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Peddling a Path to TC’s FuturePrint

Thriving Communities | February 4, 2010 | By Brian Beauchamp

This Monday, the Traverse City City Commission will discuss adding bike lanes to 8th Street between Garfield Rd. and Barlow Rd.

Last week, the Traverse City City Commission hosted a panel of top community leaders for a program called “TC Tomorrow.” A big crowd packed the Traverse City Opera House, listened, and asked questions as an all-star lineup of local folks reflected on recent progress and suggested next steps for making TC a better place.

Next week, the same City Commission faces a test on whether it can turn some of TC Tomorrow’s fine words and thoughts into concrete plans by implementing a small part of the community’s vision-a common-sense idea that’s in the master plan and the Grand Vision: a bike lane along 8th Street between Garfield and Barlow.

That very specific issue is actually about a broader question: Once a community endorses an idea about streets and traffic, who decides if it actually happens: residents, elected officials, or appointed staff who work behind closed doors?

I’ve lived in Traverse City long enough to know that strong community engagement is the norm. This region is a bastion of highly motivated, engaged, and caring people committed to making sure northwest Michigan remains a global destination for travelers and a great place to raise a family.

So, it doesn’t surprise me that a small resurfacing project for 8th Street is drawing a lot of attention from folks concerned about the project’s current design. That design not only excludes bike lanes, it makes 8th Street more car friendly and less biker- and walker-friendly.  A popular new local blog, www.mywheelsareturning.com explains the situation well, and I highly recommend checking it out.

The City Commission is taking up the matter next Monday, and I fully expect the room to be packed with many of the same people who came out to the opera house last week. It’s a perfect opportunity for the community to make sure that it gets one of the things it clearly wants-a bike path along 8th Street.

Yesterday Traverse City Mayor Chris Bzdok wrote about this on his Web site, www.planfortc.com. He meticulously recounts the city’s engineering department’s seeming indifference to 20 years of citizen input on bike paths.

If you want to see more bike lanes on our city streets, please come to the commission meeting next Monday, February 8, 2010, at 7:00PM, at the Government Center, on Boardman Avenue. Voice your support for doing the right thing on 8th Street!

Brian Beauchamp bikes to work every day and is a policy specialist for the Michigan Land Use Institute. Reach him at brian@mlui.org.