Accelerate Your Advocacy Efforts

Advocate Academy 2021 Logo

Accelerate your advocacy efforts with Norte’s fourth annual Advocate Academy

The partnership of Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities’ T.C. Mobility Lab, and Norte is again offering immersive training for Northern Michigan citizens interested in learning more about how local government works and how to influence it. Centered around a shared goal of improving walking and biking conditions, the 2021 Advocate Academy offers a curriculum over six 90–minute sessions beginning February 4.

The program is designed to help participants become more knowledgeable, confident, and effective advocates for walking, biking, transit use, and other forms of active transportation. The skills learned are also adaptable to other areas of public decision making.

Register Today


“So many people have ideas for how to make their block or commute a little better for themselves and their neighbors,” said James Bruckbauer, Deputy Director at Groundwork. “They don’t always know where to start or who they need to contact to make improvements. We’re excited to help local residents understand how to make a positive change.”

The six-week course will help participants:

  • Understand the benefits of walking, biking, transit, and other public transportation;
  • Evaluate how the built environment and its conditions help or hinder our ability to get around;
  • Grasp and interpret local transportation policy issues such as Complete Streets;
  • Communicate policy ideas effectively to build trust and engage with decision-makers;
  • And foster a local advocacy movement with diverse stakeholders.

“Last year, our last session was on the eve of the public health crisis. As we remain in the middle of the pandemic, this year’s academy will be online,” said Gary Howe, Norte‘s Advocacy Director. “We’ll miss greeting everyone with a handshake, but we will still deliver an engaging and collaborative academy.”

The Advocate Academy is open to anyone interested in learning about local Pro Walk/Pro Bike issues. Registration is available now, and space is limited to the first 20 registrants. The registration fee is $35, with scholarships available upon request. Each Thursday session runs from 5:30–7 pm, beginning February 4.

To learn more and register, visit Advocate Academy.

Potential participants can email either program facilitator with questions. Jim can be reached at and Gary at

In addition to the partnership with Groundwork’s T.C. Mobility Lab, the Grand Traverse Regional Community Foundation is the title sponsor. This support ensures the program is available for anyone wishing to attend.



Happy. Healthy. Strong.



#GivingTuesday, Meet #ThankyouWednesday

Few things are certain in 2020, but one thing remains constant—#GivingTuesday begets #ThankyouWednesday. I have a few thank yous to mention from yesterday.

Thank you to Goodwill Northern Michigan for hosting us at Carson Square for our first Norte TuneUp. Jen Patten and Rachel McGinley greeted us with open arms and set Team Orange and residents up with hot chili, coffee, and hot chocolate all afternoon. Dan Buron and his team made it easy and allowed us to focus on fixing bikes.

Thank you to the residents of Carson Square. Program Director Ben and I were still emptying the van and setting up the first tent when Craig rolled in on an old Schwinn Collegiate three-speed. It no longer suited him, so we set him up with a step-through that’s a little easier. The community’s self-proclaimed “Mama Bear” quickly followed to inquire what we were up to with all these tents and tools. Told that we were there to fix up some bikes for Carson Square residents, she immediately set out to gather up bikes belonging to families with children.

Throughout the day, people dropped by with bikes in need of some love or simply say hello. A few were thrilled to hear that yes, the extra bikes we’d brought were free to people who needed them. “If it fits and you can use it, ride it away.”

Thank you to Team Orange’s volunteer bike mechanics.  Ben put out the call, and Bob, Dan, Paul, Yarro, Pepe, and, the legend himself, Don Cunkle of Recycle-a-Bicycle, answered it for the first Norte TuneUp. All told, the crew fixed-up 16 bicycles and gave away eight used bikes in need of a home. We lost count of the number of thank yous from appreciative riders. Hearing “this rides like new” was music to our ears!

Thank you to yesterday’s generous donors. We had a goal of $2500 for the annual day of generosity, and 43 of you shot us past that goal. Thank you to everyone who helped us raise $3,056 on #GivingTuesday. Donations will help us hold additional Norte TuneUps in 2021.

Norte’s end of the year appeal continues, and your end-of-year gift will ensure that we can deliver programs and initiatives to build happy, healthy, strong communities across Northern Michigan—for everyone. Please consider Norte in your 2021 end-of-the-year gifts.


Onward and upward.

Gary Howe, Advocacy Director


P.S. Thank you also to local bike shops (Brick Wheels, Einstein Cycles, City Bike Shop, McLain Cycle and Fitness).

Thank you again to the volunteer mechanics: Shown above, left to right, top to bottom: Don Cunkle, Bob Davidson, Yarro Ireland (and helper, Makaio), and Dan Curnayn. Not shown, Paul Dayo, Pepe Sanz-Perez, and, of course, Ben Boyce.



“Eks-cuse Me, Bike Train Coming!”

The Eastern Elementary Bike Train – aka the EE-Train – rolls out every day, rain or shine, in Traverse City’s Oak Heights neighborhood. Some days it’s a full crew. Other days, it’s a smaller group. But on school mornings, there’s always a happy, energetic group waiting at the intersection of Rose and Washington streets.

The ride from the meeting point to the school is a healthy mile. It includes a mix of streets, sidewalks, paved trails, and even some dirt tracks. Soon, a new paved trail will run alongside College Drive, thanks to the Safe Routes to School Infrastructure Grant. But the EE-Train has plenty of options, and bursting through the dirt trail along Eastern Avenue is a favorite part of the day for these young riders.

“The bike train started because all our kids are at the perfect age,” said EE-Train Lead DJ and father to Caleb and Robbie, Keelan McNulty. “They’ve all started riding bikes. Between the Norte Mountain bike team, Norte Summer Camp, and riding around town with their parents, these kids just love riding bikes.” He tends to show up with music pumping from a bike mounted speaker.


“We’re all families that enjoy riding bikes, so it just made sense,” agreed Nathan Hartmann, father to Everett.

According to Keelan, the bike train reached a critical mass when enough families responded to a group text suggesting the idea. The EE-Train is typically a baker’s dozen with three to four adults divided amongst four households: the McNultys, Bullochs, Hartmanns, and Buchholzes. With numbers on their side, momentum grew steadily.

The whole group appreciates the 10-15 minute ride much more than the dreaded carline. Keelan’s two boys enjoy the ride because “it’s fun and wakes us up.” Everett enjoys the daily ride because he likes seeing his friends and hitting the trails before school. However, he isn’t so keen about riding on rainy days.

On the day Norte joined the ride, Everett’s enthusiasm rang out as the bike train passed walkers on the Civic Center trail. “Excuse me, bike train coming through!” he hollered at each passerby.


“As a parent, it is such a joy to drop off children who are happy, excited, full of energy, and ready to focus on a day of learning,” said Jill Hartmann.

Charlie and Teddy’s mother, Kelly Bulloch, echoed the sentiment. “The kids are wide awake and have their blood pumping by the time they get to school. They’re so alert and energetic,” she said.

“It’s a great way to have a small adventure to start and end the school day,” advised Nathan. “It’s a fun opportunity to spend active time with your kids and helps teach them bike safety and independence. It doesn’t have to be an every day commitment. Do what works for your family.”


EE-Train can serve as a model for other families. Start with a route that is doable and inviting for the whole family. Then, ask other families to join. Keep it fun, bring the right gear, and make it happen. Even families that live far away from their school can plan a park and ride – or stroll – route. All of the EE-Train parents shared this piece of advice: make it work for you and your family.

“We’re lucky to have sidewalks, paths, and trails to use to get to school,” said Nathan. “If we had to use only streets, we probably wouldn’t be riding every day with our six-year-old.”

Keelan agreed. “Norte has paved the way in our neighborhood for kids biking to school. We are the next generation of Elementary students and parents keeping the tradition alive.”

If your family goes to Eastern Elementary and wants to join the EE-Train, just shoot Keelan an email. They’ll be happy to bring you on board.

“I used to fight to get the kids into the car – we had to drive to our former school. Now the kids anxiously wait for me in the garage each morning,” adds Kelly. “They can’t wait to see their friends and start the ride. It’s such a positive way to start the day.”


Group photo at top of page: The EE-Train, from left to right: Keelan McNulty, Robbie McNulty, Caleb McNulty, Kelly Bulloch, Teddy Bulloch, Everett Hartman, Emily Bucholz, Charlie Bulloch, Nathan Hartmann, Reagan Bulloch, Brendan McNulty)

Safe Routes to School and Norte

Norte administers school-based, walk and bike-focused initiatives across the Grand Traverse region. Our programs, projects, and events empower students of all ages, and their adults, to be active for life. If you need a little help creating your own bike or walk train, let us know.

Norte in Schools



Advocacy Newsletter: Hey, Go Take a Walk 👟

Advocacy Newsletter, October 15, 2020

We have 42 stellar students enrolled in the 2020 Explore Academy, and the first meet up this week was fantastic. We’re looking forward to learning from their perspectives on the community. Big thank you to our underwriter, Traverse Area Association of Realtors, with a national Smart Growth grant and my co-facilitator, Megan Olds of Parallel Solutions.

Hello Supporter,

As fall deepens and winter approaches, I’ve been walking more and more. There’s something about the crispness and colors of fall that draws me to the sidewalks, reconnecting me to parts of the Grand Traverse region I don’t visit as much during the summer hustle.

The pace of a lovely walk – 3 mph – is the perfect speed for checking in on neighbors, exploring my neighborhood’s new sidewalks, and percolating ideas for future infrastructure improvement projects. Three mph is also the ideal speed for catching up with friends and meeting new people. Walking opens up opportunities to interact in intimate ways.

Walks ground us in community, and they’re a political act. With every step, we claim and solidify the area around us as public space. Rebecca Solnit hits the mark in her absorbing book Wanderlust: A History of Walking. “Walking is only the beginning of citizenship, but through it the citizen knows his or her city and fellow citizens and truly inhabits the city rather than a small privatized part thereof.”

Last week, hundreds of children participated in Norte’s Walk to School Day. Walking to school was once the norm for American schoolchildren – now we reserve a special day for it. Starting the day with a walk has excellent physical and emotional health benefits. It also gets to the root of what it means to be part of a community. Perhaps we could do a lot of good by walking more.

For the last three weeks, I’ve been hosting Norte’s new “Let’s Walk Together” weekly meet up. It’s like Norte’s summer slow rolls, just on foot and without bells. So far, we’ve been a small group, but there’s room for more. We meet on Saturdays at 9 am under the Mercury sculpture in Hull Park. We walk at a leisurely pace and go as far as the group desires. Thanks to Kaischa, Steve, Michelle, Sharri, and Suzie, for walking with me. There’s room for more. Our last walk is November 7, so you have four more chances to join.

So join us. Walk with someone, walk with a dog, or walk by yourself, but do take a walk. Today, in our car-dominated world, walking is direct advocacy and a bold political statement.

Watch Norte’s Calendar for more walking events.

Over one million Michiganders have already cast their vote for the Nov. 3 election – what’s your plan?

Up and down this fall’s ballot are seats and issues close to our hearts at Norte. This election matters much for things like streets, roads, parks, and recreational facilities.

I encourage everyone to visit the Michigan Secretary of State voter information page to check your registration status. There, you can also see what’s on your ballot, find your polling station, or request an absentee ballot. Suppose you’re one of the million Michiganders who already voted. In that case, you can also double and triple-check that your clerk’s office received your ballot.

Visit MI SOS or


Three Mile Trail Open House–– It’s happening in East Bay Township! East Bay Township’s Planning Department and the Three Mile Trail Coalition invite you to an outdoor open house on Thursday, October 22, at the Grand Traverse Academy. We will meet from 4:30 to 6:00. The time is now to put this vision into place.

Mountain Biking at the Commons Goes Legit––  A huge thank you to everyone involved in writing letters, talking to legislators, and building the support necessary to allow mountain biking at the Grand Traverse Commons. Thank you, State Senator Wayne Schmidt, for leading the way in Lansing. And thank you to TART Trails and Garfield Township for doing your part to make it happen. If you love biking and hiking at the Commons – Team Orange certainly does – stay tuned for a planning process to improve the trails.

With mask on, hands squeaky clean, and from a minimum six-feet away, onward and upward. Let’s walk together.

Gary Howe

Advocacy Director

P.S. Is your business ready to be certified a Bicycle Friendly Business? Next application deadline is October 20, 2020. Join Norte, Higher Grounds, and Boomerang Catapult as Bicycle Friendly Businesses in Grand Traverse

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

Pro Walk/Pro Bike Advocacy

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Registration Open For Norte’s 2020 Explore Academy

Norte’s Explore Academy once  again invites teens to learn and use their voice to shape their community.

Norte’s advocacy program is again offering teens a unique opportunity to explore their community and develop their own voice in shaping it. The Explore Academy is a six-week, student-informed practical course featuring an experiential understanding of how communities are planned, built, and changed over time.

“Explore is an excellent opportunity for teenagers to step out into the community and develop not only their understanding of how the community works – or doesn’t work – but also develop their voices and skills to work towards making the positive changes they see that are needed,” said Norte Advocacy Director, Gary Howe. Howe once again is teaming up with the owner of Parallel Solutions, Megan Olds, to facilitate the fall program.

Norte’s Explore Academy is open to all 13 to 18-year-olds interested in community leadership, planning, and development. Students will graduate with a heightened understanding of decision-making processes and advanced observational and communication skills. This year’s interactive sessions will be held online and include frequent break out sessions. Guest speakers will offer expertise and insight as students develop their interests. Last year’s session featured TART Trails Executive Director, Julie Clark, and BATA’s Transportation Planner and Planning Commissioner, Tyler Bevier. Some of the class meetups will be in-person physically distanced walking conversations—masks required for safety.

“In light of an ongoing public health crisis, continued community protests and marches, coastal flooding, wildfires, and against the backdrop of a national election, this year’s program is primed for some deep exploration and conversations focused on how design, policies, and investments in places impact and are impacted by these conditions,” said Olds. “I’m looking forward to hearing students’ thoughts and observations about whom and what they see impacted, how decisions are made, and what types of design and investments they feel matter most and why.”

The program’s weekly meetups begin September 28 and meet on Mondays from 4:30 to 5:30. The six sessions include an additional four-weeks of independent teamwork. The program costs $35 per participant, with plenty of scholarships available.   The 2020 Explore Academy is underwritten by the Traverse Area Association of REALTORS® (TAAR) and a Smart Growth Grant from the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR). The Norte advocacy training program introduces teenagers to smart growth principles through its hands-on, active curriculum. Children of TAAR members are eligible for free registration.

“We’re excited to have the support of TAAR and their national partner, NAR. Their support allows us to offer an adaptable curriculum to more students by virtually eliminating any financial burden,” said Howe. “In response to the pandemic, we’ve needed to adapt the structure of the course, but not the key goals. Explore remains an engaging exploration of the neighborhoods of the Grand Traverse Region while doing our part to keep everyone safe, healthy, and to stop the spread of the coronavirus.”

For more information and to register for Norte’s 2020 Explore Academy, please visit: Norte Explore Academy.

If you have questions about the program and for scholarship information, please contact Gary Howe at

If you’d like to make a $35 donation to sponsor a student, please go to

# # #
Norte | Happy. Healthy. Strong.  

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 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 clarity in decision-making, Megan founded Parallel Solutions in 2014. You can find out more about her firm’s services, clients, and recent projects at

Gary Howe brings over ten 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.

Advocacy Newsletter: What’s Your Safe Route this Fall? 👟

Advocacy Newsletter, September 3, 2020

With all the uncertainties ahead this fall, looking both ways and making safe, healthy choices is as important as ever. Thankfully, there are miles of new sidewalk to help make some things, like taking a walk to school, a lot easier.

Hello Supporter,

The idea of a Safe Route to School certainly has added meaning this fall. You may even still be deciding on whether or not your child is going to school, let alone how they are getting to and from school safely and responsibly. That said, along with our community partners, Norte has made great strides to create options other than the carline to transport children to and from school. That work continues even during the pandemic and, with the added uncertainties, is even more critical.

Some things remain certain. Starting our day with an active walk, bike, or roll of any kind helps ignite the mind and prepare us for the day ahead. This phenom is real for students as well as adults. This has us thinking: if your children learn at home this fall, how can we help you make a habit of stepping outside to start the day? Norte is hosting balance bike meetups and other programs, but how do we work together to integrate some habitual daily activity?

If your children are learning at school, how can we help you include a walk or bike ride to get them there? Sometimes, it’s as simple as a park and stroll option. Instead of spending 20 minutes in the school carline, you can spend 10-15 minutes walking with your child on the final stretch. It’s amazing what they notice.

Last spring, we put together walk and bike routes, including park and stroll options, for our partner schools in preparation for the new school year. With so much in the air this summer, the rollout didn’t go as planned. However, Norte is still here to help. We want to hear from our school champions.

What do you need? How are you getting to school this year? Does your child have a favorite route? What do they see on the way? Is there a friendly golden retriever who smiles at them along the way? A favorite stump they jump on and off? If there’s enough interest, let’s come together and make some new, illustrative maps (I 🧡maps).

Please shoot me an email or sign up to become a school champion.


2020 Explore Academy registration opens on Tuesday, September 8.  
Explore Academy is an opportunity for students to change the world, beginning with their neighborhood and community. It engages and activates youth ages 13-18 around hands-on, feet-on-the-street material and discussions. Teen participants gain an experiential understanding of how the built environment changes over time, how it impacts our lives, and their role as citizens to shape it.



East Bay Walk and Bike Audits –– As part of the ongoing efforts to create more connections for students and families in East Bay Township, we join our community partners in East Bay to invite you to participate in self-guided walking and bike audits around four schools: East Middle School, Cherry Knoll, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, and Grand Traverse Academy. East Bay Township planning has put together all you need to get started. They are available to help you, or a small group, complete the audits that will assist in planning and grant opportunities on the horizon. More details: East Bay Township Safe Routes to School 

Getting Passed Parking Minimums –– It’s not every day that a change in the zoning code here in Northern Michigan attracts a guru’s attention, but that happened Tuesday night. Parking expert Professor Donald Shoup took notice on Twitter when Traverse City’s Planning Commission considered, and then passed, eliminating parking minimums in the city. As Shoup has written,”minimum parking requirements act like a fertility drug for cars. Why do urban planners prescribe this drug?” The progressive recommendation now heads to the City Commission. We urge everyone to congratulate the City on this move and to ask City Commissioners to support the amendment. If you’d like to learn more, shoot me an email.

BIKE IT! to End Distracted Driving –– Our advocacy partner in Lansing, League of Michigan Bicyclists, has partnered with The Kiefer Foundation to stop distracted driving through awareness and legislation. The BIKE IT! challenge is a commuter challenge that will raise 50 cents for ever mile we ride for the essentials. It’s not too late to put a team together and ride in support of a worthy cause. Get riding!

With mask on, hands squeaky clean, and from a minimum six-feet away, onward and upward.

Have a great Labor Day weekend!

Gary Howe
Advocacy Director

P.S. Is your business ready to be certified a Bicycle Friendly Business? Next application deadline is October 20, 2020. Join Norte, Higher Grounds, and Boomerang Catapult as Bicycle Friendly Businesses in Grand Traverse

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

Pro Walk/Pro Bike Advocacy

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Advocacy Newsletter: Change Begins with a First Step

Advocacy Newsletter, July 22, 2020

Join us tomorrow (Wednesday, July 22) in rolling with the Northern Michigan Anti Racism Task Force. We riding to oppose racism and elevate the discussion of systemic racism in our community, institutions, and homes. And to spread some joy. More Info: Solidarity Slow Roll

Reading Time: 4+ Minutes

Hello Supporter,

Grand Traverse recognizes what’s right and shows up when it’s time to represent. We are wearing masks and taking precautions to stop the spread of the coronavirus. We’re also joining the cause to end racial injustice and discrimination. We have plenty of work to do on both efforts, yet we stand together, committed – thank you.

In this month’s Advocacy Newsletter, I’m sharing what I’ve been reading since nationwide protests erupted in response to the murder of George Floyd. These essays and news reports highlight the broader picture of systemic racism expressed in the design of our communities. We’ve generally talked about these issues before when we talk about a happy, healthy, strong community by design. The struggle for ending racial discrimination runs on parallel tracks. The following reading list will make that clear.

  • Walking While Black – A ProPublica report sheds light on the disproportionate use of pedestrian tickets against Black people in Jacksonville, Florida. Jacksonville is also notorious for the lack of pedestrian infrastructure. Predictable, and #dangerousbydesign, the city consistently ranks in the top five most dangerous cities for people on foot.
  • Who Was More Likely to be Ticketed for Violating Stay Home Orders? – Yup, you guessed it. Back in early May, the data already clearly showed that black people were being ticketed for participating in a “non-essential activity” at a far higher rate than white people.
  • Placemaking When Black Lives Matter – As we rethink our cities and devote resources towards transforming places for people, Annette Koh rightly argues that we need to use that process to address “existing injustices.”
  • How Race Shaped America’s Roadways And Cities – As America rapidly expanded post-WWII, it was the disenfranchised communities of color that suffered. They often continue to suffer from those policies today. “Oftentimes, communities of color have the wrong complexion for protection,” says professor and writer Robert Bullard. Extra: America’s Cities Were Designed to Oppress.
  • The Curb-Cut Effect – Angela Blackwell describes how policies and programs that benefit vulnerable groups have cascading positive effects for everyone. Striving for equity helps everyone and the humble curb cut stands as exhibit A.
  • GirlTrek and the Power of Walking Together – For over a decade, GirlTrek co-founders Vanessa Garrison and T. Morgan Dixon have been leading healing walks for women of color. GirlTrek empowers members through improved health, deeper community connection, and dedication to being change-makers. Garrison and Dixon’s TED Talk is a powerful statement.

What’s on your reading list? If you’re willing to share, I’m eager to read. Shoot me an email or tag me at @NorteGary.

The above reading list relied heavily on America Walks Walking College study materials and #blacktwitter, which has been on fire in 2020.


It’s not too late to contribute to the Safe Crosswalks Rock effort. As we highlighted in last month’s Advocacy Newsletter, this year, Kaischa Smith is inviting us to paint happy rocks. When you’re ready, place them in the Elmwood crosswalk garden along Grandview Parkway. “Be safe. Be kind. Be thankful!” You rock, Kaischa.


  • Boardman Lake Loop Construction Begins –– Congratulations and gratitude to all the organizations, municipalities, and individuals making the loop happen. By the end of 2020, a safe, accessible, and beautiful trail from 16th Street to NMC’s University Center will be real. Whoop!
  • Construction Zone and Better Access –– Thank you to the City of Traverse City for addressing consistent and safe access through construction zones. A policy amendment is making its way through the adoption process. The proposed changes are encouraging and have spurred a joining of forces among builders, engineers, and advocates to address the issue.

Thank you, everyone, for supporting Norte’s efforts towards a more Pro Walk/ Pro Bike Grand Traverse. Our work is really a reflection of the great community already dedicated to community improvement. Please share this newsletter with friends and family and encourage them to sign up. Thank you!

With mask on, hands clean, and from a distance, onward and upward.

Gary Howe
Advocacy Director

P.S. Is your business ready to be certified a Bicycle Friendly Business

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

Pro Walk/Pro Bike Advocacy

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Bike Life: Sami is Here to Help


Meet Samantha Maldonado, a.k.a. Sami

Sami has been a part of the Norte family since 2018 when she arrived from Ecuador as an exchange student. In those two years, she’s volunteered as a coach for Norte’s Farm Team and has played a lead role in The Great Traverse City Can Return. Sami is also on our Varsity Mountain Bike Team, an alum of the Explore Academy, and our Youth Leadership Council. She rides everywhere and smiles nonstop. She’s fantastic. We’re incredibly lucky to know her.  

As Sami prepares to head off to university this fall, we sat down with her to discuss her time in Northern Michigan, her life back home, and what’s next for Sami. If you see her out-and-about (likely on her bike), give her a big hello and introduce yourself–you won’t regret it.


Norte: To start Sami, I have to say you’re super popular at Norte. Some words I’ve heard describe you include sweet, compassionate, exceptional, tireless, positive, athletic –and more. What is one word you’d use to describe yourself?  

Thanks a lot. Those are very sweet things to say. The environment that the Norte people create has made me feel welcome and appreciated since the first day. Excited is one word I will use to describe myself. I’m always looking for new adventures, happy to meet people, and eager to learn new things.

Norte: We are really happy you ended up in Traverse City. Tell us where you’re from and what brought you to northern Michigan? 

I come from Quito, the capital city of Ecuador. It is a big city with a population of 18 million, lots of mountains, and traffic jams. The center of the city has architecture from the Spanish Colonial period, including museums, churches, and mercados. Quito was the first city in the world declared Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO and has tourists from all over the world.

Quito is an interesting place, but during my Sophomore year in high school, I started to show interest in becoming an exchange student in an English speaking country. I wanted to improve my English, have a cultural exchange experience, and learn new things. My family was supportive of this idea, which helped me become an exchange student in Traverse City. Even though Lousiana, Florida, and California were my three states of preference, my exchange program coordinators suggested Michigan. This was the best option because of the great family match they had found. Since then, the Yeatts (Jordan and Jennifer) have become my second family, and I just love them.

Norte: You obviously have ended up finding a community here. How has Northern Michigan treated you? What kept you here for both your junior and senior years? 

Northern Michigan is awesome. The members of the community, natural places, and learning opportunities have made this a productive experience. Thanks to everyone who has made this possible. Staying for two years in the U.S. was not the initial idea. Plans changed after learning about the opportunity to enroll in the TCAPS international program as an international student to take college classes while still in high school. This allows me to continue into college with a more hardcore curriculum than the one we currently have in Ecuador. I plan to study business and political science. 

Norte: Besides your family, what’s something you miss from Ecuador? 

Besides my family, traditional food is something that I miss from Ecuador. My favorite dish is Fanesca, a soup prepared during the week before Easter (Holy Week). Among the ingredients for this recipe are twelve types of grains, fish, sweet plantains, and tiny pasties. Not very easy to find all of these in the United States.

Always a Delight


Norte: You were a competitive bicyclist back home. How’d did Norte get so lucky to connect with you? What all have you participated in with Norte? 

Yes, back in Ecuador, I was part of the Pichincha state cycling team since 2015 and became part of the Pre-Junior national cycling team in 2016. When I became an exchange student, I totally thought I would have to give up cycling during my year abroad. Luckily when I arrived, my host parents Jennifer and Jordan, told me about this fantastic community focused cycling club called Norte and their programs.

I showed up the first day of the 2018 Fall after school program to help with the Farm team as a volunteer assistant coach and did the same during the Spring of 2019. Getting to teach some of the things I had learned and watching kids grow as individuals and cyclists was gratifying for me. I continued to volunteer in the Norte after school programs for the rest of my first year. Later, I was invited to form part of the Varsity team and raced the Iceman Cometh Challenge for the first time. During my second year in Traverse City, I continued to race with the Varsity team. I also participated in the first Norte youth Explore Academy. Right now, I have been doing some can returns for Norte’s bike library.

Norte: You’re a super volunteer in support of the Great Traverse City Can Return. You put in the miles picking up cans and continue to help by returning them–thank you. Any idea how man cans you’ve returned? 

I have very much enjoyed helping with the Great Traverse City Can Return. It is incredible how much power something as simple as a can has when you multiply it to provide bikes to kids for free through a regional bike library. Thank you, Norte, for the initiative during these crazy times.

I have returned a little over 1,000 cans so far, but I plan to continue doing it a couple of times per week throughout the summer. My host family and friends have also been helping with returns since the current daily return is a maximum of 200 cans per household. 

Norte: Did you also participate in extracurricular activities at Traverse City Central? 

Yes, I first became part of the International Club. Later I joined the Cross Country Ski Team during the winter of 2018-2019 during my first year experiencing winter with snow and did it again to race during the 2019-2020 season. During my senior year, I joined the National Honors Society to participate in volunteer activities with the community. We worked with organizations like Tart Trails, Central United Methodist Church, Vasa Ski Club, and the State Theater, among others. Helping others when I can is something I just love doing.

Always Contributing


Norte: You’re also one of our community heroes for biking year-round. Was that a habit you brought with you from home? Or did something inspire you after you arrived to bike year-round?  

I would say it was a mix between a habit I brought from Ecuador and inspiration from my host family in the United States. Back in Quito, my siblings and I were taught by my parents at a young age to commute using public transportation and whenever it was safe to bike. In Ecuador, you have to be eighteen years old to obtain a license. Many children and teens find it useful to learn to use public transportation. Before I came to Traverse City, my host family told me they had decided to sell their car two years ago to bike everywhere. I was excited to join them and become a year-round bike commuter in Northern Michigan.

Norte: How do you find the biking conditions here? What are we doing, right? Where do we need to make improvements?  

The bike conditions in Traverse City are definitely safer and more accessible than those of Ecuador. Commuting by bike in Quito can be very dangerous. Protected bike lanes, shared streets, trail systems, and traffic signals are some of the key elements I have noticed around Traverse City. Public awareness is also important. Creating a culture where different types of commuters, from walkers and bikers to motorcycle and car drivers, can safely arrive at their destination. This could not be easy, but it is definitely worth it to prevent crashes.

I believe that Traverse City is on a good track. But some improvements could be made in street crossings, bike lanes and sidewalks around construction sites, as well as working on awareness addressed towards seasonal tourists. They might not have similar commute systems in their home towns.

Norte: You’re moving on to university this fall. Where are you going and what’s taking you there? Are you going to keep biking? 

I will be attending Lindsey Wilson College in Columbia, Kentucky, this Fall. Business and Political Science will be my primary subjects of study. You bet I will keep biking. Cycling just keeps following me everywhere. I am joining their competitive cycling team to race in three disciplines: road, track, and mountain bike. 

Norte: That’s awesome. And, perfect. We’re so happy for you. You are going to come back and visit us, right? 

Thanks. I believe I will be back in Traverse City during winter and summer break, if possible. But I will always take in my heart and mind all those who have made my time in Traverse City a memorable experience.

Norte: Is there anything you’d like to add? 

Just one last thing I would like to add. A very special thanks to the community members of Traverse City for being so welcoming, making me feel at home, and sharing this beautiful place with me.  

Norte: We’re going to miss you, Sami. Thank you.  



Bike Life profiles highlight neighbors in our community who roll (or walk…walk life) that extra mile and deserve their story to be shared. If you’d like to suggest someone, let Norte’s Advocacy Director know at



Advocacy Newsletter: Who’s afraid to walk through a work zone?

Advocacy Newsletter, June 30, 2020

Terri Hanson rides to work every day and has crossed Division Street at Seventh St. hundreds of times. In May, a driver pulled out in front of her, struck her, and drove away. Terri was unharmed but certainly shaken. We sat down with her to discuss the crash, get to know her a little, and hear her perspective on biking in Northern Michigan. Meet Terri at Bike Life: Get Moving, Keep Moving

Hello Norte Supporter,

While out on your daily pandemic walk or roll, many of you may have noticed a large number of work zones across Grand Traverse this spring and summer. The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) is busy on the trunk lines, the City is installing sidewalks, and there are a handful of construction zones. As you come upon those projects, you may be left wondering: what am I supposed to do here?

Too often, those in charge of work zones are conditioned to treat people on foot, bike, or wheelchair as afterthoughts. Too often, an area is simply closed off. We are lucky if an advanced warning sign was installed to keep us from walking an entire block only to discover a barricade. In these tricky situations, assuming the risk of hopping a curb, skirting a barrier, or squeezing along construction might be our only real choice.

Adding to the frustration is the fact that this is unnecessary. Temporary and protected walkways and bikeways are not rocket science. Instead of closures and long, nonsensical and unreliable detours, people deserve traffic solutions that are not too different from what is ordinarily in place. National standards in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices actually call for work zones to provide accessibility features consistent with existing features. The longer the temporary controls are in place, the more extensive the effort required.

To be fair, there’s been an improvement in the region over the last decade. Engineering departments are more receptive to citizen complaints, and private construction teams are more responsive –– thank you, Honor State Bank –– but we have a long way to go. (I’m hopeful we are creative enough to someday deploy a shipping container as a covered bike lane through a work zone.)  We could avoid a lot of extra effort, and frustration could be avoided if people were given more priority by default.

This year, we’ve seen too many crosswalks closed without adequate consideration for people on foot or wheelchairConstruction crews routinely have to be reminded, if not forced, to provide signage and safe and accessible alternatives. The frustration continues to mount. If you have experienced this and want to help, let me know and we can walk through the steps. You can also let us know at Better Grand Traverse. I’m happy to help you contact elected representatives and those responsible for ensuring we all have safe access. You don’t need to solve the problem. Rather, I encourage you to politely and simply describe the issues you encounter when work zones fail to consider our needs as people traveling through the community. Whether on foot, bike, wheelchair, or automobile, all residents deserve to be treated like they matter.

Useful Contacts 

Three Policy Actions to Help The Cause

  1. Engineering departments need to include a more rigorous review of work zone plans to accommodate all traffic equitably and with respect.
  2. Annual training for all construction crews working in a municipality needs to be provided if not required.
  3. Local governments need to update policies to make accessible traffic controls a priority, instead of treating them like an extra amenity. This action would provide local teeth to national standards.


Traverse City has come a long way since 2010. Back then, a small band of citizen advocates paid the meter, parked bikes, and transformed a few parking spaces into parks for a few hours (see PARK(ing) Day Greeted with Mild Curiosity). Now, city authorities bag the meter and invite us to create these spaces – thank you, Downtown Development Authority. Also, a huge thanks to our great volunteers for pulling the pieces together to make a glorious parklet. We invite you to make this your next meeting point downtown. The parklets will be up on Front Street through Labor Day and, hopefully, and annual offering.


  • Bikes May Use Full Lane –– Congratulations and gratitude to our friends at the League of Michigan Bicyclists. They were successful in getting MDOT to approve the use of “Bikes May Use Full Lane” signage. This language is more precise and more welcoming.  It’s also safer.
  • Walk and Roll the LeFrainer Loops –– Congratulations are also needed for Grand Traverse County and the Health Department. Back in December, they started the process to formalize walk and roll trails behind the County Health Department building on LaFranier Rd. With funds in place, they are ready to go. Watch out for more news as trailheads, benches, and wayfinding are put in place, and as the County’s Wellness Team launches a MIParks Walk Michigan program. Who’s up for a walk?
  • Safe Crosswalks Rock –– It’s been one year since MDOT seriously upgraded the crosswalks across the Grandview Parkway. Friends and family joined Kaischa Smith to celebrate the milestone in July last year by planting a commemorative garden at Grandview and Elmwood Avenue, one year after Kaischa was struck and seriously injured while crossing the previously marked but unsignaled crosswalk. This year, she sent us a message to share, “I invite everyone to not take safe crosswalks “for granite” by painting Happy Rocks – colorfully designed rocks with messages of kindness and inspiration. Your colorful creations may be placed in the garden on July 22 (her “crashiversary”) or whenever convenient this month. Be safe. Be kind. Be thankful!”


I trust everyone is staying safe, healthy, and enjoying summer.

With mask on, hands clean, and from a distance, onward and upward.

Gary Howe
Advocacy Director

P.S. Is your business ready to be certified a Bicycle Friendly Business

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

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Bike Life: Get Moving, Keep Moving


Meet Terri Hanson

Terri Hanson has lived in Traverse City since 1993. For the last 27 years, she has operated Why Knot Pretzels, a mobile business selling pretzels from a pushcart with her husband, Mark. You might find them at a local event or outside of places like Right Brain Brewery. She also works at Cordia at Grand Traverse Commons as a personal trainer.

Terri is a model for integrating active living into daily life. She belongs to TC Masters Swim TeamCherry Capital Cycling Club, Sisterhood, She Skis, and She Bikes. She also bikes 4 miles to work at the Commons daily. Recently, we met Terri because she was involved in a hit-and-run crash at the notorious intersection at 7th and Division.

She was happy to sit down with us to talk about her experiences crossing town and dealing with the crash. We followed up with this interview.  


Norte: Thank you for answering a few questions. How long have you worked at Cordia? What do you do there? 

I have worked at Cordia since they opened the doors five and a half years ago. I am a personal trainer and teach group fitness classes to the members, plus one-on-ones. The ages range from 53 to a 105-year-old. I love it!

Norte: It’s obvious staying fit and healthy is vital to you and beautiful that you can help others do that as well. What motivates you to integrate active living into your daily life? Any pro-tips for Norte readers? 

It has been something I have always done to help me spend my energy.  It keeps me sane, feels good, and I see it as a gift to myself. Being active helps me keep stress at bay. My tip would be to get moving and keep moving, your older self will thank you!

Norte: You ride to work daily. Describe your commute — can you walk us through the best parts of the ride? What are the challenges?

We live at the base of Old Mission, so I stay on the sidewalk and TART Trail along the Parkway. Until recently, have ridden under Murchie Bridge to Front Street (the Murchie Bridge underpass is currently closed due to high water). From there, I go to Union, to 7th, and then take Elmwood to Cordia. I ride as many days as possible, even in the rain. The only thing that stops me is icy or snowy roads.

The best parts of the ride are along the bay, early mornings before traffic picks up. The ride home is the biggest challenge due to more traffic.

7th And Division

Norte: In May, you were in a crash when someone in a car pulled out in front of you at 7th Street and Division. Thankfully, you don’t have any significant injuries from it, but it’s still scary. What happened?

Yep, scary it was! I was headed West on the 7th Street crossing Division. As I was crossing Division, a vehicle turning left to go North on Division, hit me and took off. I was taken to Munson to check out the contusions on my left elbow and hand and rule out a concussion. I was lucky, not a broken bone, just bruises, and muscle soreness. I have a super guardian angel!

Norte: You continue to ride your bike to work and use the same intersection to cross Division. I understand how traumatic that can be. How are you doing? Has it changed your riding at all? 

It took me about a week to try and ride to work again. I was pretty nervous but knew I needed to conquer the fears because it is what I love to do. I ride with even more alertness, and I do not take for granted that a driver has seen me or will yield when I have the right of way.

Norte: As someone familiar with the 7th and Division intersection, what are a few of the critical problems you experience when using it?

Mostly cars speeding through the intersection on a red light, or drivers are trying to turn left before I cross the road.

Norte: We recently discussed the idea of a bike box on the west side of the intersection to help organize a confusing intersection in terms of cars and bikes. What are your thoughts on how that might help?

I like the idea of a bike box. I think it would clear up some frustration for the cars trying to turn right on red. It is definitely worth a try!

Norte: Has the contra-flow bicycle lane on the east side of Division Street made a difference? 

Yes! I love having a designated lane for bikers.

Making Traverse Better

Norte: Are there other problems spots in Traverse City that you often avoid? 

  1. Division and the Parkway
  2. Crossing Garfield at Washington or State.
  3. The intersection of Garfield and Front
  4. Park Street crossing at the Parkway puts you onto a sidewalk where bikers are not supposed to be and on the wrong side of the street. What the heck?
  5. The new pedestrian crossings on the Parkway, some cars stop and some don’t.
  6. The curve onto Garfield near Bryant.

Norte: In general, has the bicycle riding experience improved in the last 5-10 years? 

I feel it has gotten worse due to inattentive, distracted, in-a-hurry drivers, and more bikers on the road not following the rules.

Norte: How would you like to see those issues addressed?

I think education is the key. Maybe videos posted on Facebook about the rules of the road for bicyclists, using humor, music, etc. Highlighting some of the young Norte riders. Maybe with Queen’s song, “I Want to Ride My Bicycle.” I’m not sure what the answer is for distracted drivers, except a campaign for “eyes on the road and your hands upon the wheel.”

Norte: One additional follow-up question: Where can we find you for pretzels?

That is too funny! Of course, we are scrambling to find venues to sell our pretzels. We will be at Rubby Ducky Festival in Bellaire and Mud Sweat and Beers on August 15th. Hopefully, Shorts Fest will happen. Iceman Cometh is one of our biggest events. Fingers crossed!

This is always subject to change, and I will keep you posted about July. If you have any ideas, let me know. We could turn it into a fundraiser for Norte.  Thanks for supporting us! 🥨

Norte: Is there anything you’d like to add? 

I appreciate all efforts to make Traverse City more biker friendly. We are all in this together and need to be kind and gentle towards each other while making our way around this town. We all can do our part in keeping our community safe and friendly by being patient!

Norte: Thank you, Terri. 


What are the problems you experience at the 7th and Division intersection? What would make it better? What about other spots in town? 

Shoot Norte’s Advocacy Director an email at and visit our new initiative -> Better Grand Traverse



Advocacy Newsletter: Keep On, Keep Rolling. Onward We Go!

Advocacy Newsletter, May 13, 2020

Cargo Bike

Lindsey Demmy hauls the little ones to a nearby park on her sweet Workcycles Kr8. She’s seeing the number of utility bikes steadily climb in Northern Michigan and predicts that with social distancing the new normal, “cargo/long-tail bike playdates are going to be the hot trend this summer.” Keep it rolling, Lindsey!

Hello Norte Supporter,

When it comes to preventing viruses like COVID-19, influenza, and the common cold, outside is always better than inside. As I heard this past week, “fewer faces, bigger spaces.”

We’re anticipating that as this pandemic progresses into summer, Northern Michigan is going to become the outdoor playground of choice for more and more people. A recent mobility report from Google already shows a 120% increase in visits to parks in Grand Traverse County since March, and walk and bike rates are up significantly. Once June hits, we’re going to need more space for people to avoid crowding and to continue physical distancing while scientists race to develop a COVID-19 vaccine. Downtown Traverse City is already considering closing Front Street to support businesses, but we also need the City to create more space for people to comfortably access shops, services, and the outdoors across our community––this is also good for business.

We’ve reported on the positive trend happening in cities across the world and are thrilled to see many municipalities already making permanent open and slow street programs. The City Commission discussed options a few weeks ago, and, at the time, commissioners wanted to see more specifics. TART and Norte subsequently obliged by teaming up to offer an option called Slow Streets TC. The proposal would create a series of connected neighborhood slow streets –– starting with equipment already in supply, like cones and signage.

The idea is to create more room for people to walk, bike, or get about in a wheelchair. We can do this incrementally by calming traffic and creating a shared street environment where people driving are alerted to expect more people –– young and old, on foot and bike. This would give more space on sidewalks and bring more peace of mind to parents and others. Traffic calming is like planting a tree, the best time to put it in place was 20 years ago, the second-best time is now.

The City Commission will be addressing Slow Streets TC soon, and we’re asking all of you to lend your voice of support to the cause. In our proposal, we requested that the City of Traverse adopt a COVID-19 response, Slow Streets TC, to slow vehicle speeds. We offered a few suggestions and willingness to help maintain and monitor the program.

Review the joint TART and Norte proposal, and please share your message of support to

If you’re looking for inspiration, here are some articles from around the globe for livable streets. These Streets May Stay Open Forever • Give People the Public Space They Need • Cities Seeing Fewer Cars, Plan to Keep It That Way • 20 Miles of Healthy Streets in Seattle.


We can’t get enough of these new sidewalks transforming Traverse Heights. Barlow and Hannah Street have never looked so fabulous and inviting. We thank the City of Traverse City, partner organizations, and countless citizens for the collective effort to add 14 miles of sidewalk over 3 years. If these new sidewalks have changed your life, let us know. We’re looking for stories to tell. Shoot me an email and let’s talk!


  • Pipe Up for the Civic Center –– Grand Traverse County Parks and Recreation is planning for some significant changes to Norte’s home base. Help us, help them, bring the “Civic Center Park into the future” by taking this preference survey.
  • Census 2020 –– Michigan has lost 5 US representatives since 1970 due to population decline, from 19 to 14 in 2010. This decline also means less federal assistance and a weakened vote count in the electoral college. It’s quick, it’s easy, it’s private – Be Counted for Michigan.
  • Norte’s Neighborhood Yard Sale is Rolling –– We know some of you have spent the last few months cleaning out the garage. If you’ve found an old bike that you no longer need, here’s your chance to sell it and support the Norte Kids Bike Library. Friday is the deadline to list an item for sale and sales begin on May 16.

Two months ago, we stepped into the pandemic reality with tremendous uncertainty. In response, we leaned in and started to showcase more of what we do at Norte by sharing the Advocacy Newsletter to the entire Norte list. Previously, the Advocacy Newsletter went exclusively to people who signed up for advocacy-related news, action items, and features.

If you’ve appreciated the last three Advocacy Newsletters (March 24April 8April 23), and aren’t already signed up, please go to the Norte Pro Walk/Pro Bike page and add your name to the list. You can also sign up by sending me an email with your thoughts and where you see action needed in Northern Michigan.

Stay Home. Stay Safe. Stay Active, Responsibly. We’ll be rolling together soon.

Gary Howe
Advocacy Director

P.S. Is your business ready to be certified a Bicycle Friendly BusinessI can help your business with the application. The current certification round is due June 10.

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

Pro Walk/Pro Bike Advocacy

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Organize, Organize, Organize is Key Lesson in 2020 Advocate Academy

The 2020 Advocate Academy Graduates


This year, Norte strengthened its partnership with Groundwork Center and jointly delivered curriculum to 15 participants for the 2020 Advocate Academy. I was joined by Groundwork’s Policy Specialist Jim Bruckbauer to co-vacillated the six-week Pro Walk/Pro Bike training program. This year’s participants brought with them a wide variety of experience in community planning, group organization, and campaigning. The insights of a nurse union leader, housing advocate, public transit planner, and many others added valuable depth to discussions and team projects.


Above: Policy specialist Jim Bruckbauer of Groundwork Center describes working with state institutions like Michigan Department of Transportation.


The Advocate Academy focused on the need to organize, and to revisit and feed the organizing process continually.  This effort is necessary whether a campaign is working on improving a single corner in your neighborhood or undertaking a community-wide policy change. Eight broad steps for an advocacy campaign framed the training, and the measures in the graphic below were expanded upon and refined each week. Ultimately, we recognized that these aren’t steps to follow one by one in sequential order, but are interconnected measures feeding into one another through the ups and downs of any meaningful campaign.


Organize Your Advocacy

Although my advocacy dreams involve housing and a totally different community (Petoskey), I learned so much about what it means to advocate for a community and its needs. I now notice areas in my community that could use attention when it comes to Pro Walk/Pro Bike.

– Julia Johnson


In the end, four teams presented their case for four different initiatives.

  • Walk the Heights organized around promoting Traverse City’s Traverse Heights Neighborhood as a walk first neighborhood.
  • Safe Passage galvanized around the announcement of TCAPS Montessori moving to Franke Rd. to call for improved access at the Silver Lake, Franke Rd. and Silver Dr. intersection.
  • Street Defenders zeroed in on the inadequacies of the City of Traverse City’s newly drafted, yet to be implemented, Street Design Manual.
  • Midblockers recognized the success of mid-block crossings on Traverse City’s 8th Street and drafted a campaign to create a policy requiring more mid-block crosswalks beginning with Hall St. and 14th Street.


As in previous years, we devoted considerable time to crafting personal and team messages. This effort is important because the art of persuasive storytelling goes beyond having the facts on your side. Persuasion is a practice, and advocacy is, in large part, figuring out how to persuade a decision-maker to do something in the public’s interest that they’d otherwise wish not to do or not do in the time-frame desired. We can have the best goals and the smartest strategies, but they are likely to fall flat if the delivery isn’t crafted in a way for the intended audience to absorb it. This is all part of finding your voice and learning that language matters.

As we did last year, we borrowed from the author Daniel Pink’s To Sell is Human and kicked off the first week with a homework assignment to write a personal Pixar Pitch. This lesson accentuates the heroic story we all face, and as citizen advocates step into as we step into leadership roles. Plus, it’s fun!

Once upon a time, there was a kindergartener named Maya. Every day, she walked to school with her mom or dad and her baby sister. One day, they built a new school farther away and across two scary, dangerous, busy roads. Because of that, she couldn’t walk anymore. Because of that, she had to climb into a car every morning instead of getting fresh air, exercise, and a chance to greet her neighbors. Until finally, safer road crossings became a reality, and she could ride her bike to school (by the time she was in 7th grade).

-Kate Hofmann, team Safe Passage

What’s your heroic tale?

The 2020 Advocate Academy’s last session was on the eve of Michigan’s stay home order.  The world has undoubtedly changed in that short time, and yet the importance of informed and poignant advocacy remains vital. We wish all of the graduates continued success. Norte is here to help. Thank you.


If you’re interested in learning more about Norte Advocacy, please sign up for our advocacy newsletter, and don’t hesitate to send me a message at



This year’s Advocate Academy was presented in partnership with Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities and was made possible through the generous financial support by the Grand Traverse Regional Community Foundation.


Advocacy Newsletter: Are you ready to be a Superhero?

Advocacy Newsletter, April 23, 2020

You don’t need to be a superhero to ride a bike, but riding a bike can certainly make one a superhero. The superhuman photography of Danny Neumann made me smile this week. Down Time 1 (above) and more of his work can be viewed on Instagram @CantinaDanny. Thank you, Danny.


Hello Norte Supporter,

It’s fair to say we’ve all noticed a considerable drop in automobile traffic during this past month. As a result, NASA is reporting massive declines in air pollution, and the reduced miles driven has led auto insurance companies to offer refunds. In some places, though––mainly on the expressways––fewer cars have led to increased speeds and fatal crashes as open roads tempt the heavy-footed.

We are also witnessing the inherent resiliency of the humble bicycle. Ridership is growing as the bike is proving once again to be an efficient, convenient, and safe way to navigate our communities. While public transportation is limited and many people are unshackled from their daily commute, riding a bike for essential outdoor time or a quick spin to the grocer has become the perfect solution––in the past month and a half alone, ridership in Philadelphia increased by 150%. Norte has already helped a few essential workers obtain bicycles through Bicycle Grand Traverse (if you need one, we’ll help connect you to one).

Bicycles often assume the role of trusted transportation during catastrophes. We see it in the aftermath of hurricanes, earthquakes, during power outages, and in the not-so-critically-acclaimed TV series “Colony”, where a utility bike with a basket becomes an advantageous way to avoid alien turncoats. Arguably the most efficient form of transportation, bikes are the perfect tool for both a zombie apocalypse or a global pandemic.

As we cautiously move away from stay home orders and begin to come out of our homes, it’s reasonable to predict that many of us will be biking more very soon. We will be looking for ways to get fresh air, maintain physical distancing, and, perhaps, lose some of those extra pounds we’ve gained this past month. And our bikes will help. They will be critical for economic recovery and social reemergence while being even more vital for our mental and physical health.

Keep this in mind when it comes time to speak up as municipalities and transportation departments are considering budgets, new infrastructure, or slow street proposals. We need a deeper understanding and appreciation for how bikes are an essential piece of community resilience and deserve priority attention. Bikes are a tool for superheroes. Let’s roll with it.

400 native trees arrive at the Norte Clubhouse next weekend from the Conservation Resource Alliance’s Wild Roots Initiative. We have already found homes for them across the region, from Northport down to Traverse City to Elk Rapids. Trees are critical infrastructure for a healthy, happy, strong community and we are thrilled to see the community jump at a chance to plant some trees. Thank you.



  • Japan’s Disaster Parks – Parks where benches turn into stoves, manholes become toilets, and hidden bunkers store food. These are genuinely parks at another level.
  • Pandemics, Public Transit, and Automobiles  –  You might assume avoiding transit is a no brainer during a pandemic. Todd Litman of Victoria Transport Policy Institute sheds some enlightening thoughts and math on the issue.
  • Opportunity to Remake Cities  –  Open streets and slow streets are popular policies that are giving people space to roam during COVID-19. Are they equally great for nonemergency times?

ACTION: Our friends at League of Michigan Bicyclists continue to lobby Governor Whitmer’s office to allow bicycle shops to be re-open for no-contact sales and service. Ideally, this will be included in her order starting May 1st. Thank you if you have previously sent a message. We encourage you to send one more to add your voice to the effort –– Bicycles are essential transportation.

Stay home. Stay safe. Stay active, responsibly. Roll with you again soon.

Gary Howe
Advocacy Director

P.S. Is your business ready to be certified a Bicycle Friendly BusinessI can help your business with the application.

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

Pro Walk/Pro Bike Advocacy

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Sidewalks, Chalk Art, and Circle of Hearts


At the beginning of April, Traverse City resident Christine Krzyszton was feeling cooped up and in need of doing something to show her appreciation for the health care professionals during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Michigan was seeing exponential daily increases, and she wanted to let nurses know they were appreciated.

“My creativity had been quite suppressed and one of the residents here told me that some of the Munson staff she knew were having a rough day, that there had been a couple of deaths and the people who passed were alone as no one could visit,” said Krzyszton. “I had purchased some sidewalk chalk for the purpose of putting positive messages on the sidewalk around our building but when I heard about the Munson staff, I knew that was a better idea.”

On one of those early and warm spring days, she set out to do as much as she could by herself. She had texted friends for help, but no one was available. “I went out to my car to get supplies and these 3 young people walked by so I asked them if they wanted to help me on a project,” described Krzyszton. They were more than willing to help. Later, two of her neighbors agreed to help. And, when she arrived at the sidewalk near Munson, Krzyszton asked a young woman who had finished jogging if she wanted to help.

“She said yes and it turned out her brother was in ICU after a very bad accident. She called her mom and sister who showed up. They were thrilled to be involved,” she said. Krzyszton later thanked everyone who participated in her Facebook post that first displayed photos of the art.

One of the artists to participate in Circle of Hearts was Meghan Richardson, an artist from Midland who happened to be on a walk with her friend, a Munson employee. Richardson ended up creating the illustration of the nurse that was widely seen.

Artist Meghan Richardson with her nurse illustration. See more of her art @megrichardsondesign.


Both she and Krzyszton found it serendipitous that they all came together at the same time. Richardson was on her way to trails at the Grand Traverse Commons Natural Area when out of the blue, a woman asked if she wanted to help create messages to the nurses. “I said, ‘Funny thing is, I actually do chalk art. I’m going to go on this hike and then come back.’ She didn’t think I was going to come back, but I keep my word,” said Richardson. “It was a weird coming together of all these different walks of life, and we’re all doing sidewalk art, 6-feet apart. We were in the right place at the right time. I had a blast doing it,” she added.

Richardson manages a coffee shop in Midland and is encouraging customers to leave messages and art on the sidewalks around it. “I’m also doing a big mural outside of our coffee shop, similar to the one at Munson,” she said. Richardson is encouraging more people to get outside and be active, and doing art, by leaving a bucket of chalk outside the coffee shop. She says, “sidewalk chalk is an amazing” way to encourage more people to get outside and participate in spreading positive energy.


In Traverse City, Krzyszton plans to continue leaving messages on the sidewalks around Munson and also encourages others to join her. “My vision was to put an entire circle of sidewalk messages around the Munson complex. If anyone feels they want to say thank you to those who work there, it would be a good, positive, healthy way to do so. It does make a difference,” she said. As evidence, she points to the large number of people stopping to take pictures, including Munson employees. She also noticed a message sent out by Munson CEO Ed Ness, who mentioned the “cheerful sidewalk-chalk messages.”

“Sidewalk messages are a way to connect with others safely. You can be outdoors and distanced from the person you’re trying to reach, yet the message can be very personal. I just urge everyone to find one small safe way to make another person’s life better during this time,” said Krzyszton.

We at Norte couldn’t agree more. Not only do we want to see more sidewalks, but we also want to see more sidewalk art!

We send our gratitude to everyone involved in Circle of Hearts and to everyone out there, making life easier for others. Even temporary works of art that get washed away in the rain speak volumes.

For more of the sidewalk art shown here, visit Krzyszton’s Facebook page and @megrichardsondesign for more of Richardson’s work. All images courtesy of Krzyszton.


Stay Home. Stay Safe. Stay Active, Responsibly



TAAR and Norte Join Forces For 2020 Explore Academy

The Traverse Area Association of REALTORS® (TAAR) has received a $4,250 Smart Growth Grant from the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) in support of Norte’s Explore Academy. The Norte advocacy training program introduces teenagers to smart growth principles through its hands-on, active curriculum. Through the course, students are empowered and encouraged to impact their community in positive ways. TAAR is contributing a $475 local match to the national grant funding.

“We are thrilled to work with such a positive and impactful organization like Norte,” said Kim Pontius, CEO of TAAR. “This type of program directly advances smart growth principles like walkable neighborhoods and community planning. It’s these types of partnerships and educational opportunities that will help our region continue to build strong and resilient places to live, work, and play.”

TAAR’s support of Norte’s Explore Academy is rooted in the shared goal of broadening understanding of the role that citizen advocates play throughout their lives in community development and planning.

“Teenagers are a key part of our communities, and their voices are not only important, but they are also insightful and rooted in a desire for positive change. I’m excited we will be able to offer the course—whether in person or virtually—this fall,” said Gary Howe, advocacy director at Norte.

Partnership with TAAR puts the Explore Program in a strong position as it enters its second year. The inaugural six-week academy in fall 2019, Explore Your Neighborhood, Shape Your Community, introduced students to community design, infrastructure, and advocacy. “I was blown away by the enthusiasm and interest of the students,” Howe said about the first group of 25 students to graduate from the course.

Classes explore the way the built environment impacts the experience and access people have in a community. Topics covered include planning concepts, mobility challenges, and the role citizen advocates play in shaping solutions to common community problems.

This fall’s program is open to all teens in the Grand Traverse Region, ages 13-18. The course can satisfy community service and extra credit requirements. Enrollment opens at the beginning of the fall semester. Howe and Megan Olds of Parallel Solutions co-developed and co-facilitate the course.


Learn more at Norte’s Explore Academy. Businesses and individuals interested in donating to the program’s scholarship fund or in becoming corporate sponsors can email Gary Howe at


The Traverse Area Association of REALTORS® is dedicated to promoting advocacy, education, ethics and professional standards for REALTORS® in the five-county Grand Traverse area, which includes Grand Traverse, Leelanau, Antrim, Kalkaska, and Benzie Counties, as well as the immediate surrounding counties of Missaukee, Wexford, Manistee, and Charlevoix. For more information about the Traverse Area Association of REALTORS®, please visit or call 231-313-9826

Advocacy Newsletter: A Strong Community, Built for the Challenge

Advocacy Newsletter, April 8, 2020

Thank you to all of our essential heroes working to keep us healthy, keep us fed, and keep us moving forward even when the world is standing still. We appreciate you. We support you.
Chalk art by Meghan Richardson. Thank you, Meghan.


While El Periódico is on hiatus, I was asked to reach out to the Norte community. First, let me just say, I hope this reaches you well. We’re all under new stressors, and if you’re like me, it’s been a bumpy trail. Let’s be strong together!

For an organization like Norte, whose mission is built on encouraging everyone to get outside – to stay active and social –the Stay Home order is borderline inconceivable. We miss our teams. We miss the smiles. It breaks our hearts to cancel spring programs.

However, our work is driven by public health. That is the foundation of happy, healthy, strong. This work includes amplifying the need for all of us to maintain physical distancing and wash our hands often. It also includes changing the odds in favor of more happy, active lives. That work continues unabated, and now, as many of you have an urge to do more for your community, we invite you to join us.


Parks – Let’s work together to keep parks and trails open. Avoid congregating and be responsible. This will keep state officials from making the hard decision to close them. Let’s also look to the future and consider now how we can ensure that our parks are adequately funded and what we can do to help. We see now their real value. Thank you, Grand Traverse, for the Civic Center!

Sidewalks/Trails – It’s a beautiful sight to see such a large number of people outside enjoying themselves, Still, many of us are experiencing the difficulty of staying six feet apart on sidewalks and trails. It is a reminder of the important work ahead for public space where people can freely move and express themselves. As a community, we must demand better than minimum widths and basic accessibility standards. Every foot matters. As I wrote last week, this is true with or without a pandemic.

Bikes – Although we’ve known it for a while, bikes as transportation are having a moment. This experience only strengthens Norte’s efforts to build communities that prioritize the bicycle as critical transportation. Let’s keep pushing! Right now, we encourage you to join the effort led by our partner League of Michigan Bicyclists (LMB) to add “bicycle repair personnel” as essential workers who keep us rolling with needed repairs and maintenance of vehicles. Bikes are transportation, and essential workers across the state depend on them. Use LMB’s online form to add your voice and consider contacting your local state representatives.

Open Streets – As the Stay Home order is extended, let us know as you see opportunities for your community to close local streets to cars to create needed space for people to walk, bike, and dance. Who knows? It might even lead to more Open Street events after the pandemic has passed. When you see people in need of space, take photos, and collect their stories to build the case. Send them our way.
EXTRAS: Be sure to fill out your 2020 Census, and consider making a contribution to our local safety net at Goodwill Northern Michigan and Urgent Needs Fund at Grand Traverse Regional Community Foundation.

Help a neighbor. We’re starting to see Little Free Libraries used for much more than book sharing. There are also Mutual Aid groups across Northern Michigan. What can you share? Who can you help?


I’m practicing self-awareness to remind myself that nothing about the COVID-19 Pandemic is normal. The fact that over three billion people across the globe are under some form of a stay at home order is mind-boggling. We are all adapting and making do, but let’s not lose sight of the moment. I suspect, as we reflect on our work and community, there are profound lessons to be gleaned during this time that will energize us long into the future as we work towards happy, healthy, strong communities by design.

Stay home. Stay safe. Stay active, responsibly.

Gary Howe
Advocacy Director

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The Wearing of Cloth Masks/Norte Buffs During this Pandemic

UPDATE: Recent studies now show that buffs and neck-gators may no longer be suitable face coverings to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. If you wish to wear a Norte Buff as a mask, we recommend the fold and hook method. Otherwise, try one of our real masks.

Norte’s online store has the orange you need


Face coverings, aka masks, are now required across Michigan and recommended by the CDC to protect those around you and their families. Norte is masking up and we’re here to help you mask up in orange as well.  Norte has two kinds of cloth masks available, a regular and a more breathable performance mask.

To stay safe and to stay active, responsibly, please be aware of the following regarding wearing any cloth mask as a protective face gear during the COVID-19 Pandemic. 

  • Cloth masks don’t replace the need for physical distancing
  • Frequently wash your hands for 20-seconds, with soap and water. 
  • Wash your hands before placing a clean mask on and after use. 
  • Place the mask over your mouth and nose. 
  • Wash or dispose of your cloth mask after use. 
  • Wash masks with soap and water or machine wash. 
  • When wearing any cloth mask, treat it like your face. Avoid touching it. 

Covering your mouth and nose with a mask is a reasonable response to an unprecedented time for the community. Masks help slow the spread of the virus, and with the new CDC recommendation, masks are now a common sight. This is a positive sign that the community is taking the COVID-19 pandemic seriously. 

CDC Guidelines: Using Cloth Masks and Homemade Masks

Wearing cloth masks doesn’t make you invincible; it merely lessens the chances for you to spread the virus. We must continue to develop healthy habits by monitoring our health (staying home when sick), maintaining physical distance, and washing our hands regularly. Be respectful and kind. We are in this together. Wash your hands. And, mask up when out in public. 

Learn More

Visit the for the latest statewide

updates and the latest in public health recommendations. 




Advocacy Newsletter: Hunker Down and Continue to Explore

Advocacy Newsletter, March 24, 2020

What creative solutions are you and your neighbors doing to maintain a physical distance and continue to be together? Post your photo on your favorite social media of choice and tag us. We’d love to see what you come up with.


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

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

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

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

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

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

Quick Spins (FROM THE WEB)

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

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

Stay home. Stay safe. Stay active, responsibly.

Gary Howe
Advocacy Director

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Advocacy Newsletter: The Time is Now, Let’s Act

Advocacy Newsletter, February 25, 2020

Policy specialist Jim Bruckbauer of Groundwork Center delivers at 2020 Advocate Academy.

Hello Everyone!

This is your February advocacy newsletter. Below, you’ll find four items ready for action and one big shout out.  Let’s act!

Back in January, the Traverse City City Commission held a strategic planning session to clarify the new board’s goals and priorities. One of those outcomes was a goal to expand and improve active transportation options. One action step agreed to is the forming of an Active Transportation Committee.

There are many forms that an Active Transportation Committee can take. Still, generally, it is an appointed committee that advises city staff and elected officials on strategic plans to boost conditions for walking, biking, public transit, and other forms of non-automobile transportation, including universal accessibility for those using wheelchairs. These committees or commissions often invite experts in the field to serve on them.

Forming an Active Transportation Committee has long been considered a missing piece to the advancement of Pro Walk/Pro Bike initiatives in Traverse City. Currently, each major street project is a last-minute hustle to adequately meet the accessibility goals stated in the City’s Master Plan. An established committee that meets every two months or when needed to review budgets, plans, and strategic documents would be a valuable addition to the planning process.

Please send encouragement to key City Staff and City Commissioners, asking them to establish an Active Transportation Committee as soon as possible. The time is now. 


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

Quick Spins

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

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

Gary Howe
Advocacy Director

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Advocacy Newsletter: Do You Whistle When You Shovel the Sidewalk?

Advocacy Newsletter, January 28, 2020

We believe that an advocate’s work starts at the front porch, includes a
nice snow shovel, and a tune you can whistle.

Hello Friends, 

I hope January is treating you well. This month’s Advocacy Newsletter has a few items to highlight from this first month of year 2020, so let’s jump in.

First, Norte Neighborhood Advocacy established an advocacy committee to assist with strategic planning, provide feedback as issues arise and on-the-street observations and perspectives from across the region. We also look to this group to fuel creativity, camaraderie, and collaboration among citizen advocates across the region. Advocating needs more merriment!

Our inaugural committee members represent the geographic reach of our growing community, from Northport around the bays to Elk Rapids and Kalkaska. Here’s a big-orange thank you to the 12 rockstars on the committee. If you see any of the following people, give them a warm Norte thanks and perhaps share your dreams for a better community.

Thank you Kelly Primo, William White, Jeanne Esch, Corrine Wetherbee, Connor Miller, Janice Beyer, Lauren Dake, Kaischa Smith, Bill Danly, Tracy Halasinski, and John Roberts. The committee is chaired by the newly elected board president, Chris Hinze.

If you have questions or suggestions, please email Chris at

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

Quick Spins

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

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

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

Gary Howe
Advocacy Director

P.S. Did you see Norte’s new color? We went Platinum as a League of American Bicyclists Bicycle Friendly Business. We join Higher Grounds and Boomerang Catapult as certified businesses in Northern Michigan. Want to join us? 


1. Take Norte’s Community Walk, Bike Survey

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

Pro Walk/Pro Bike Advocacy

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