A Better Barlow Street. Not a Wider, Faster, More Dangerous Barlow Street.

Things shoulders are for:

  1. Piggy back rides
  2. Standing on (only if they belong to a giant)
  3. Hanging a purse or messenger bag

Things shoulders are NOT for:

  1. Walking on in an urban context

In December, the Ticker reported plans for an estimated half-million dollar Barlow St. resurfacing project that includes “a paved shoulder that is wide enough for walkers and bikers and so forth,” according to Garfield Township supervisor Chuck Korn. To date, actual pedestrian safety features such as sidewalks, marked crosswalks and street lighting have not been mentioned publicly in plans for Barlow St.

For people who spend the majority of their transportation-related time behind the wheel of a motor vehicle, walking on a road shoulder may seem like a perfectly good idea. However, for those of us who occasionally or frequently have to walk on them know perfectly well that even the most accommodating road shoulders are no place for people on foot.

Road spray from cars and trucks, loose gravel that makes footing unsteady and speeding vehicles with drivers glancing down at their phones are the norm, not the exceptional shoulder walking experience. A recent Record Eagle piece further highlights how walking on the road shoulder, especially in winter months (at least 1/3 of the year in Traverse City) can be especially frightening and dangerous.

A wider Barlow St. design runs contrary to traffic calming principles that call for more narrow street widths to reduce vehicle speed and improve safety for people on foot and bike. This is important because a 2013 study tells us when vehicles and pedestrians collide, the speed of impact is directly associated with both pedestrian injury severity and death.

For example, in a car-ped crash with an impact speed of 20 mph, a pedestrian’s risk for severe injury is < 15% and risk of death hovers around 5%. However, when speeds increase to 35 mph, 1 in 3 pedestrians will be killed and risk for severe injury skyrockets to > 50%.

Barlow St. already has a speed problem. From South Airport to Premier Street, posted speeds are 45 mph. This portion of the corridor includes vital destinations like the Post Office and Secretary of State, as well as a quiet residential neighborhood directly adjacent to Barlow to it’s East. Posted speed then drops to 35 mph alongside the Town and Country neighborhood north to the City limits. There, mercifully, the posted speed finally drops to 25 mph.

Barlow St. in Garfield Twp. looking south near Premier St.

Garfield Township’s DRAFT Master Plan correctly identifies the Lafranier/Barlow corridor as (st)roads “which serve dense urban areas but lack adequate pedestrian facilities.” (page 17) The Corridor Planning section of the DRAFT Master Plan also mentions that, because of Barlow’s proximity to “walkable” employment in Traverse City and Garfield Township, “encouraging affordable housing should be a priority.”

The DRAFT goes on to note that the corridor has “high pedestrian demand but minimal pedestrian facilities” and that “Because of the built environment, separated sidewalks may be difficult to construct, but should be required wherever feasible. In the absence of sidewalks, designated bike lanes could accommodate both pedestrians and cyclists.” (page 38)

“Difficult to construct.” Difficult…but not impossible.

Sometimes the difficult decision, the more expensive decision, even the unpopular decision – is the right decision. But that’s leadership – making the difficult decisions. Yes, constructing sidewalks and crosswalks, adding lighting, striping a bike lane (or if we’re going to get crazy – adding a protected bike lane) is going to cost money. A lot of money.

But as a community, what do we value? Do we value our health and well-being? Because walkable infrastructure helps to improve that. Do we value our ability to walk down the street without being killed or injured? Because walkable infrastructure helps that, too.

We hope Garfield Township, in partnership with The City of Traverse City and the Grand Traverse County Road Commission decides that the health, well-being and safety of our community is of greater importance than a smoother, wider, faster Barlow St.

Thank you for reading. If you made it this far, maybe you agree that Barlow St. (and many other (st)roads in our community desperately need to be made more walk/bike/rollable for all people of all ages and abilities. If you agree, we need your help.


Call to action:

Leaders in Garfield, TC and the GT County Road Commission need to continue to hear from their constituents who value walk/bike/rollable community design. Please take the opportunity, this week, to share your thoughts specifically on Barlow St.

The ASK:

Barlow St. needs to be better.

Barlow St. needs a complete approach along it’s entire length.

Both TC and Garfield Twp. leaders, as well as the Grand Traverse County Road Commission, need to be contacted and encouraged to work together to get this done.

  • Barlow needs sidewalks. Wider shoulders will likely make Barlow St. less safe for people walking. 
  • Barlow needs marked and safer crosswalks.
  • Barlow needs proper lighting.
  • Barlow needs improved bike lanes.
  • Barlow traffic needs to be slower. Posted speed limits on Barlow are excessive. 45 mph from S. Airport to Premier and 35 mph from Premier to Boon is simply unacceptable for a residential area.

Please consider contacting TC, Garfield and GTCRC leaders with your thoughts on a Barlow St. that serves all users. We can’t wait for an another death or serious injury. The time is now.

Garfield Township contacts (Supervisor, Trustees, Planning Director): ckorn@garfield-twp.com, lmcmanus@garfield-twp.com, jblood@garfield-twp.com, molly@mollyago.com, sjdenterprisestc@gmail.com, sjdenterprisestc@gmail.com, deeschmuckal@hotmail.com, dan@gtdieselservice.com, rlarrea@garfield-twp.com

Traverse City contacts (City Commission, City Manager, City Planner): CityCommissioners@traversecitymi.gov, mcolburn@traversecitymi.gov, rsoyring@traversecitymi.gov

GT Country Road Commission contacts: Board: cbrown@gtcrc.org, jgillman@gtcrc.org, amarek@gtcrc.org, mmckellar@gtcrc.org, wmouser@gtcrc.org

Manager – Jim Cook: jcook@gtcrc.org

County Highway Engineer – Jim Johnson jjohnson@gtcrc.org

A few suggestions:

  • Our elected leaders and City/Township/Road Commission staff have an extremely difficult job and are, without a doubt, doing what they believe is best for their community with the resources that they have. Please take the time to sincerely thank them for the work they do on our behalf.
  • How has the lack of safe walk/bike infrastructure impacted you, your family, your neighbors? Our leaders need to hear the stories of how an unsafe Barlow St. is impacting area residents.

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 grupo and help be part of the solution.


Bike Night at Lars Hockstad: A Safe Routes To School fundraiser


Ride your bike down to Central Grade School with the fam, park in our valet, eat some pizza, watch Up and help raise money for happy, healthy, ready to learn kids across Traverse City..

We’re thrilled to partner with the generous Central Grade School PTO to host the first ever bike night at the Lars Hockstad theater this Friday, May 12th.

Doors at 6. Movie at 6:30.

Donations will be accepted to support our Traverse City wide Safe Routes To School initiative that is empowering, educating and encouraging students to actively get themselves to school.

Thank you to our Bike Night sponsors for supporting happy, healthy, ready-to-learn kids in Traverse City:


Traverse City to attempt new Bike To School Day record

El Grupo Norte

One small ride for your school, one giant ride for your City.

Next Wednesday, May 10th, just might be the most awesome day of kids on bikes in TC history. Traverse City Bikes To School Day is a community-wide, multi-school celebration of National Bike To School Day and we’re ALL in.

In addition to inspiring and empowering more elementary and middle school students to actively transport themselves to class via bicycle than ever before (the previous City-wide record is 635), we will also crown The Most Bike-tastic Traverse City School with a little friendly competition.

bike to school day 2017

Eastern won last year? Can the Stars defend their title (biking to bus to Bertha Vos totally counts)?

Plus we’ll have all sorts of crazy FUN! Prizes and high fives, too, of course.

Here’s How It Works:

1. Commit to ride your bike to school on Wednesday, May 10th. Once you commit, you’re promising to bike on the big day. Pinky swear.


2. Tell your friends, teacher, principal and lunch lady about Traverse City Bikes To School Day and have them commit, too. Yay, lunch ladies on bikes!

3. Don’t forget, to commit and help your school win The Most Bike-tastic Traverse City School award. This is a big deal and we’re taking it very, very seriously. We’re going to use some math, actually.

# of pedaling students and staff ÷
# of total students and staff at school
x 100 =
Your School’s Bike-tastic-ness number

Highest Bike-tastic-ness number wins bragging rights for the entire year and probably a sweet trophy to show off, too.

4. On Wednesday, May 10th, hop on your bike and pedal to school with some friends or join one of our many Bike Trains and pedal with A LOT of friends.

So simple. So awesome.

Do you live too far from school to bike? Maybe you don’t have a safe route to school? No worries, you can still participate.

** If you take the bus to school, ride your bike to the bus stop. That totally counts. We’ll have a limited number of our pop-up neighborhood bike racks set up at popular bus stops. If you can talk some buddies into biking-to-bus with you, let us know HERE and we’ll pedal one over.

** Does your mom or dad normally drive you to school? Ask them nicely to leave a little earlier on TC Bikes To School Day and drop you off a mile or so from school. Then ask them to join you so that both of you can pedal to school together. That’ll be fun. Not sure where you should park to have a safe route to school? Email us at hello@elgruponorte.org and we’ll help give you some ideas.

** We’re also encouraging outlying schools to participate. Talk to your teacher or principal about hosting a bike “at school” event. Maybe a recess ride with your classmates? Maybe some skills practice at lunch time?

Just don’t forget to commit. If you don’t commit, you don’t get counted.

Your school needs YOU!


Are you an awesome mom, dad, neighbor who’s already biking to school with your child/fave neighborhood kid? Maybe none of our bike trains are convenient? Start your own train. Invite a friend, classmate, neighborhood kid to join you and BAM! you have yourself a bike train. Please register your new bike train HERE because more bike trains = more better.


2017 TC Bikes TO School Day Train Schedule

East Middle “train”:
  • Clubhouse: Meet at 6:40, biking at 6:50. Train Conductor: Tim Werner. (TART to 4 mile to EMS. Lights required.)
Glenn Loomis’ “trains”:
  • In the alley between 5th and 6th Street behind Mrs. Walter’s: Meet at 7:40, biking at 7:50. Train Conductor: Ashlea Walter.
  • Oryana: Meet at 7:35, biking at 7:45. Train Conductor: Yarro Ireland.
Traverse Heights’ “trains”:
  • Arbutus Court Park (map HERE) : Meet at 8:00, biking at 8:10. Train Conductor: Stephanie and Josh Wilson.
  • Jupiter Park: Boyd at Rose Street: Meet at 8:00, biking at 8:10. Train Conductor: Christine Hill
Central Grade‘s “trains”:
  • Thirlby Stadium: 13th and Pine: Meet at 7:30, biking at 7:40. Train Conductor: Jodi Jocks.
  • Oryana: Meet at 7:30, biking at 7:40. Train Conductor: Laura Otwell
  • F&M Park: Meet at 7:30, biking at 7:40. Train Conductor: Carrie Smith

Westwoods “trains”:

  • Principal Tiesworth’s house – 1122 Fisher Road. Meet at 8:15, biking at 8:25. Train conductor: TBD
Willow Hill’s “train”:
  •  Darrow Park: Meet at 8:15, biking at 8:20. Train Conductor: Principal Sides-Mackay.

Thank you, TC Bikes To School Day Sponsors!

BCN Color JPEG High Res

Thank you, Community Partners!

The Traverse City Police Department will also be biking to school with us. Word on the street is that Chief O’Brien and Captain Gillis will be there, too. How awesome is that?

We are looking for extra volunteers to help keep the kids safe, count bikes at school and hand out highfives. Please sign up HERE.

Email questions to hello@elgruponorte.org.

Pro Walk/Pro Bike + Pro Transit: A Guest Post by George Golubovskis


The Existential Threat of Reduced Public Transportation

by George Golubovskis

As a supporter of the Bay Area Transportation Authority (BATA) millage in next Tuesday’s May 2 election here in Grand Traverse and Leelanau counties, I am worried the YES vote maybe too complacent with less than a week to go and the NO vote may be gathering steam.

According to a Traverse City Record-Eagle article, “Busing millage on ballot – Bay Area Transportation Authority seeks increase with renewal; critics balk at more taxes” by Jordan Travis and Matt Troutman this past Sunday April 23: “…some potential voters still aren’t convinced [about voting yes].”

One East Bay Township resident said “he can’t support the BATA millage when ridership appears so low, among other reasons….the proposed millage would cost [me] more than the average at [my] new home — a recurring expense.”

The current BATA millage is 0.3447, which expires at the end of 2017. The proposed increase is to 0.5 mills.

Also in this Record-Eagle article a spokesperson for the “Alliance for Economic Freedom, a group that opposes the millage increase, said residents already pay federal, state and local taxes that support BATA.”

So with the clock ticking away, proponents of the BATA millage continuance and increase (which according to BATA’s website is still below the public transportation millage standard) has their immediate as-of-right-now work cut out for them.

Yet, you wouldn’t think there was an election next week as those for the BATA millage such as the Traverse Area Chamber of Commerce were showing no sign of activity. For example, there was no pro-BATA millage signage at the Chamber’s downtown Traverse City headquarters (usually during past campaigns they have signage on ballot issues they support); also staff had to get a pro-BATA millage brochure from a backroom the other day.

When I noted on twitter this vacuum of interest by the Chamber, Kent Wood, Director of Government Relations, sent me a message regarding signage: “We’d love one (or two)! You dropping it off?”

Hey, I don’t work for BATA and while I have been a field director for political campaigns in the past, I replied to Mr. Wood: “I just twitter in Traverse City to my 400-plus followers realizing an affordable Grand Traverse area labor pool will diminish further if the BATA millage doesn’t pass.”

To the credit of Traverse City Commissioner Gary Howe, when I informed him of the Chamber’s reply, he tweeted: “Let’s get these guys a BATA sign!”

I would think that with the Chamber’s budget being more than my shoestrings (actually non-existent) one, they can afford signage as it applies directly to their constituency: small area businesses that need labor that can get to work.

Half-jokingly (and half-seriously) regarding a pro-BATA millage sign for the Chamber’s headquarters at Cass & Grandview, I tweeted: “Get ’em a BIG one – with the traffic backed-up due to construction on Grandview, it can say: ‘If you took BATA, you’d be home by now!'”

Didn’t expect Doug Luciani, CEO of TraverseCONNECT to chime-in on twitter and quote Bluto from Animal House (yes, the John Belushi character who gives a motivation spiel in the movie) by noting: “Let’s do it!”

(Go to @LucianiDoug on twitter and see for yourself.)

Pro-BATA signage also isn’t seen walking in downtown Traverse City; with exactly a week before the May 2 election, I surveyed the windows of Downtown TC merchants AND ONLY ONE on central Front Street had posted a pro-BATA millage sign.

As Commissioner Howe responded on twitter: “For downtown businesses, a healthy transit system is essential for efficient, effective access. Downtown TC will choke on cars without it.”

While Traverse City voters support progressive causes, the bulk of BATA millage voters will be in outer Grand Traverse and Leelanau counties; any get-out-the-vote (GOTV) there?

Don’t assume anything in a May vote; just look at what happened with State of Michigan Proposal 1 in a May 2015 vote: “Michigan voters soundly reject Proposal 1 road tax plan” (Detroit Free Press, May 5, 2015).

“With all counties reporting, 1.4 million Michiganders voted no on Proposal 1 while less than 351,000 voted yes, according to the Michigan Secretary of State’s office. The 80-20 rejection was the most one-sided loss ever for a proposed amendment to the state constitution of 1963, records show.”

“…Lansing polling firm EPIC-MRA, released additional results…from [the] latest Proposal 1 poll, conducted April 25-28 for the Free Press and WXYZ-TV (Channel 7). According to the newly released results, 64% of respondents said they would support a one percentage point increase in the sales tax if they knew all the extra revenue raised would go to roads, bridges and transportation.”

Think the polls were a bit off in that May vote.

So, beware of the “Ghost of Proposal 1” when asking taxpayers for money, especially in a May vote just after Tax Day in April.

Oh yeah, and we are living in a post-Trump world if you didn’t notice.

The last time the BATA millage passed was 2011; that was six years ago and the vote was handedly won in November, which was helped by municipal elections in the City of Traverse City.

Yet, I have hoped that the BATA millage can, and must, win next week. Witnessing as example especially the Women’s March in Traverse City with creative, effective handmade-signage and local, informal networking that brought out two thousand participants in January; when the troops are called, they will self-organize and rally.

According to Google, “Self-organization, also called spontaneous order (in the social sciences), is a process where some form of overall order arises from local interactions between parts of an initially disordered system. The process is spontaneous, not needing control by any external agent.”

So, get your self-organizing on for the BATA millage on May 2.

Public transportation in Traverse City, outer Grand Traverse and Leelanau counties is a lifeline to many – and bus fares are truly pocket-book issues to a lot of area folk.

In sum, a pro-BATA Millage vote is EXISTENTIAL to our community, our region.


George Golubovskis graduated with a Masters degree in Public Policy from the University of Michigan in 1983. He writes about local issues daily at twitter.com/traversetweet and has a monthly newsletter, Traverse Street.

Learn more about the BATA Millage HERE.

bata vote.jpg

And check out this rad song by the TC Uke Guy

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 grupo and help be part of the solution.

Traverse City Bike Month nears

bike month 2017.jpg

Traverse City Bike Month is a #BikeTVC celebration of people on bicycles.

In collaboration with many other bicycle-friendly organizations and businesses, Norte! will again be celebrating National Bike Month in a big, big way in 2017.

We will ride bikes. A lot. We will also build awareness for the growing presence of people on bicycles here in Traverse City  and have tons of FUN! doing it. Mucho FUN!, actually.

The 2017 TC Bike Month Event Calendar

Clubhouse Grand Opening + Kick off party (5/1)

#Vote: Bike The Special Election (5/2)

The Bike Mas Project starts at Central Grade, Eastern, Traverse Heights and Willow Hill (5/2)

TC Bikes To School Day (5/3)

#BikesBikesBikes at Pour For More w/ Humane Society (TBD)

Cinco de Mayo Fiesta @ The Little Fleet (5/5)

Estrellas @ March For Babies (5/6)

Bike Valet @ Downtown Farmers Market Opening Day (5/6)

Mud, Sweat & Beers Race @ Mt. Holiday (5/6)

Spring Pumpkin Pedal @ Jolly Pumpkin (5/7)

El Barrio Bike Fix pop up repairs at schools (5/8)

Bike to the Civic Center and Help Build the New Playground (5/9)

Shop Your Local Bike Shop Day (5/10)

Speed of Light: 2017 season kick off @ Vasa (5/11)

Principals Being Awesome: A Bike-tastic Fridays Fantastico (5/12)

Lids On Kids @ F&M Park (5/13)

Short’s Brewing MTB Series: The Barrel Roll @ 45 North Winery w/ proceeds to benefit The Bike Mas Project – Day 1 (5/13)

Short’s Brewing MTB Series: The Barrel Roll @ 45 North Winery w/ proceeds to benefit The Bike Mas Project – Day 2 (5/14)

Smart Grocery Week (5/15)

Community Bike Fix @ Recycle-A-Bicycle (TBD)

TC Safe Routes To School Champion Awards nominations open (5/16)

Ride of Silence with Cherry Capital Cycling Club (5/17)

Kids vs Adults: A National Bike To Work Day SmackDown (5/19)

Bike the TADL Maker Space w/ Norte! (5/20)

Bike to Bus!: An Asparagus Festival Adventure with BATA (5/20)

Bike the NMC BBQ (5/21)

TC Rides with Here:Say Storytelling (5/24)

Bike-In Movie @ The Clubhouse (5/27)

Zeke Goodwin Memorial Ride @ Civic Center (5/28)

Bike Happy, TC: A Pop-up Ding, Wave and High Five Shindig (TBD)

Bike Night @ the Bijou (5/30)

Thank you, Cherry Capital Cycling Club for sponsoring TC Bike Month!


Thank you, to these Community Partners for supporting people on bicycles in Traverse City.

Don’t miss out on any of the FUN! by subscribing to our events!

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Pro Walk/Pro Bike for a Better Barlow Street: A photo gallery


The push for a better, safer, more equitable Barlow Street continues. Thank you to everyone including many Traverse Heights and Barlow neighbors/business owners who came out last week for our Pro Walk/Pro Bike Happy Hour at Sail Inn.

The passion and energy to make a safer street Barlow is there – now we need the decision makers to help make it happen. We are hoping to get a meeting with the leaders of the three agencies – Garfield Township, GT Road Commission and Traverse City – but we need YOUR help making sure they know that a safer Barlow is important to YOU.

Your street. Your leaders. Your voice.

Send an email directly to the decision makers by completing this form:


BIG thanks to the talented Matt Coleman for these photos:

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 grupo and help be part of the solution.