Where do you even begin to talk about the value of TART Trails to Northern Michigan’s bike culture? The trail advocacy group begun back in the ’90s now makes sure people can pedal from Suttons Bay to Traverse City (17 miles), and then on to Acme (10 miles) while barely having to ever share the route with a car.

TART was also central to forming the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail that will eventually run 27 miles through the Sleeping Bear Dunes national park. TART is making sure that some day there will be a riding trail all the way around Boardman Lake. They have plans for things like a trail to Elk Rapids.

Take a ride with us on the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail in this MyNorth Media video.

And TART doesn’t just stick to the pavement. The group maintains the 25K of Vasa Pathway and another 12K of single-track east of TC. That’s not all of it by any means, but you get it: TART does BIG STUFF—building trails, maintaining trails—to keep us pedaling.

TART’s trails are for pedestrians too, but cyclists make up the majority of trail users, says Julie Clark, TART executive director, and these pathways are used year round, thanks to volunteers and partnerships with city and county leaders who have helped ensure cleared paths throughout winter. “From day one, something that’s reflective of our community as a whole, is the amount of in-kind support and volunteer labor—to the tune of 2,000 to 3,000 hours a year,” Clark says.

Looking ahead, more work is needed on what Clark calls “last mile connections.” “We have an incredible bike culture, with our racing and our athletes and some of the best road biking anywhere by far being in Northern Lower Michigan. Where we struggle is for those cyclists who are on the other end of the spectrum—the person who wants to go to the store, the 8-year-old rider, the visiting tourist. We need to work on those community sections so you can make cycling realistic for your every day.”

This means projects like finding ways to ensure safe pedestrian and bike travel from the east to west sides of Traverse City. “I do think what supports the bicycle culture in our area, and has helped it grow the past 15 years is community-based conversations,” Clark says. “And we’re seeing so many of them.”

Traverse August Cover


This Bike Town USA article was originally published in the August 2016 issue of Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine.
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Photo(s) by Beth Price