicycle are numerous. It keeps me healthy. It keeps me fit. It keeps me mentally stable. Emotionally strong. The list could go on for days, down to my molecular makeup.

If you follow me on any form of social media you know that I absolutely love riding my bike. If you have read any of the other pieces I have written you know that biking is more than transportation in my mind. You know how important my bicycle is to me, it’s my only child, my spoiled brat, my true love.

And despite all that, despite all my love and confidence in my bicycle, I remain absolutely terrified about riding my bike on our messy roads. We have to admit that Northern Michigan winters are really tough. Bicycling on our streets becomes even more stressful. I try to admit when I am terrified and winter bicycling is one of my biggest fears.
So far this winter I have witnessed too many close calls of vehicle versus vehicle.

People in huge SUVs suddenly become so much more confident in their ability to drive, they take crazy risks in the snow. Sorry, your four tires still suck on our icy roads. You are not a professional stunt driver, and even if you were I think you’d be smarter than to pull out of that parking lot on to the frozen street into traffic. Thank you for causing me white-knuckle anxiety.

It’s the idea of me on my bicycle going up against that 4,000 lb SUV that scares me to death. No matter how great a bicyclist I think I am, I lose every time. No matter how much I train myself, I lose every time. No matter how much my friends and family psych me up, I lose every time.

And yeah I am the first to admit that living your life around the “what ifs” is not a healthy way to live. But this is not a warm dry bike lane we’re talking about here. Hell, it’s not even a puddled rainy bike lane. It’s a complete loss of the bike lane to the plowed over snow. The banks completely take it over. All so that people in their massive GMCs and Jeeps can drive to work. It’s icy streets that pull my head to the concrete. Slush that tells me I can’t go there but instead must go here.

I have seen people on bicycles riding through those banks, on that ice and commanding the slush to their will. How funny is it that a person with two, leg-powered wheels can blast through the snow while an all-wheel-drive vehicle requires a person to wake up at god-awful hours of the morning to clear the roads for them? Doesn’t that seem backward? I’m sure the bicyclist would love it if the bike lane or road was completely cleared for him but no matter, he’ll ride confidently through. That says something about the “go with the flow” attitude of many cyclists. “Yeah, I’ll probably be late for work but at least I’m on my bike!”

It’s a confidence I don’t have. I wish I did. I wish I had the confidence in the motorists of Traverse City to not kill me. I wish I had the confidence in myself to ride aggressively through the snow and on the ice. It’s tough to get into that mindset though. Sometimes I get all hyped up and then poof, I see myself getting run over. “Mr. O’Brien, it will take you many months of rehab to get back on that bicycle. And even then you probably will not ride as you did before,” the doctor will say. A lawyer’s eyes will glaze over with the amount of money “we” can make with a lawsuit. Oh, great, now two lives are ruined? Just what I need.

“But Shea, can’t you walk to work?” I could, sure, if the sidewalks were complete west of downtown on Front street, yeah I’d love to walk. “Oh, just go through the medical campus.” Yeah, where people drive even worse than they do on Front street? At least the hospital is close enough I can get there quickly, no ambulance required. Also, much like the person driving the plow, I don’t care to leave my house two hours before my shift starts to get there on time. Feeling rushed isn’t fun, it can cause you to cut corners and as I believe I have cited above that doesn’t end well.

These are all excuses, with huge holes in them, I know. And I’m embarrassed for making them. The excuse that sticks with me, clings to me, is fear. And once that seed of fear is planted, it’s hard to persuade someone otherwise.
I’m not sure what the point of this piece is exactly. Maybe it’s a cry for help? Maybe it’s a plea for drivers to slow down? Maybe it’s nothing at all. If I had to guess, it’s simply an admission of fear and guilt for not riding my bicycle year round. It’s a way for me to admit that I am weak and now that I have openly admitted my weakness I can properly destroy it.

So to that end, let us get out there and ride hard, ride fast and ride safe – all year long!





Shea O’Brien is a Traverse City native, Civic Center neighborhood resident, Traverse Heights Elementary alum, Clubhouse member, Marketing Specialist at Superior Physical Therapy, lifter of weights, Traverse City Advocate Academy participant, and proud book worm. Follow his adventures on Instagram at @shea.m.obrien.

TC Bike Life is a story series featuring ordinary people doing ordinary things on their bicycles in Traverse City.

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Northern Michigan Winter, Transit and a Professional Mom

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

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

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

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

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

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

    The Pro Walk/Pro Bike movement has three opportunities for you to get involved. Consider your time, talents, interests and sign up to join a team(s).
    please select 3 or add your own below



Christmas Tree Pick-ups by Norte

With inspiration from the awesome people at Modacity in Vancouver, Norte is excited to again offer bike-powered delivery of your Christmas tree to Traverse City’s recycling drop-off site. Because recycling your tree by bicycle just might be the most awesome thing ever:

  • it’s easy. Just make a $25 donation
  • it’s convenient. One less trip for you
  • it’s less wasteful. Turning your tree into mulch rocks
  • it supports Norte. Yay for a stronger, better connected and more bicycle friendly Traverse City

Here’s How it Works:

1. Donate $25 below.

2. We will contact you via email to schedule your pick up.

3. A Norte volunteer will pedal your Christmas tree to Hull Park using our 8ft, heavy duty bike trailer.

4. Give yourself a pat on the back for supporting happy, healthy, strong kids in Traverse City and recycling your tree into mulch and erosion control for City parks and Brown Bridge Quiet Area.

Pick-ups available in Oak Park, Boardman, Traverse Heights, Central, Slabtown, Kids Creek and Old Town neighborhoods only.

Pick-ups start tomorrow and end 1/6/18.

$ 25.00
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Pro Walk/Pro Bike Traverse City: 2017 in review

2017 was an amazing year for a stronger, better connected more walk/bike (and transit – Go, BATA!) friendly Traverse City. Not only did we win the Strongest Town award but TC made big gains in walk/bike infrastructure (and transit improvements – Thanks, BATA!).

Here’s 27 awesome things from 2017:

  1. Contraflow bike lane on 7th Street
  2. City Commission agrees to seek bonds for $4.5M sidewalk program
  3. Traverse City wide, multi-school Safe Routes To School grant application on track for March 2018 application which includes improvements around Eastern, Traverse Heights, Glenn Loomis, Central Grade, Willow Hill, Immaculate Conception, and West Middle
  4. Crosswalks and lane narrowing in several locations in Traverse Heights and South Union Street
  5. Sidewalks on Cass Street south of 14th
  6. Sidewalks on S. Union Street
  7. Bike lane on West Front from Division to Randolph
  8. Front Street bike lane widened and recognized as a bike lane
  9. BATA millage passes in both GT and Leelanau counties
  10. 10th Street sidewalks from Union to Oak
  11. Centre Street sidewalks from Woodmere to Fern
  12. Bike lanes widened and made more permanent using paint that is recessed across TC including on Cass, Garfield, Hastings, Woodmere, Front Street
  13. New sidewalks along 31 from East Bay plaza to 3 Mile
  14. BATA integrates Google maps
  15. Safe Routes To School grant application for extending the 3 Mile trail makes progress with four walk audits (at East Middle, SEAS, Cherry Knoll, and GTA), a community-wide action planning meeting and East Bay trustees committing $40K for design study
  16. Boardman Lake Trail on track to begin construction in the fall of 2018
  17. Barlow sidewalk makes progress (planning to negotiate easements in partnership with Garfield township in 2018) from Gladewood to Boon as part of Safe Routes To School grant process
  18. More in-street pedestrian sign across town including on the Parkway and at Garfield/Washington
  19. BATA introduces fare improvements (commuter passes, additional reduced fare options, kids under 5 ride free)
  20. New crosswalk at Fair and Munson
  21. New crosswalk at 8th and Munson
  22. Four new BATA shelters
  23. New crosswalks installed/upgraded to special emphasis:
  • Rose Street at:
    • Lincoln St
    • TART crossing
    • Hannah Ave
    • Wood St
    • Centre
    • Oakdale
    • Carver
  • Front at Wellington
  • Tenth at Lake
  • Boardman and Washington
  • Boardman at Webster (upgraded to special emphasis)
  • W Front St (installed with W Front project) at:
    • Spruce St
    • Cedar St
  • Boon at Garfield (upgraded to special emphasis)
  • Barlow at Hannah (upgraded to special emphasis)
  • Barlow at Centre (upgradeed to special emphasis)
  • Elmwood and Seventh
24. Two new raised crosswalks in our downtown:
  • Park St, between Front and State
  • Front St, between Park and Boardman
25. Additional sidewalks replaced:
  • 10th St between Division and Union St
  • West side of Division between 2nd St and 3rd St

26. Additional new/infill sidewalk installed:

  • West side of Wellington, south of 8th St, to accommodate Safe Harbor
27. Improvements made to Lay Park:
  • Sidewalk
  • Landscaping
  • Benches
  • Bryan Crough Memorial Sculpture

Passionate about a more walkable, bikeable, liveable Traverse City? Get involved with our grassroots advocacy initiative.

Traverse City Sidewalks: Fix ’em up, Fill ’em in

Last summer, while walking to work along Seventh St., I noticed a woman about a ½  block ahead of me. She was walking along at a brisk pace, enjoying the beautiful day. Then, almost as if in slow motion, I watched as she caught her foot on a large crack in the sidewalk, lurking a few inches above the concrete just waiting to catch an unsuspecting foot. Thrown off balance, she stumbled forward and landed on her side in a neighboring lawn.

I rushed ahead to check on her. As I approached, I noticed that she was older than I had assumed – probably in her 70’s. She said she was “okay” and I carefully helped her back to her feet. Thankfully, she did not appear to have sustained any major injuries. She thanked me for my help and continued on her way.

I couldn’t help but notice that as she walked away, there was a change in her cadence. That bounce in her step was no longer there. She walked away cautiously, looking for another hazard that could bring her to the ground.

In my work as a physical therapist, I work every day with older adults who are either recovering from fall-related injuries, or working to improve their strength and balance to keep from falling. I see the devastating outcomes that a fall can have on older adults. Whether it is broken bones or broken confidence, a fall invariably will lead to some loss of independence.

I still think about this woman often. I wonder if she still walks around Traverse City as confidently and briskly as she did before this fall. Or has she modified her mobility habits to walk less and drive more to avoid another trip and fall? I sure hope it is the former.

Monday night (see meeting packet HERE), we have an opportunity to make sure that incidents like these, falls and injuries from sidewalks in poor condition, are less likely to happen. Most of the talk around the $4.5 million sidewalk bonding proposal has been centered around filling in sidewalks in Traverse Heights, and understandably so. However, another important piece of this project is the over $500,000 that would go to repairing the 15,391 feet of sidewalk that is rated as in “poor” or “very poor” condition.

Map of sidewalks rated as “poor” or “very poor” that would be repaired as part of $4.5 mil bond proposal

Yes, we need sidewalks in Traverse Heights and we need them now. But we also need to ensure that the sidewalks we currently have, in all of our neighborhoods, are safe for everyone to travel on.

How you can help:

  • Email City Commissioners voicing your support for the full $4.5 million investment in sidewalk infill and repair before their meeting 12/18/17. Make it personal. Explain why this matters to you, your family, your neighbors. Email all Commissioners with this one address:
  • Attend the meeting Monday, December 18th at 7P at the Governmental Center (400 Boardman Ave.). Show up and voice your support. RSVP HERE.

Chris Hinze is a 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 @chinzept

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Traverse Heights Sidewalks: Good for Traverse City

This guest post by Tyler Bevier was originally posted on 10/9/17 – and we love it just as much now as we did then.

Sidewalks. They seem to go hand-in-hand when talking about neighborhood character. Here in Traverse City, many of our treasured and historic neighborhoods were gifted with sidewalks decades ago. These sidewalks helped bring neighborhoods together. They created an inviting atmosphere to walk with your neighbor, walk with your child to school early in the morning or walk with your dog after work as the sun begins to set.

In Traverse Heights, the proposed sidewalks will bring together our most forgotten neighborhood. Sidewalks will not only encourage Traverse Heights neighbors to be more active but will also better connect its commercial activity such as Family Fare, Potter’s Bakery and the 8th Street and Garfield shops. This corridor has a great a amount of potential since it ties together the Civic Center to Downtown. Yet, accessibility via sidewalks is crucial to Traverse Heights success.

On the east side of the neighborhood, a new 60-unit apartment development, commonly known as “TrailSide45” at the corner of Hannah & Garfield is in its final stages of exterior construction. The east side of the neighborhood is also home to Save-a-Lot grocery, Randy’s Diner, Garden Stores, and food and beverage establishments. Currently, this corridor is very auto-centric, with businesses set-back from the roadways. Yet, hopefully a glimpse into the future is the small-scale two story development at Carver and Garfield. This development shifts the parking into the rear of the building, with pedestrian entrances in the front. Additionally, sidewalks and trees adorn the storefronts, to create a pleasant walking experience.

With new development along this corridor, more of the shops, restaurants and businesses could have more of a pedestrian feel in the future, versus the auto-centric corridor of today.

To the west, Barlow Street and Woodmere Avenue sidewalks will help bridge these businesses and tie together these important corridors across city and township lines to create a consistent walkable environment.

Sidewalks in our more traditional neighborhoods may seem like second nature, yet those investments are what helped trigger development that we see today along West Front Corridor with CVS, Mary’s Kitchen Port and the variety of businesses along there one can walk or bike to. What would Old Town neighborhood be, without the great asset of being able to walk to Oryana Natural Foods and the Boardman Lake Trail?

Sidewalks are investments that will usher in new neighborhood growth, investment and opportunities for our residents; meanwhile continuing to improve our quality of life.

Support new sidewalks for Traverse Heights and City-wide sidewalk repair? Here’s how you can help:

  • Email City Commissioners voicing your support for the full $4.5 million investment in sidewalks before their meeting 12/18/17. Make it personal. Explain why this matters to you, your family, your neighbors. Email all Commissioners with this one address:
  • Attend the meeting Monday, December 18th at 7P at the Governmental Center (400 Boardman Ave.). Show up and voice your support. RSVP HERE.







Tyler Bevier is a Traverse Heights neighbor, Traverse City Parks Commissioner and Transportation Planner at BATA. He likes coffee, public art and the Dennos Museum.

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