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.

QUICK SPINS 

  • 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
  @NorteGary 
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

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 Gary@elgruponorte.org 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 citycommissioners@traversecitymi.gov

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.

Sidewalks

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!

QUICK SPINS – THREE ACTIONS TO HELP OTHERS

  • 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
  @NorteGary 
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

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

The 2020 Advocate Academy Graduates

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Organize Your Advocacy

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

– Julia Johnson

HANDS-ON LEARNING

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

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

CRAFTING THE MESSAGE

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

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

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

-Kate Hofmann, team Safe Passage

What’s your heroic tale?

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

 

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

 

SPECIAL THANK YOU 

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

 

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.

 

QUICK SPINS (GOOD READS)

  • 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
  @NorteGary 
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

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 gary@elgruponorte.org.

 


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 www.taar.com 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.

Hello,

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.

DOUBLING YOUR EFFORT TOWARDS…

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?

QUICK SPINS (GOOD READS)

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
  @NorteGary 
Advocacy Director

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

Pro Walk/Pro Bike Advocacy

The Wearing of Cloth Masks/Norte Buffs During this Pandemic

We recommend the fold and hook method for a Norte Buff as a mask.

 

CDC RECOMMENDATION AND NEW EXECUTIVE ORDER  

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention now recommends “wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies) especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.” And, effective April 26 at 11:59 PM, section 15 (a) and (b) of Executive Order No. 2020-59 require that “Any individual able to medically tolerate a face covering must wear a covering over his or her nose and mouth…AND, (b) All businesses and operations whose workers perform in-person work must, at a minimum, provide non-medical grade face coverings to their workers.”

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

  • Continue to stay home except for essential travel. 
  • 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. 
  • There is a critical mask shortage, so please save the medical-grade masks for professionals and those who are symptomatic. 

 

Covering your mouth and nose with a mask, scarf, or buff is a reasonable response to the unprecedented time for the community. Masks help slow the spread of the virus, and with the new CDC recommendation, we expect masks to be an increasingly 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 contract and spread the virus. Some people will be required to wear a mask while others will choose to wear them for their comfort. 

 

If you wear a Norte Buff or Norte Mask, please follow the proper guidelines. Once it is on, don’t touch it and wash your hands and the mask after you’re done. 

Be respectful and kind. We are in this together. Wash your hands.

 

NOTE: Norte Buffs are not medical-grade face masks and are not intended as effective measures to prevent disease, illness, or the spread of viruses. They are simply a light-weight cloth mask that can be worn in many different ways, including covering the entire front of the face, including the nose, mouth, chin, and neck.

 

Norte’s online store is open

 

 

Learn More

 


Stay Home. Stay Safe. Stay Active, Responsibly

When you do have to leave home, please follow these preventive measures for viruses like COVID-19, influenza, and the common cold recommended by public health officials.

  • Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for 20 seconds. If not unavailable, use hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or upper sleeve when coughing or sneezing.
  • Avoid contact with people who are sick.
  • If you are sick, stay home and avoid contact with others.
  • Stay at least six feet away from others when in a public setting.
  • Replace handshakes and high-fives with a friendly wave from 6 feet away.

Visit the Michigan.gov/Coronavirus for the latest statewide

updates and 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.

Hello,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quick Spins (FROM THE WEB)

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

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

Stay home. Stay safe. Stay active, responsibly.

Gary Howe
  @NorteGary 
Advocacy Director

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

Pro Walk/Pro Bike Advocacy

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

Advocacy Newsletter, February 25, 2020

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

Hello Everyone!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quick Spins

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

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

Gary Howe
  @NorteGary 
Advocacy Director

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

Pro Walk/Pro Bike Advocacy

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

Advocacy Newsletter, January 28, 2020

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

Hello Friends, 

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

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

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

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

If you have questions or suggestions, please email Chris at chris@elgruponorte.org.

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

Quick Spins

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

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

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

Gary Howe
Advocacy Director
  @NorteGary 

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

TWO HELPFUL EXTRAS

1. Take Norte’s Community Walk, Bike Survey


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

Pro Walk/Pro Bike Advocacy

Bike Life: Are You Winter Biking with Matt?

 

Winter Bike to Work & School Day!

Friday, February 14

 

Meet Matt Jones 

Great Lakes Maritime Academy student, Matt Jones, travels from south of Hammond Rd. to the Great Lakes Academy for his bike commute. It’s one of the longer winter bike commutes you’re going to find, not to mention one of the more potentially harry routes. Matt does it with an unflappable grin and preparedness you’d expect from a coastie. We sat down with him to hear what brought him to Traverse City and about his attraction to winter biking.

 

Q: You’re relatively new to the area. What brings you to the Grand Traverse region? Where’d you move from?

I came to Traverse City in June of 2018 by means of utilizing my veterans’ educational benefits to attend Great Lakes Maritime Academy. I ended my active duty service in the Coast Guard that June in Coos Bay, Oregon and moved across the country for the third time. I am originally from a town south of San Diego, California where I spent the first 25 years of my life.

 

Q: San Diego to northern Michigan winters. That’s a big jump, no?

Yes, a leap indeed! Although I would say that as much as people think it’s cool that the weather is great all the time in SoCal, to me it can get kind of boring because with so many nice days out you tend to waste them. Here, however, you jump at the chance to enjoy a sunny 20-degree day. I genuinely love having four seasons and getting to experience them after growing up in pretty much a one season climate. I genuinely love shoveling snow in my shorts.

 

Q: What motivates you to be out here on the bike year-round? Do you bike mainly as part of your commute? What other times do you winter bike?

This is a great question. First, I would say if it was not for the advent of fat bikes I probably would have difficulty getting around on my bike in the winter. Second, commuting-wise, getting around on my bike has been an off and on thing I have done for over 10 years. When I joined the Coast Guard it became too burdensome at times – depending on the unit type and location to get to work (by bike).  Still, I tried to when I could. Outside of my time spent in the military, sometimes it was by necessity and others like it is now – it is just a better use of my time. I have commuted by bike in five states all with different climates and unique challenges.

Lastly, aside from commuting via bike in the winter, I do try to hit up the VASA winter singletrack. As a side note, I had to tone down my urge to pedal the metal after I hit a tree in August this last year that laid me out for a minute. I road bike heavily, however, since the tree incident I sold my road bike to help my wife and I purchase a home in town. My fat bike is now my year-round go-to bike.

 

 

Q: How many years have you been out winter biking?

This is my second winter in Michigan biking. I’ve biked other winters in Oregon and California, but let’s be honest those winter commutes are a joke compared to riding here; a joke that most think I’m joking when I say I get around on my bike here in Michigan.

 

Q: Does the Maritime Academy have facilities you can use to store your bike? Change your clothes?

Yes to both. There is a bike rack here and if I had bike issues I could utilize an indoor shop space to remedy them. As for lockers, there are day-use lockers. I have unofficially commandeered one to keep my uniform items here at school. If I did not have to wear a uniform I would have no need for a locker, but these spaces, in general, are good to wipe the sweat off your brow. On the main campus of Northwestern Michigan College, I sit in class in my riding gear as I am not required to be in uniform there.

 

Q: By the looks of your rig, you’re certainly prepared. What’s different on your bike in the winter? What about your gear?

I appreciate your noticing my schwag. In the winter its more about what is on me than what is on my bike, however, I do make a few adjustments to my bike for the winter commute. Pertaining to my bike, fenders are a winter addition on my bike. The fenders do a half-decent job of protecting me from the resultant brine-slush that happens from melted snow and when the temperatures are just right after it snows to thaw. I somewhat loathe the commercially available fenders for fat bikes because they are 1) not aesthetic to one’s bike and 2) I still get that brine all over my back. I plan to custom fabricate something to provide better protection for me and my bike.

Aside from fenders, I lower my pressure in my tires to provide better traction. Other than that, my bike is set up as it would be in the summer. Good lights are an investment anyone who wants to commute on a bike should make for safety in low light conditions but especially in daylight because let’s be honest, the drivers are a little distracted out there.

Now on what I wear/use gear-wise for my bike, I recently just made a load adjustment with the new addition of a basket rack on my front fork. I did this because wearing a twenty-pound backpack for six miles takes it out of you real quick in the cooler temps. When I lived three miles from school it was not that big of a deal, but the long commute rapidly declines comfort if I still wore the heavy bag. Because of brine I mentioned, I use a water-resistant cover over my bag to protect it and then secure it in my basket.

Everyone is a bit different from the amount of heat they generate but for me all I wear most of the time it is a wicking layer and my softshell jacket. I wear triathlon shorts and long underwear, and then a pair of chinos of all things over that because they are stretchy. On my feet are a pair of insulated waterproof boots and gaiters. The gaiters have proven to be a favorite part of my gear because they protect my legs from the brine that gets thrown up by the bike. I have a few pair of gloves depending on the temperature outside, and the same for my head. I have a regular mountain bike helmet that I use most of the time and use a helmet-specific beanie, and on the cold brutal days I will bust out my snowboarding helmet for added warmth. I do wear goggles as needed but most of the time I go without eye-wear. Lastly, a good neck cowl is a cold-weather rider’s best friend.

 

Q: Any tips for Norte readers who might be interested?

Geez, where do I start? I would say winter biking isn’t as difficult as people might think. In my case, it can be a little dicey, but that is only because I live just outside of town. For those that live in town, the infrastructure is there to capitalize on being able to get around town. I have fallen on icy surfaces, but this has always been surprisingly in parking lots or not the main road. And speaking of ice, the colder icy-er days of winter are more desirable to me than those where it is just a briny slush-fest. You do not need bike specific gear to get out there. Because Traverse City has a vibrant culture of active people, in their closets right now they probably have 75% of the gear they need to be comfortable riding a bike in the winter.

Be defensive but not offensive on your bike. What I mean is, be nice on your bike and do not do anything to add to those drivers who already despise you being on the roadway. Be seen, be heard, and have fun! In my mind, this helps drivers and other roadway users respect those of us on a bike. I can tell you how considerate drivers are by how close they pass by me. Speaking to that I have had plenty of people pass me too close with their vehicle with bike racks on them, and each time still amazes me.

 

Q: Anything to add?

There is always something to add, but if anyone is interested in something I did not cover they can reach out to me and I would be happy to help as best I can.

 

For more winter bike tips:

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

Advocacy Newsletter, December 5, 2019

Hello fellow citizens,

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

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

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

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

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

QUICK SHOUTS

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

Do you have some extra energy for moving some snow? Burn off some calories through Norte’s Great Shovel Experiment and/or with one of our community partners, BATA. The transit service needs volunteers for its Adopt-a-Stop Program.

Be safe. Have fun. Advocate for all things great.

Gary Howe
Advocacy Director
  @NorteGary 


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

Pro Walk/Pro Bike Advocacy

Exploring the streets for opportunities and delights

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* The above quotes are from anonymous student evaluations 

 

 

Are you thinking about winter cycling?


NOTHING CAN STOP YOU!

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

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

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

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

PRO TIPS

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

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

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

Mike’s Winter Commuting 101

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

WHO’S IN?

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

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

TC Rides to See The Lights

 


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