Home > Complete Streets, Visual Stimulus > A Social Trail With A DIY Upgrade

A Social Trail With A DIY Upgrade

Spotted Utilized: Social Trail

We often think of social trails in terms of walking, but people under any kind of self-propelling movement share the desire to take the shortest, most logical route; people on bicycles are no exception. This social trail connecting Hull Park to the Traverse City Public Library is a logical connection between the two, and it comes with its own DIY fix for crossing the tracks.

Rail crossings are restrictive as the width is often too narrow for most citizen cyclists to easily ride over. This DIY fix, the arranging of stones to create on and off ramps over the tracks, solves an otherwise aggravating situation: how do you get from the multi-use path in Hull Park to the library (and back again) with-out 1) getting off your bike; or, 2) going almost a 1/4-mile out of your way to reach Woodmere Ave.’s sidewalk or bike lane.

(Interesting to note, 1/4-mile is what planners use to gauge how far the average American will walk before choosing to drive. Pitiful, yes.)

Although this is a nice quick fix for most people, it certainly doesn’t address the problem for people in wheelchairs. Trail crossings of train-tracks, like the recently completed connector on the northwest corner of Hull Park(PDF), is a lengthy process, however, it’s something Traverse City needs to consider in areas where we expect high rates of active transportation.

NOTE: This series title was changed from Spotted: Social Trial to Utilized: Social Trail to better reflect what they are: real means of moving about the community.

  1. Richard Miller
    December 2, 2010 at 11:52 am

    Ah, what a familiar hassle. A central neighborhood resident, frequent patron of the TADL, and a regular spring, summer, fall bicyclist (sorry, winter bicycling is just not on my agenda despite awe of and appreciation for those who embrace it), I have bounced over those tracks countless times, never failing to appreciate the good souls who take the time to rebuild the rock ramps and wondering what it might take to make the link a safe, comfortable, and permanent one. Regrettably, my wondering has never progressed to the point of asking what I might to to move the question further ahead. Perhaps someone might suggest useful points of contact to constructively address this question.

  2. December 2, 2010 at 12:07 pm

    Richard, the latest connector that connects Franklin and the Boardman Trail was completed, to my understanding, through a lot of perseverance by TART Trails working with MDOT, the railway and city engineering/planning. I suspect it involved a lot of meetings, but $40,000 doesn’t seem like that much money.

    It wouldn’t hurt to contact TART to see if there are any plans underway and, if not, what someone might do to support the effort. I’ll ask about it myself as well.

  3. Richard Miller
    December 2, 2010 at 2:44 pm

    Thanks, Gary, for pushing me off “stall” on this question; I’ll stop in at the Tart office. It seems pretty obvious that there’s a missing link here, one that most likely has a “history” to it. In the meantime I’ll continue to smile at this anonymous example of quiet ingenuity each time I see (and use) it.

  4. Scott Howard
    December 2, 2010 at 3:12 pm

    Gary and Richard, the original plan was for the TART to cross the railway just to the north of the library near the children’s garden. That plan had the support of TART and the City, but MDOT would not give permission to create a new crossing of the railway at that location. The connector at Franklin was the best available alternative (and was acceptable to MDOT because the crossing already existed). I too am frustrated every time my children and I have to park our bikes and walk across the tracks, and a crossing near the social trail makes lots of sense. In my view, however, the key obstical to fixing this social trail is MDOT and not TART or the City. Until we can get them on board (excuse the pun), it will be difficult to fix this one.

  5. Richard Miller
    December 3, 2010 at 9:00 am

    I have since been told that the railroad, seeing the issue through the cloudy lenses of its early 20th cent. glasses, refuses to allow improved crossing of its right-of-way for legal reasons. Dying dinosaurs still carry a lot of weight.

  6. December 3, 2010 at 1:43 pm

    Building onto Scott’s comments, an alternative connection was developed for folk on two-wheels (or 4 if you’re biking with your kid’s trailer attached). As mentioned, MDOT wasn’t enthused about the crossing noted by Richard, so, instead, let TART build a connection from the sailing center, over the tracks, to the TART trail that goes in front of the library. Through an Access to Recreation grant from the Community Foundation, we worked with several partners to create a trail connection that ties together the TART and Boardman Lake trail systems. Granted, it’s not as direct, but it provides an important accessible connection across the tracks. We’ve put up signage to help folks better navigate through the area.

    Wayfing of Boardman Lake Trail

  7. December 3, 2010 at 2:07 pm

    Thank you, Julie.

    I’m still curious as to the reasoning to why this location won’t work. Not that MDOT doesn’t approve, but the actually reasoning and if there is anything backing it up besides a passage in a guide book.

    No biggie. Jumping tracks can be a fun challenge on the way home from the market.

  8. aastricker
    December 11, 2010 at 8:43 pm

    I, for one, greatly appreciate these improvements. Last summer I attempted to “jump” those tracks. This resulted in both torn pants and skin. Plus the damage to my ego upon realizing I am far to old to be jumping tracks.

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