Advocacy Newsletter: Does your street pass the halloween test?

Advocacy Newsletter, October 31, 2019

Greetings Community-Engaged Ghouls and Goblins,

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

The All Ages, All Abilities approach to bike facilities.


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

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

Be safe. Have fun.

Gary Howe
Advocacy Director

Sign up to have pass this newsletter delivered to your inbox or pass it on to that friend who is always talking about streets and traffic.

Pro Walk/Pro Bike Advocacy

Next Up! A Walk and Bike Network Designed for Everyone

Advocacy Newsletter, October 1, 2019
Greetings Neighbors,

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


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

Talk Soon.

Gary Howe
Advocacy Director

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

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

Pro Walk/Pro Bike Advocacy

Designing Cities for Everyone

2.5km of Toronto’s King Street was recently converted to transit priority. Transit demand drove the decision and now the street has room for on-street parklets and bike parking, and, now, transit actually works.

It’s always a welcome reminder that our little corner of the world isn’t alone in the need for transformation. Cities and towns across the world now realize that communities designed solely for driving large, motorized vehicles have cascading negative impacts for public health, wealth, and wellbeing.

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

Last month, I attended NACTO’s Designing Cities 2019 in Toronto. I’ll be processing the week of workshops, tours, keynotes, and connections for a long time. However, for a taste of the experience I’ve collected a running recap of the week from my own tweets and, those of a few of other attendees,  from #NACTO19 or #NACTO2019. I explored bike parking, intersection design, bike lanes, designing cities for children, congestion pricing, corridor planning, ethics, and more.

The right words from local elected officials.  

Toronto’s best examples of protected bike lanes could be found right outside the front door of the conference center. 

“If you design streets for kids, you design a future that will work for everyone.”

If you haven’t read Janette Sadik-Khan, you need to: Street Fight

Don’t give up on those giant intersections. We workshopped some of Toronto’s most difficult intersections. Lesson: control speeds -> save lives. 

Walkshops took us deep into the pedestrian world of Downtown Toronto. Have you walked the PATH

Where do you park 25,000 bikes? It’s easier than parking 25,000 cars, but still takes a lot of planning. 

Toronto had too much random graffiti. Solution? Treat it as public art and incentivize it where you want it. 

What about ethics? Equity? 

Not everything can be summed up in one tweet and Tuesday’s plenary is an example. It is not your normal engineering conference lineup and, yet, Desiree Williams-Rajee had attendees attention with her address that asked, “Why is equity practice an imperative for people who work in government?” Fundamental to her presentation was diving into the question: who has the power to make change? Are their people shirking their power? Are others kept from having the power? How do we limit ourselves?

Williams-Rajee gave 5 reasons why government must advance equity.

  1. Fairness and Moral Obligation: Is government serving everyone, or only the privilege few?
  2. Collective Action: Inequality inhibits development and positive change by limiting who is allowed to provide input.
  3. Resilient Design: Are those who will suffer most from challenges like climate change afforded the proper consideration they deserve?
  4. Fiscal Responsibility: Equity is a fiscal necessity. When cities are designed for everyone, outcomes of public health, wealth, and well-being see positive returns.
  5. Regulatory Responsibility: The job is to protect the public. If that responsibility is not being fully expressed, then it is time to shift the norms.

She left the room full of transportation engineers, planners, and advocates with this question: Have you shied away from your power? 

Onward. #EngageandRepresent

What’s Does a Better Bike (and Walk) Network Look Like?

On August 29, Team Orange came together for a beverage, solidarity, and to voice their desires for Traverse City’s bike and walk network. It’s an exercise many have done before. It can feel repetitive. One might even wonder, “is it useful?”

With the new 8th Street as a reminder, I’d wholeheartedly argue “yes!” Coming together, voicing desires, and clearly identifying problem spots in your community is not a one-off exercise. It’s more akin to a ritual that empowers the community and energizes the individual. It provides a consistent message to those with the power to change our community for the better. So, thank you to all those who represented and thank you in advance for the continued engagement to come!


Over two-dozen participants provided the following observations to five questions. They were also asked to mark up a bike facilities map provided by the City of Traverse City planning department.

Below, you can read the responses from August 29 and answer the same questions. All of the answers will be passed on to the City of Traverse City. If you’d like to mark up the map, we have it hanging in the Norte Wheelhouse. Stop by, say hi, and provide your comments!

Click to Embiggen

Although the advocacy happy hour was Traverse City-focused, I invite you to use this form to address concerns for any community in the Grand Traverse region. What’s needed for the bike network in Elk Rapids? Elsewhere? (To review People for Bikes better bike lanes, visit: 14-ways To Make Bike Lanes Better)

  • Review People for Bikes 14-ways to make bike lanes Better. Which are your favorite? Which are suitable for your the Grand Traverse region?


What’s Good About Traverse City’s Bike and Walk Network?

  • The push-button for light (RRFB = Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacon) to cross at Front and Elmwood
  • Hawk signals on Grandview work well and would like to see these on 31 by the Commons.
  • Trails are great.

What’s Challenging Traverse City’s Bike and Walk Network?

  • Integrating connectivity. Bike network growth with BATA bus network development.
  • It’s illegal for bikes to pass a car on the right if there’s no bike lane.
  • A lack of political will to GSD.
  • Bike lanes on every street would be an ideal system.
  • More cowbell. 🙂
  • Front St. downtown bike lane in the door zone.
  • Getting through the Filling Station area (Depot Property) on the trail. Connect the trail to the 8th St. cycle track (protected bike lane) via a “Franklin Connector.”
  • Need a Go-To bike education website that can provide: 1) Safe routes to bike 2) Bike etiquette 3) Where to ride, and 4) tips for riding after dark.

What’s One Small Idea You Have to Improve the Bike and Walk Network?

  • Really need to make all of TC streets more bike-friendly with bike lanes or sharrows. Also, signage of every road coming into town showing that TC is a bike-friendly town…Share the Road signs.
  • Mid-block crossings on State St. and Hall St.
  • Ask the police to crack down on cyclists riding on the wrong side of the street.
  • Legalize the Idaho stop
  • Petition City to place a walk/bike advocate on the traffic committee.
  • More share the road signs and give 3’ signs to inform motorists of the law. It could also be painted on the pavement.
  • Add “yield to pedestrian signage” at the TART and 4-Mile, TART-Holiday, and TART 5- Mile crossings.

What’s One Grand Idea You Have to Improve the Bike and Walk Network?

  • Infrastructure investment for crossing Munson Ave. and Grandview Parkway safely and conveniently.
  • Protected bike lanes for two north-south and two east-west routes.
  • Bike lane/bike path on the north side of E. Front St. (US-31) from the Boardman
  • River to Garfield via Peninsula Dr. Connect the waterfront to NMC campus.
  • Create clear paths to the TART from the Civic Center – both west and south from the Civic Center.
  • A separate bike path at the Civic Center from Front/Munson – Fair St. intersection to exist on Garfield. Purpose, to avoid conflict w/pedestrians.
  • Make the road by the Blue Goat (Peninsula) bike only. No right turns for cars on Munson to be a win-win for automobile and bike traffic.
  • Focus on reaching the “interested but concerned” population of bicyclists who are outside the traditional image of “bicyclists”

Are You Ready For Better Bike Lanes?

This is a response to the graphic by People for Bikes: 14-ways To Make Bike Lanes Better

Delineator Posts & Turtle Bumps

  • Prefer bike lanes that use these.
  • Yes! These seem so easy to do
  • No, delineator posts get run over.
  • What if these posts were a different color?
  • Not a fan of simple bumps to separate.

Cast in place curbs and colored bike lanes

  • Great idea if the color is maintained.
  • More separated, protected bike lanes.

Floating Parking Protected bike lanes

  • Cheap. Love these!
  • Great idea for Front St.
  • Could work!

Bike Boulevards/Neighborhood Greenways

  • Put in diverters on the cross-town bike routes and give people on bikes priority

Use of Planters

  • Nice! Yes, love these in Boulder, CO. Adds green to the scene.
  • Yes Please!

Jersey Barriers and Contra-flow

  • Really like the two-way protected bike lanes


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

Pro Walk/Pro Bike Advocacy

Grand Traverse Pro Walk/Pro Bike Update: Valentine’s Day Edition

Happy Valentine’s day! Love is certainly in the air…or is that snow???

A few important things walk/bike things to add to your radar:

1. Potential solutions that are being considered as part of the GT County Road Commission’s “E/W Corridor Study” process.
An important opportunity for public engagement on the proposed solutions is coming up next Monday, February 18th from 5 – 8pm at East Middle School. This process needs the voices of people who understand how multi-modal transportation options will to help enhance East-West mobility in the region. Please consider attending this Monday!

2. Eighth Street – Norte continues to advocate for a walkable, bikeable, safe Eighth St for all road users. A few key design elements that we’re advocating for:

– A world-class, expertly designed cycle track that crosses few (ideally zero) driveways
– Spacious sidewalks that are buffered from the cycle track
– Corner radii at intersections that promote slow vehicle speeds to enhance pedestrian safety

How you can HELP:

– Write a letter to the editor to help educate your neighbors about why a healthy Eighth Street is so vitally important to the immediate and future health of our City.
– Email the Traverse City Record-Eagle at the Northern Express at
– Email City leadership and share WHY a walkable, bikeable, safe Eighth Street is important to you.
– Email City Commissioners:
– Email the City Manager, Marty Colburn:
– Email the Planning Director, Russ Soyring:
– Send your thoughts to the Technical Design Team here:

3. Round 2 of our Advocate Academy launches next week. We’re super excited to start working with these 13 passionate Grand Traverse residents! We’re super excited to have the talented Gary Howe as lead facilitator this year along with support from Groundwork and League of Michigan Bicyclists!

4. Last, but not least, we’re stoked to convene a 5 week systems practice course with our Traverse City Safe Routes To School partners.

Thanks for supporting happy, healthy, ready to learn kids, The City of Traverse City, Traverse City Area Public Schools, Grand Traverse Area Catholic Schools, Trinity Lutheran School, Traverse Bay Area Intermediate School District and TART Trails.

And thank YOU for supporting this important work, Rotary Charities of Traverse City.

Want to help support more happy, healthy, ready to learn kids? Sign up to be a Champion at your school:




13 Grand Traverse Residents Chosen to Participate in the 2019 Pro Walk/Pro Bike Advocate Academy

Stoked to announce that these 13 awesome people have been accepted into the 2019 Grand Traverse Advocate Academy that begins next Thursday, February 21st.

After a successful first year and with generous support from the League of Michigan Bicyclists and the Groundwork Center, we’re excited to expand the Advocate Academy county-wide in 2019.

The Grand Traverse Advocate Academy is a community-driven program that empowers ordinary people to be effective leaders for policies and infrastructure that encourage walking, biking, transit use, and other forms active transportation.

The end result is an ever-growing coalition of citizen advocates engaged in community decisions in support of building stronger, better connected and more walk/bike friendly communities by empowering the young and young at heart.

Highlights of the five-week curriculum include:

  • Developing and telling your own story
  • Understanding how policy, budgets, and planning impact community
  • Honing observation skills to identify and document how spaces are used and opportunities for change
  • Choosing an issue and setting obtainable goals
  • Learning the ins-and-outs of effective communication with decision-makers, the media, and the community
  • Refining leadership skills and working as a team

The Grand Traverse Advocate Academy is an engaging, hands-on, classroom setting facilitated by experienced advocates. Sessions require active participation by participants as we explore the topics of effective community advocacy. A combination of reading, individual and team projects as well as guest speakers to connect “classroom” learning to real, current efforts occurring throughout our community.

The Grand Traverse Advocate Academy curriculum is designed to help develop both hard and soft advocate skills:

Hard skills include:
  • The science behind the public benefits of walking, biking, transit, and other public transportation
  • Ability to evaluate the built environment and current conditions related to public policy
  • Knowledge in specific policies and campaign areas, such as Complete Streets, access to transit and “Vision Zero”

Soft skills include:

  • Communications, relationships, and building trust
  • Fostering a local advocacy movement with diverse stakeholders
  • Engaging effectively with decision-makers

Thank you for your efforts to help make the Grand Traverse Region a more walkable, bikeable and rollable place for all people. Please join our advocacy group and help be part of the solution.