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.

 

Next Up! A Walk and Bike Network Designed for Everyone

Advocacy Newsletter, October 1, 2019
Greetings Neighbors,

Many of us have attended community meetings where consultants wow us with transformative illustrations of what a street could become. Perhaps the crowd grumbles, saying, “That won’t work here.” Nevertheless, we walk out of the meeting dreaming about our own streets. We persist for decades working on a project. And then, finally, transformation happens. A street is narrowed by 27%, a protected bike lane is installed, and people wanting to cross the street have multiple safe options.

Congratulations everyone! Traverse City’s new 8th Street has turned illustrations into reality. It isn’t perfect, but it is transformative. And it’s a marker of what’s possible when the common goal is access for everyone. That work continues on multiple fronts:

TRAVERSE CITY’S BIKE NETWORK WON’T BUILD ITSELF

On August 29, Team Orange came together for beverages, solidarity, and giving voice to ideas for Traverse City’s bike and walk network. Most of us have done these brainstorming exercises before. Sometimes the process feel repetitive. Sometimes we wonder, “Is this even useful?”

With the new 8th Street in mind, I argue, wholeheartedly, “Yes!”… {read more}

DESIGNING CITIES FOR EVERYONE

At Norte, my job is to advocate for healthy, strong, happy communities, doing what I can for safe and reliable access for people of all ages and abilities. I work with individuals, businesses, schools, and municipal bodies to find constructive, implementable solutions to the complex opportunities of public policy, design, and infrastructure.

When it comes to technical solutions to public transportation problems, the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) is an indispensable resource. Their urban guides, education program, and news feed are rooted in the values and ethics our communities need and deserve from transportation planners and engineers.

Last month, I attended NACTO’s Designing Cities 2019 in Toronto. I’ll be processing the week of workshops, tours, and keynotes for a long time. A week of sharing space with 1000 professionals dedicated to building “cities as places for people, with safe, sustainable, accessible, and equitable transportation choices that support a strong economy and vibrant quality of life” is a cure for anyone who occasionally thinks, “That won’t work here.”

Toronto was chosen to host this year’s NACTO because of its recent success in implementing an improvement plan for accessible transit, walking, and biking. I was tweeting up a storm, along with many others, and I’ve included some highlights in my report.

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QUICK SHOUTS

  • Skip the Carline – Tomorrow is Northern Michigan Walks to School Day. Even if you don’t live within walking distance, as Ty reminds us, you can always Park & Stroll! Do you have a Park & Stroll route recommendation for a school near you? Let us know.
  • Cheers – Thank you to Norte’s First Year Business Champions. We appreciate your support deeply! It was great to see all of you who made it to Silver Spruce for the first Compañero.
  • Election Watch – Traverse City’s City Commission is set for a big change, with 5 of 7 seats on the ballot. On October 7, 8, and 9, Norte will publish responses to our candidate questionnaire. In the meantime, here’s my primer on local government.
  • 8th Street Walking Audit – If you’re interested in helping plan it, let me know. This is a great opportunity to grade a street that we can assume will get some high scores (gary@elgruponorte.org).
  • Park It Here – Norte Bike Racks are ready. These racks support our Excellent Bike Parking program and aim to encourage better access across northern Michigan.

Talk Soon.

Gary Howe
Advocacy Director
  @NorteGary

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

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

Pro Walk/Pro Bike Advocacy

Engage and Represent: Serve on a Local Board or Committee


As local communities gear up for November elections, this is an opportune time to remind Team Orange that there are plenty of additional ways to engage and represent in your local government. Across the Grand Traverse region, several volunteer boards and commissions have open seats. Serving on a board, commission, or committee is an excellent way for citizens to be involved and find their voice for local initiatives.

Below you will find a list of regional opportunities, and resources for many volunteer opportunities. Each municipality handles these citizen appointments differently, but typically openings will be listed online. There is never a wrong time to apply and express interest in serving, even if there are no current openings. Typically, you can do this through the Clerk’s office. Unless otherwise stated, you must be a resident in the municipality that you are seeking an appointment.


TRAVERSE CITY

Traverse City is always accepting applications and you can do so by going to the Clerk’s office or visiting the City’s website. The following boards have vacancies. Links go to their descriptions, schedules, and minutes.

Apply through the Clerk’s office by filling out this application form (PDF) and returning it the City Clerk.


GRAND TRAVERSE COUNTY
There are vacancies on 11 of Grand Traverse County’s boards and committees. Please visit their website for the full listings. Below are the openings for opportunities most relevant to our mission for promoting happy, healthy, strong, communities. Note, Parks and Recreation oversees policies related to the Civic Center.
Apply to Grand Traverse County by sending a resume and application form (PDF) to ccramer@grandtraverse.org or delivering it to the County Administration at 400 Boardman Avenue.

LEELANAU COUNTY
Leelanau County has openings for the following opportunities.

  • Planning Commission
  • Parks and Recreation
  • Airport Commission
To apply, there is an extensive application form (PDF) and a complete process description (PDF). For more information, For more information, please contact Executive Assistant, Laurel Evans, levans@co.leelanau.mi.us. Download a complete list of expiring terms for all boards and committees (PDF).

AREA TOWNSHIPS

  • Garfield Township has openings (PDF) on Planning Commission, Parks and Recreation, and Grand Traverse Joint Planning Commission (think the Commons). If interested, you can download the Board Appointment Policy and Application (PDF) and send a completed copy to Garfield Township to the attention of Supervisor Chuck Korn, 3848 Veterans Drive, Traverse City MI 49684. You may also email him at ckorn@garfield-twp.com.
  • East Bay Township posts openings on boards and commissions under employment postings and you can see updates by going to the drop down menu, “How do I…” on their website. Each board is different, but typically a letter of interest is requested. If you are interested, you can email Township Supervisor, Beth Friend, bfriend@eastbaytwp.org
  • Blair Township, apply and express interest by contacting Township Clerk, Lynette Wolfgang.
  • Long Lake Township is always seeking applicants to serve on Planning Commission and Parks and Recreation. To apply, download the Application for Appointment (PDF) and return it to Township Supervisor, Karen J. Rosa, supervisor@longlaketownship.com or deliver it to Township Hall at 8870 North Long Lake Road.
  • Elmwood Township asks interested parties to send a completed Application to Become Involved (PDF) form and resume to 10090 E. Lincoln Rd. Traverse City, MI 49684 or email it to Township Clerk, Connie M. Preston, clerkpreston@elmwoodtownship.net. Committees of interest include Planning Commission, Parks and Recreation, Marina Committee, and Public Safety Committee.

For vacancies in Kalkaska County, download this full listing of boards and committees (PDF). The term ending column will give you the current openings. To apply, send an email of interest to  County Clerk, Deborah Hill, dhill@kalkaskacourt.org.

Are you interested in a municipality not listed here? Or, have questions on what it takes to serve on a board or committee, send Norte’s Advocacy Director a message at Gary@elgrupnorte.org

Engage and Represent!

Norte Launches Planning Program for Teens

For Immediate Release

NORTE LAUNCHES URBAN PLANNING PROGRAM FOR TEENS

August 22, 2019 — Traverse City, MI.  Norte Advocacy is introducing teens to urban planning this fall. Explore Your Neighborhood, Shape Your Community is a six-week, student-informed practical course rooted in experiential understanding of how communities are planned, built, and changed over time. 

The program’s six weekly meetups will be facilitated by Norte’s Pro Walk/Pro Bike Advocacy Director, Gary Howe, and owner of Parallel Solutions, Megan Olds, and will feature guest speakers from Traverse City’s professional planning community.

“Explore Your Neighborhood, Shape Your Community is built around a series of on-the-ground exercises that delve into student experiences and perceptions of community,” said Olds. “Young people have a real interest in learning how, and why, communities work and, in some cases, don’t work. Through the course, we hope to help them develop the skills to identify experiences related to community and place-based design, understand different lenses and contexts, and advocate for the things they want to see in their neighborhoods and community.”

The program is open to 13- to 18-year-olds interested in community leadership and planning. Students will graduate with advanced observational and communication skills in neighborhood planning. Course participants will shape the course’s direction, and will be supported by the Norte Advocacy team in any post-program efforts they decide to undertake.

“The things we can learn about any community are boundless, and when we start to learn about a community from other perspectives, the possibilities for understanding and supporting our neighbors are endless,” said Howe. “The Explore program is designed to give students layer upon layer of tools and skills to create a solid foundation for a lifetime of informed engagement.” 

The course is structured around six unique ways to explore a community, including experiencing mobility challenges from the perspective of someone using a wheelchair and seeing a streetscape through the eyes of an engineer. The advocacy curriculum will grow from participant-defined goals and projects.

The program runs September 29 through November 2 with weekly, 90-minute Sunday meet-ups in locations determined by planned experiences, weather and student input. The class costs $35 per participant, with scholarships available. The program is sponsored by the League of Michigan Bicyclists and Parallel Solutions. Sign up for the program is open through September 8. 


Learn more and sign up:  Explore Your Neighborhood, Shape Your Community

If you are interested in donating to the program’s scholarship fund or in becoming a corporate sponsor, please email Gary Howe at gary@elgruponorte.org or contribute directly: Donate to Explore

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Program Facilitators

Megan Olds has dedicated her 20-year career to community growth and development, land and water conservation and restoration, food and farming systems, housing, transportation, and access to nature and outdoor recreation. She was a former Director of Regional Planning at Networks Northwest, and served as a past board member of the Michigan Association of Planning and of Michigan’s Complete Streets Advisory Council. She worked for seven years as the Associate Director and Director of Development for the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy. Pairing her professional experience in community and organizational development with a personal zeal for building trust and openness in decision-making, Megan founded Parallel Solutions in 2014. You can find out more about her firm’s services, clients, and recent projects at www.parallelmi.com.

Gary Howe brings over 10 years of direct experience in creating and advocating for public policy and planning processes that support healthy transportation and socially-engaging public spaces to his role as Norte’s Advocacy Director. He served as a City Commissioner for the City of Traverse City from 2013-2017, in addition to serving on the Planning Commission and Parks and Recreation Commission, and on the boards of Neahtawanta Center, SEEDS, and International Affairs Forum. He is also a writer and New York Times-published photographer with over 20 years of teaching experience in China, Taiwan and Traverse City, including 15 years as an adjunct instructor at Northwestern Michigan College. You can see some of his photography on Insta at @GLH_Image and follow his writing and advocacy on Twitter @GLHJR.

What grade would you give Garfield Avenue?

Greetings Citizen Advocates,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Talk soon!

Gary Howe
Advocacy Director
  @NorteGary 

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

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

Pro Walk/Pro Bike Advocacy

Mid-summer shout out to citizen advocates

Greetings everyone!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How are these new stop signs working for ya?   

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

Thank you!

Cheers,

Gary Howe
Advocacy Director
  @NorteGary

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

Pro Walk/Pro Bike Advocacy

 

Recovery Through Advocacy, One Step at a Time

by Gary Howe, Advocacy Director

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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


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

Why language matters and accidents aren’t accidents

by Gary Howe, Advocacy Director

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

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

Institutional Language

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

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

Forging a Better Path

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

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

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

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

The Pledge:

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

What’s your experience?  

___

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

Further reading:

 

Getting past the myths that persist

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

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

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

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

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

Last, and most important, riding on the sidewalk is more dangerous. The risk of a crash between someone on a bike and a car is higher when the former is on the sidewalk. The person driving is often caught off guard because of the sight lines and speed of the person on a bike. Protected bike lanes and trails are designed to reduce this conflict. Sidewalks are not.

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

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

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

“Bikes don’t pay taxes!”

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

Continued Learning for Citizen Advocates

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

____________

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Our three Revisioned 8th Street priorities:

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

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

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

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

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

A few things we love about the current design:

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

A few things we’d still like to see:

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

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

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

We need YOUR voice.

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

We need YOU to take action.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Questions? Get at us.

 

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

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

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

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

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

101 – Basic

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

102 – Basic

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

201 – Beginner

Fix a Flat
Tube replacement & patching

202 – Beginner

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

301 and 401 courses coming soon

Spring Break Classes:

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

Monday the 25th

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

Tuesday the 26th

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

Wednesday the 27th

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

Thursday the 28th

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

Friday the 30th

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

Where:

  • Norte Wheelhouse at the Civic Center

Cost:

Helpful Information:

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

Every Solution participant will also receive:

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

Program requirements:

  • A positive attitude and a willingness to learn awesome things

Registration online:

Or register in person at the Clubhouse.

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

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

Norte to Launch New Learn-to-Wrench Community Project

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

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

Solution Classes:

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

Solution at School:

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

Solution Summertime Meet-ups:

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

Solution in the Community:

 

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

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

 

 

I winter bike

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A few things we love about the current design:

A few things we’d still like to see:

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

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

We need YOUR voice.

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

We need YOU to take action.

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

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

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

3) Sign our change.org petition HERE


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

 

 

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

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

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

How It Works:

Step 1: Commit here: winterbiketoworkday.org

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t forget to commit!

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

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

Email us at hello@elgruponorte.org with questions.