Archive for August, 2011

Railroad Crossings Get Needed Improvements

August 31, 2011 1 comment

Go Team!

Last week, Traverse City public works tackled some treacherous railroad crossings in North Traverse Heights with some major improvements.  I couldn’t locate a before shot of the above section of Grant St., but as some of you might attest to, it was tough for anyone to cross and I imagine almost impossible for someone motoring around in a wheelchair. The pavement was jagged-upward and the gaps between the rail were cavernous.

Above they are inserting the truncated-dome mat, technically a detectable warning surface, that provides a warning for the visually impaired. A small step towards universal accessibility and better connected Traverse City.

Kudos to the public works department. Go team! 

* The other improvement was near Garfield Ave. 

The County Parks and Recreation Commission has Openings

August 31, 2011 Leave a comment

Engage and Represent

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned a few open seats on various city commissions, including two seats on the city’s parks and recreation commission on which I serve. As far as I know, there remains spots open on the parks and recreation commission so do consider throwing your hat in the running. We have a meeting Thursday night if you want to check out what we do…agenda & packet is below (fullscreen).

Recently, I received the following email from Jason Jones, the superintendent of the Grand Traverse County Parks and Recreation, requesting an announcement to encourage people to seek seats at the county level as well. Fair enough, I’ll let him do it.

Here is his pitch, show him some love:


I noticed in your blog a couple of weeks ago you talked about openings for local Committees and Commissions, with a small mention of the County, how ’bout a little more love for the County Parks and Recreation Commission? Below I have some text you should be able to simply cut and paste into your blog for the two positions we will have opening up in January.

Grand Traverse County Parks and Recreation Commission is seeking applicants for two seats on the Parks and Recreation Commission

Our Commission is a 10 member policy making board that oversees 13 properties and facilities including the Civic Center, Easling Pool, Twin Lakes, and Power Island. The Commission meets on the third Thursday of the month at 6 pm at the Government Center for approximately 2-4 hours. There are approximately 2-3 special meetings per year on a variety of topics. The Parks and Recreation Commission (PRC) appointments are made by the Grand Traverse County Board of Commissioners, and will take office in January 2012 (one seat may be open earlier).

Under its most recent leadership, the PRC has taken a more pro-active stance to “enhance community and quality of life through people, parks and programs.” The PRC sets a Strategic Plan for staff, adopts policies and provides direction to ensure broad reaching goals are achieved.

Additional information, including the link to the application can be found at the County Website.



Thank you for leading, Jason.

Traverse City’s Parks and Recreation Packet • Meeting is Thursday night at 6:30 PM

How Does Changing the Context of a Street Change Your Behavior?

August 30, 2011 1 comment

What streets in your community does the image below remind you of?

After you click play, watch as the scene is re-envisioned with overlays showing different designs.   As you watch, ask yourself how your behavior and interaction in the place would change depending on the scene.

  • If you were driving a car here, what are the likely impacts on the experience?
  • In which image would you be more inclined to ride a bicycle? Walk? Expect to find a bus stop?
  • Or, in which image are you more likely to sit on a bench and people watch?
  • In what scene is that great retail idea you’ve been kicking around more likely to succeed?

Any other scenarios you can think of that might change?

What might happen in Grand Traverse if we change the scene along Division, 14th, Garfield, 8th, Front, Cass, Barlow, South Airport, Munson, Grandview…


* Images courtesy of traffic engineer Ian Lockwood who shared these or similar ones in a presentation to the Traverse City City Commission in 2010. Thanks Ian…good luck on the book!

“Mobi to the Beach” Celebration at 3PM Today

August 30, 2011 1 comment


Perhaps you’ve already seen it, but the ceremony for the installation is this afternoon.

Monday Morning Rant: Is Defining Fault or Finding Solutions Our Goal?

August 29, 2011 13 comments

Monday Morning Rant

A point not discussed at last week’s presentation & discussion about rules of the road for cyclists was the lack of education and perspective amongst law enforcement. The local media outlets were sure to print that “most crashes were caused by bicyclists” without challenging the presumptions by local officers or the magistrate. Solely from the briefs in the packet last week I saw two handfuls worth of cases that are deserving of at the least an eyebrow raise. As one reader commented in an email:

Took a glance at the report. Too many bikes riding into sides of cars stopped at intersections or driveways. Cyclist always at fault.” How does that happen?

In my experience, and the reader’s, those cases are typically caused by drivers not knowing they needed to stop behind the sidewalk and be certain the crosswalk is clear before proceeding. And, why would they? Many intersections lack the design to encourage them to do so and many of them come complete with blind spots that may actually encourage them into dangerous behavior. That said, more people on bicycles need to not ride on the sidewalks (despite poor design that encourages them to do so…). It is statistically far more dangerous as the majority of conflicts occur at intersections and driveways; riding on the sidewalk naturally decreases your visibility.

Back to the police reports: there needs to be more scrutiny. Ideally, this occurs internally, but externally assistance may need to be considered. There are too many questionable cases.

We’ve covered one of the incidents here and the first person account is drastically different from the police report. Earlier in the summer, the Northern Express made some heads turn with an account of what many feel to be an unjust ticket to a bicyclist who was legally taking his lane. And, I recently spoke with a rider involved in a reported crash along State St. She described an asinine situation where she was deemed at fault for not stopping because she did not have both feet “firmly” on the ground. I haven’t seen that in the Michigan Vehicle Code as the definition for a stop, so it appears the officer determined it on his own. To top it off, he ended with a parting shot, “perhaps you should drive a car.

Let me say that again, the officer actually said, “perhaps you should drive a car.

I’ve heard that phrase from an officer before and it is infuriating. In this situation, after someone has been in a crash with a two-ton machine, it is insulting. What kind of response is that from a public servant? To create a place where active transportation is inviting and encouraged, we will need to do better as a community.

Despite the tone last week that enforcement is some sort of panacea for reducing conflicts, it remains a reactionary focus. Often coming in after the fact and often with questionable responses. I actually liked Mayor Pro-tem Ralph Sofferdine’s suggestion that bicyclists who get tickets be given a choice between paying the fine or taking a traffic safety class for substantially less cost, but bigger preventive payoff.

However, we need to be certain that the police force also knows the rules and, given the broad interpretation afforded them, do so in a way that aims to protect the most vulnerable uses of the roadway. It would be a wrong path to take if the direction is out of some motive for equal justice when we should know by now that many of our problem areas have more to do with poor design that naturally creates dangerous behavior. Currently, I’m less concerned about who is at fault, than I am about an incomplete transportation network that ignores the basic fact that people will be there.

People will be there, design for them. More on that to come….


Below, last week’s presentation on Bicycle Rules prepared and presented by City Planner Russ Soyring and Lee Maynard of TART Trails. 

Expecting People To Pedal Into Your Town

August 29, 2011 Leave a comment

Well Put

Just breezed into Madison…

… almost as if they were expecting people to arrive on bikes.

~ Text message from Bob Otwell


How are the edges of your community?

What transportation modes are invited with open arms?


* Follow this link to read about Laura and Bob’s Continental Cruise

Say Something Nice, Public Pumps, Free Rivers, Healthy Kids (The Weekly Chatter)

August 27, 2011 1 comment

I spent a little time at the Michigan Environmental Council‘s roadshow public meeting this week and came away with a nice perspective by MEC president Chris Kolb that reflects a much needed approach to civic projects: We’d rather not say no to proposals, rather, we prefer working together and making something better.

Collaborative governance and a collaborative community engaged in a shared vision are not separable. One feeds the other.

Weekly Chatter

“We understand there’s some sentimental value involved, too. We understand that some people prefer an impoundment and some prefer a river.”

“Children who bike or walk to school are also more likely to be alert and engaged in classwork throughout the day than kids who are driven. According to studies published by the University of Illinois, fitter kids performed better on standardized tests and had more developed areas of the brain that control attention span and complex memory.”

“Other long-term, cost-saving strategies also exist for local governments. Examples: stop extending or improving roads for strip development. Focus on downtowns and neighborhood centers. Shift zoning to encourage mixed use instead of separated residential and commercial areas. And repeal sprawl inducements like minimum parking requirements for stores or apartment complexes.”


  • RT Velocentric: Tomorrow, I go bike shopping.
  • RT egconley: Road tripping again: the further you go, the closer you are.
  • RT bicyclism: People who insist on traveling to their local gymnasium by car don’t even have the language to comprehend the concept of irony
  • RT tinybuddha: “Change is not a process for the impatient.” ~Barbara Reinhold
  • RT duncanpaisley: “Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.”~ Steve Jobs

To Wrap

Say Something Nice by Improve Everywhere
You might not even need a blow-horn to collaborate with this one. Experiment. Be nice.

Attention to Details in Construction Zones Make a Big Difference

August 26, 2011 1 comment

Go Team!

The current Traverse City Light & Power construction phase (TCLP) at Bay and Division St. is going to make travel through this area difficult for a few more weeks. They are burying the power lines along this stretch. This is a busy intersection for all modes of traffic and from the construction earlier this year we know pedestrians are often ill-considered. The intersection is dangerous by design on a good day, so when construction takes place it is critical to follow the standards that are clear. For example:

Michigan MUTCD Part 6  Section 6D.01: The needs and control of all road users (motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians within the highway, including  persons with disabilities…) through a temporary traffic control zone shall be an essential part of highway  construction, utility work, maintenance operations, and the management of traffic incidents.

Over a week ago when the project began, there appeared to be no consideration given. In the before shot above, looking north to cross Bay St., you see the crosswalk leading into the orange fencing right up to Division St. According to the photographer, Brian Haas, it left approximately a 1-foot gap to squeeze through from Division St. and motorized traffic. An uncomfortable situation for him traveling with his young daughter made worse because the actual construction hadn’t even began yet.

Instead of contacting the city engineering office, Brian Haas and I contacted TCLP via board chairperson Mike Coco (who is a strong supporter of complete streets) who in turn contacted the executive director Ed Rice. The reply was simple, affirmative and pro-active; we will take care of it. 

Mr. Haas,

I will follow-up today on this issue and ensure that all users of the Division/Parkway intersection are afforded proper consideration and access to transportation pathways during the period of TC Light & Power construction.

Ed Rice

Excellent response.

This week, after some periods where the complete area was shut-down for an understandable period, the construction zone crosswalk was set up to clearly separate pedestrians from traffic on Division and the construction on Bay St. In the image above looking south you can see there is now a clearly marked and inviting area for pedestrians to access the crossings of Division and Grandview. According to Coco, there will be times when this will be closed but only when construction is directly taking place underneath or near this area. The TART Trail running parallel to Bay St. remains open.

I’d just like to say thank you to TCLP for responding and showing the leadership to follow through and improve the situation. Nice job. Go team!

Graphic Friday: Considering Peak Auto

August 26, 2011 1 comment

Graphic Friday

A look at peak auto use by On the Economy

“…if it goes on long enough, cyclical morphs into structural.”

Also, Why are Americans driving less? (WaPO)

Bicycle Parking Evaluations: Huntington Bank Steps It Up

August 25, 2011 7 comments

Park It

Yesterday I pulled up to the Huntington Bank on West Front Street and was pleasantly surprised to find a bike rack. About 3 months ago, at the Munson Ave. branch, I had raised the issue of no bicycle parking to one of the tellers. She was instantly supportive and said she’d look up who is in charge of something like that for Traverse City. Not exactly certain it is connected, but it is still appreciated to see some response on the ground so quickly.

Evaluation: Good

As far as the evaluation, I say 3 points, for a “good” rating is fair considering the cheap, unsecured grill rack (0-pts) and the pronounced location next to the ATM and only a few feet from the entrance (total of 3-pts).

You may notice that The Haul is parked on the outside end of the rack. This is because one consistent problem with grill racks is that many tires don’t actually fit in the slots or in the base area. As well, on thinner wheels it may even bend the rims. In addition, if other bicycles are parked there  it can be a real hassle getting in and out. But, this is certainly a huge improvement from what was here before–nothing.  Say “thank you” if this happens to be your bank.


Evaluate for yourself

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