Letters

Letters 12-14-2014

Come Together There is a time-honored war strategy known as “divide and conquer,” and never has it been more effective than now. The enemy is using it against us through television, internet and other social media. I opened a Facebook account a couple of years back to gain more entries in local contests. Since then I had fallen under its spell; I rushed into judgment on several social issues based on information found on those pages

Quiet The Phones! This weekend we attended two beautiful Christmas musical events and the enjoyment of both were significantly diminished by self-absorbed boors holding their stupid iPhones high overhead to capture extremely crucial and highly needed photos. We too own iPhones, but during a public concert we possess the decency and manners to leave them turned off and/or at home. Today’s performance, the annual Messiah Sing at Traverse City’s Central Methodist Church, was a new low: we watched as Mr. Self-Absorbed not only took several photos but then afterwards immediately posted them to his Facebook page. We were dumbfounded.

A Torturous Defense In defense of the C.I.A.’s use of torture in a mostly fruitless search for vital information, some suggest that the dire situation facing us after 9-11, justified the use of torture even at the expense of the potential loss of much of our nation’s moral authority.

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Our bicycle revolution

Robert Downes - September 28th, 2009
Random Thoughts
Robert Downes 9/28/09

Our Bicycle Revolution

The sun is setting on the cycling season here in Northern Michigan and another year of advancing the most eco-friendly form of transportation on the planet. Most of us have swallowed our last bug, cussed out our last flat, and (finally) tossed those over-ripe bike shorts in the wash.
Some, such as author Jeff Mapes claim that we’re on the brink of a “Pedaling Revolution” in America (the title of his new book), in which cyclists are changing the landscape of cities across the country. That’s certainly true in Northern Michigan and other parts of the state. Even Detroit is establishing a network of bike paths and greenways to fill in urban areas that have been vacated by its dwindling population.
David Byrne, the former frontman of the Talking Heads, whose own book “The Bicycle Diaries” hit the shelves this month, stated in a recent article that a bicycle has been his primary form of transportation around New York City for the past 30 years.
“I’ve watched the streets fill over the years with more and varied bike riders,” Byrne writes. “It’s no longer just me, some food delivery guys and a posse of reckless messengers. Far from it. That said, the revolution isn’t here just yet. Hedge fund managers and General Motors executives aren’t riding to work (though don’t laugh, they will).”
Closer to home, you see a few more people cycling each year, either as commuters or for recreation. In Traverse City, hundreds of residents have been clued in to the value of a bicycle for heading downtown to events such as the Cherry Festival and Film Festival, with no parking hassles or gridlock traffic to deal with.
Still, like Byrne says, the bicycling revolution still seems a bit off in the distance (especially now that you have to wear ski gloves to bike to work). You can ride along the bike path adjacent to Bayshore Parkway in TC at rush hour and find 200 cars or more for every cyclist. Most with one occupant per vehicle.
But motorists take note: it’s amazing where you can go on a bicycle these days. Almost anywhere in Northern Michigan, it seems; and that trend is on a roll. Our region has been blessed with visionary groups: TART in Traverse City, the Top of Michigan Trails Council in Petoskey, and the Friends of the Betsie Valley Trail come to mind, and they’ve all contributed treasures of inestimable value to the region through the years.
A big boost for our region (and cycle tourism) has been the expansion of the Little Traverse Wheelway, which runs more than 25 miles from Charlevoix to Harbor Springs. Outdoor columnist Mike Terrell reports that the last section of the trail will be completed in the months ahead.
In Traverse City, plans are moving forward to complete a cycle trail around the west side of Boardman Lake -- an event which will dramatically extend the city’s parklands.
Just these two trails alone are compelling enough to bring thousands of cycle tourists to the region, and we have so much more to offer. Traverse City alone, for instance, has 55 miles of trails in the TART system, along with a membership of nearly 1,000 supporters.
For me, our cloudy, cool summer made exploring new cycle routes the perfect alternative. Some memorable rides included:

• The Betsie Valley Trail from Beulah to Thompsonville, rolling through 12 miles of some of the wildest country on our western coast. You see echoes of the lumber era along this trail, and the time when Thompsonville was a bigger town than TC.
• The nine-mile mountain bike trail at the new conservation area just north of Arcadia -- a roller-coaster, single-track thrill ride through the forest.
• The new mountain bike trail through the forest from TC to Kalkaska, a collaborative effort between the Grand Traverse Hiking Club and TART.
• The 55-mile Zoo-de-Mac ride from Boyne Highlands to Mackinaw City, culminating with 2,000-plus partying cyclists on Mackinac Island.

Within the next few years, it may be possible to ride a bicycle all the way from Grand Rapids to the Mackinac Straits. The White Pine Trail currently runs 100 miles north from GR to Cadillac; while the new 62-mile North Central State Trail extends from Gaylord to Mackinaw City.
Considering that so many people today have grown sedentary to the point of being chronically ill as a result of being permanently plunked in front of a computer or a TV, it’s great to see this ‘counter-revolution’ going on in Northern Michigan. Who knows? Maybe David Byrne will catch wind of our cycling utopia and bring his band up here someday.

 
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