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A Summer of Smart Commuting: Bike-n-RidePrint

Thriving Communities | July 9, 2013 | By Zoë McAlear

A BATA bus driver helps Zoë load her bike on the front rack. (Photo: Gary Howe)

James Bruckbauer gave an overview of the new Bike-n-Ride program when it debuted on July 1, and now I’m here to share my personal experience.

On Friday morning, I met up with TC resident and biking guru Gary Howe at the Hall Street Transfer Station, where all village loop buses originate in Traverse City, to catch the 9:30 bus to Suttons Bay. We checked in—look for the Route 10 sign—and then moved around to the front of the building where there is more room to load the bikes on the bus.

The new Suttons Bay buses are remodeled school buses. They still have the BATA racks on the front for three bikes, but now also include space for eight bikes inside the bus in the rear. The seats in the back have been removed and there’s a system on the floor that allows the bikes to stand securely upright.

Our bus driver helped us load our bikes on the front, and talked to us about the initial success of the program. He said that there had been people using the route all week and that the majority of them were tourists. This is great news for the future of the program because it shows that there’s a true demand for the service, from both local residents and those visiting the region.

BATA generally recommends that riders take the bus for the first leg of their journey and then bike for their return. This allows the bus drivers to know what to expect in terms of numbers.

Gary Howe and I had decided to follow that recommendation and bike home from Suttons Bay. It helps that the trail is downhill in that direction. I’d like to re-emphasize, as I did with my first experience with the Leelanau Trail: Riding the trail is a great experience. It has amenities ranging from a port-a-potty on the Suttons Bay end to water stations along the trail, and it’s very accessible for all levels of riders, including families. It’s wide, mostly flat, and perfectly paved, providing an enjoyable ride.

In Suttons Bay, riders have the choice to get off on Fourth Street at the official trailhead, or they can go one more stop and get off in downtown Suttons Bay to enjoy the town and public beach before returning to the trail for the ride back.

It was a beautiful day and I love that riding the bus one way and riding a bike the other provides two unique experiences. The bus travels on M-22, following the shoreline of the bay and providing scenic views, while the trail weaves through forest, farmland, and fields in a great cross-section of northwest Michigan. This new BATA offering allows travelers the best of both worlds providing an introduction to the area for tourists or reminding residents just why they live here.

A new Bike-n-Ride bus. (Photo: Gary Howe)

Zoë McAlear is an intern at the Michigan Land Use Institute in the Communications department. She can be reached at zoe@mlui.org.