Archive for August 9, 2010

There’s nothing special about basic mobility needs

August 9, 2010 Leave a comment

Monday’s Quote

This has more impact coming from the author’s own voice.

(sorry about quality, still processing)

Richard Devylder is U.S. Department of Transportation’s new Senior Advisor for Accessible Transportation and this was pulled from his comments (posted on YouTube) at the 20th anniversary celebration of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

That this voice, advocating that all modes and accessibility issues are equal and that all users deserve a “plan” and for their “functional needs” be met, is being heard at the top of the transportation food chain is a hopeful sign.

Locally, the crew at the Northern Michigan Disability Network is working on many of this same issues and is an enthusiastic partner with the complete streets initiatives.


Is Traverse City ready to move beyond sidewalks?

August 9, 2010 4 comments

Monday’s Rant

The planning commission last week approved the 2011 street projects & confirmed that they were ‘consistent‘ with the master plan (Agenda/Packet PDF). None of the projects are proposing expansive changes, but Barlow St. & Kelly St. will each get a sidewalk, on one lucky, selective side each.

Why not do something special on Barlow St. N.? The intersection at Washington St., a heavily trafficked bike and walking route, is an excellent place to experiment with rain garden bulb-outs, like those found in Portland, OR. It not only would lessen impact on our stormwater system, bulb-outs both reduce vehicle speeds & reduce crossing distances for pedestrians. Photos: Top Gary L Howe/Bottom: Portland BES.

Elsewhere, Elmwood Ave. will likely be narrowed, have an entrance change & get a sidewalk where there isn’t one between Wayne St. and Bay St. Other streets will have tweaks. Nothing to be mad about; most of it fine. Nothing great.

The city, and I mean this here in terms of citizenry, just isn’t ready for leading edge traffic calming measures, like those presented by Ian Lockwood. I could be wrong, as none were proposed for 2011 and next year may be different, but the complaints by neighbors on Elmwood Ave. about the installation of a sidewalk from Wayne St. to Bay St. was revealing. There is a lack of public willingness to pull back and take broad, long-term views of city projects; to see the network beyond our own front lawns. It’s not everyone who feels this way, but the naysayers do show-up at a lot of meetings.

The YIMBYS tend not to show-up (hint).

Why sidewalks

The public right-of-ways are dominated by our desire to drive cars. Fine, I get it; drive on. However, a non-motorized network is just as important, arguably more important, than the motorized network.

Improvements like sidewalks, in a car dominated world, add value to our neighborhoods and do so beyond basic mobility. Home values increase with sidewalks, and, more importantly, chances for positive social interaction increase. When we value infrastructure for cars over everything else, those chances decrease.

Preserve or improve?

N. Barlow: 36 feet of right-of-way & still no sidewalk planned for 2011. Photo; Gary L Howe

Planning commission chair, Fred Wilmeth our role is to preserve the character of these neighborhoods as they exists now.” At first, it sounded fine but really it’s only half of the equation.

Sure, preserve the link to historical place, but I see the role of the planning commission to be advocating for continual improvements that allow Traverse City to become a remarkable city. Keep the character, while improving the public space. We didn’t hit a crescendo in the 1950’s and set on a course of ‘preserving‘ it. It’s a process and part of a city’s resilience is the ability to improve on its strengths and adopt new ideas where needed. We need to get beyond debating about sidewalks.

We’re blessed with an advantageous framework, better than most cities, and we’re entering a period where little T.C. can, with a dose of innovation and inexpensive design measures, be a place that attracts young, vibrant people. We may pull off the impossible and at once be a small, rural community while still expressing some of the advantages of denser, more urban centers.

Side note

It’s good news to have the State of Michigan join 13 other states in signing into law complete streets legislation. It’s not a perfect law, but it goes a long way in advancing what to many is common sense: building streets for more than one single use. If we are to view street projects as investments, than it’d be best that we start making more sound, long-term investments that build the city that we want. It’s my understanding that most of the city residents want a city made for people, not cars. We need to speak-up if that is going to happen.

After you look through the street projects for 2011 (PDF) email city planner Russ Soyring in support and with your own ideas. As the city manager said, “the sooner the better.” The projects were passed by the planning commission and they will be engineered and designed this fall. The sooner you get your comments into the city, the more likely they will be heard.  email:

  • Are you ready to move beyond sidewalks?
  • What ideas do you support or have?


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