Traverse City News and Events

No Bike Sharing This Summer, But TC Still Aspires To Be Bike-Friendly

By Craig Manning | March 27, 2020

It looks like bike sharing is not coming to Traverse City this summer after all.

Previously, the TC Mobility Lab – a project of Traverse City’s Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities – had hoped to bring a bike sharing program to the area as early as last summer. In December, Groundwork Deputy Director Jim Bruckbauer told the Traverse City Business News that a 2019 launch had ultimately proved too ambitious, but that the Mobility Lab was still working toward a bike share program in Traverse City in summer 2020. At the time, Groundwork was eyeing a partnership with Zagster, a Boston-based bike share startup, to launch a program that would have included 100-120 bikes placed at 15-20 stations around town.

Now those plans are on hold. “At this point, I'm not sure how likely it is that Traverse City will have a bike share system in place by this summer,” Bruckbauer tells The Ticker. “For right now, Groundwork is very focused on helping the community understand new trends in mobility and on making sure the city has proper guidelines in place to accommodate shared bikes and e-scooters so that these new devices are an asset to the city, not a liability.” He adds that Groundwork is currently “researching best practices around the country” and collaborating with the City of Traverse City to put together policies that will govern any future bike or scooter share programs locally.

With or without bike share, Ty Schmidt of Norte thinks Traverse City is headed toward a more bike-centric future. A recent study from Deloitte predicts that bicycles will become a more dominant form of transportation in the coming years as city growth, increased congestion, air pollution, and other issues render cars a less attractive option. Most cities, Deloitte says, will see their number of bike commuters double between now and 2022. With Traverse City growing – this year’s census is poised to take the area over the population threshold necessary to be classified as a Metropolitan Planning Organization – Schmidt sees local growth in biking as an inevitability.

While Schmidt acknowledges that the local infrastructure could be more bike-friendly, he also believes things are moving in the right direction. He points to the newly-pedestrian-friendly Eighth Street, the crossing lights on Grandview Parkway, and the impending completion of the Boardman Lake Loop Trail as “reasons to celebrate.” Looking forward, Schmidt sees the expansion of the local Safe Routes to School plan – made possible by conditional grant funding from the Michigan Department of Transportation – as a “gamechanger,” with benefits that could reach far beyond school-aged kids.

“We’re on track this summer to have $2 million worth of sidewalks, bike lanes, and improved intersections around the 10 in-town schools,” Schmidt says. “That, for a town our size, is huge. If you look at where those 10 in-town schools are, it's basically the entire town. A lot of that infrastructure will not only benefit kids getting to and from school, but also everyone else. It can help cyclists and pedestrians of all ages and all abilities to get to the places that they go to every day.”

This summer, Schmidt plans to partner with numerous other local organizations – including Northwestern Michigan College, Traverse Area Community Sailing, and Traverse Bay Youth Soccer – to offer full-day opportunities designed to prepare kids for a future of urban bike commuting. Kids will learn how to plan routes to their destinations, how to ride the BATA line with their bikes, etiquette for using crosswalks, and other “transit skills.”

“This program is part of Norte's strategy, to really think about what makes an active town. We're trying to shift the culture away from car-first design and car-first thinking, and to really stress how getting health and access right for kids can spread benefits across the whole community," he says.

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