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

 

 

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:

Getting past the myths that persist

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Bikes don’t pay taxes!”

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

Max and Miles’ Excellent Adventure: A TC Bike Story

 

Meet Max and Miles. They’re 3. And twins. And they like to rip on their balance bikes. While their older brother was in our summer bike camp, Max and Miles and mom went on an excellent bike adventure. Here’s their photo story:

 

Up the hill at the Civic Center.

 

Going over bridges is cool!

 

Going under bridges is cool too!

 

Always stop for this view. Always!

 

Front Street!

 

Max still feeling good!

 

Always stop at the donut shop. Always!

 

Decisions. Decisions.

 

Back under the bridge.

 

One more hill!

 

Going strong!

 

Hydration is key for bike adventures!

 

Aaaaaand done!


 

Want to tell your Traverse City Bike Life story? Email us hello@elgruponorte.org

 

 

Traverse City Bike Life: Clarissa Day

 

TC Bike Life is a story series featuring ordinary people doing ordinary things on their bicycles in Traverse City. Its goal is to create awareness for the growing presence of people on bicycles in our town, one story at a time.

 

Transport

by Clarissa Day

Almost every day (now that it’s warming up), I load the Transport with snacks, diapers, sunscreen, sand toys and my two year old so that we can head down “the hill” along Mt. Holiday toward the day’s adventure. Chatting about the sights along the way and soaking up the feel of the sun and wind is good for both of us. He’s learning about the world around him at a pace that allows him to fully experience the journey and I am getting the exercise I desperately need for both mental and physical health.

We would LOVE to start every day with a bike commute to Grand Traverse Academy to take my 4th and 6th graders to school, and occasionally we brave 3 mile to do so. As we pedal to town, we may stop at a playground or the library, or maybe we will swing by the grocery store for a few items… it doesn’t really matter. He’s happy to be out and about and so am I. It’s always fun to swing by the USCG base and visit daddy and the helicopters on our way home for a nap.

I am thankful for the trail networks and courteous drivers that make our adventures possible and safe. I am also thankful for “the hill” on the way home. It’s always there, right at the end of our trip waiting to be conquered. My legs are tired, my bike is heavy, my toddler is usually sleeping and yet it’s there between home and myself. But every single time….I make it. I don’t walk, I just creep along and I push up that hill! It’s a freedom and satisfaction that enables and equips me to tackle so many other things.

Being a stay-at- home mom involves several never-ending tasks. Dishes, laundry, cooking, diaper changes, cleaning… and on and on. Biking around town for errands turns a possibly mundane to do list into a healthy adventure and I love it!


 

Want to tell your Traverse City Bike Life story? Email us hello@elgruponorte.org.