April 17, 2024

Smart Moves for Better Commutes

Guest Opinion
By Kate Lewis | Feb. 24, 2024

As a seasoned bicycle commuter, I’ve experienced my fair share of urban obstacles, from dodging potholes to navigating impatient drivers and even encountering the occasional porcupine (yes, it happened). But despite these challenges, I’ve come to view biking as a saving grace—a way to stay sane, keep fit, and, most importantly, avoid the soul-crushing monotony of rush hour traffic.

Now, if you happen to call Traverse City home, you know about the Grandview Parkway rebuild. The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) is poised to overhaul a 2-mile stretch between Garfield Avenue and Division Street. Set to begin March 10, the project will unfold in two distinct phases, with the first phase running from March to June and the second from July to November, following the conclusion of the National Cherry Festival.

It’s not just the size of the effort that’s causing a stir, but the impending inconveniences it’s bound to bring, from rerouted traffic to potential delays. But before panic sets in or resignation takes hold in anticipation of the gridlock apocalypse, let me assure you: it’s not the end of the world.

Let’s reframe this as an opportunity—an invitation to reimagine your daily commute, a chance to shake up your routine, embrace alternative modes of transportation, and maybe even rediscover your love for the great outdoors.

Instead of inching along in bumper-to-bumper purgatory, you could be rolling or strolling along the scenic waterfront or weaving your way through downtown. There’s always the option of dusting off that old Schwinn in the garage or investing in a sleek new e-bike to pedal your way around the construction chaos.

The Bay Area Transportation Authority (BATA) also offers an array of options, including buses equipped with bike racks and a convenient mobile app for route planning. Kids under 5 ride free with a paying adult, making it an economical choice for families. Let someone else do the driving while you kick back, relax, and ponder life’s greatest mysteries (or scroll through cat memes on your phone—no judgment).

Of course, logistical concerns may arise—how to arrive at your destination presentable for that crucial meeting or how to navigate with little ones in tow. The proper gear like waterproof clothing and mud guards can ensure you arrive at your destination unscathed by the elements, while bike trailers and cargo bikes provide a safe and convenient means of transporting the kiddos. And let’s not overlook the value of instilling in our youth the virtues of trail and public transit etiquette and outdoor exploration—lessons that will serve them well in the long run.

Far beyond the initial challenges lies a host of compelling reasons to embrace smart commuting. Consider, for instance, the financial savings associated with ditching the gas-guzzling metal box in favor of pedal power. The average American spends over $2,500 annually on commuting expenses—a figure that doesn’t even begin to account for the hidden costs of parking, insurance, and the occasional fender-bender-induced existential crisis.

Getting around with human power, whether it is walking or biking, not only offers a budget-friendly alternative but also provides numerous physical and health benefits. Those daily doses of fresh air and sunlight increase circulation, vitamin D, boost immune systems, and promote overall wellness (in addition to burning off last night’s pizza).

And let’s not forget the environmental benefits of smart commuting. By opting for human-powered transportation, whether walking or biking, we can significantly reduce our carbon footprint and contribute to efforts to combat climate change. Taking the bus reduces air pollution and lessens traffic congestion.

Moreover, there’s something undeniably liberating about reclaiming our streets from the tyranny of rush hour traffic. With each step or pedal stroke, we assert our independence, forging a deeper connection to our community and the natural world around us. In a city as special as Traverse City, with its waterfront views and vibrant small-town vibe, every commute becomes an opportunity for exploration and discovery.

So, my fellow Traverse City denizens, let’s rise to the occasion. Let’s embrace the challenge of the Grandview Parkway rebuild and seize the opportunity to reimagine our daily commute. Whether by bike, bus, or on foot, let’s reclaim our streets and rediscover the joy of smart commuting. After all, life’s too short to waste in traffic. Good luck!

*My favorite ways to smart commute: Hop on BATA with your bike, then you have multi-modes and more freedom at your fingertips. Or, drive to a designated smart lot and bike or bus the remainder of the way to your destination.

Kate Lewis resides in Leelanau County and serves as the director of communications for Traverse Area Recreation and Transportation (TART) Trails. You can typically find her biking on a trail, paddling on the water, hiking in the woods, exploring northern Michigan with her kids, or dancing at a Phish show.


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