Right now, with the convergence of TC’s summertime trifecta – tourists, Fourth of July and Cherry Festival – there’s no hotter piece of real estate in town than a downtown sidewalk.
Coveted by bicyclists, strollers, skateboarders, walkers and eateries with outdoor seating, it seems everyone’s jostling for space. So who belongs? And who doesn’t? The Ticker hit the concrete to find out.
First up: eateries. Outdoor seating on downtown city sidewalks is fine, says TC City Planner Russ Soyring – if restrauteurs delineate said seating area with a decorative barrier and if they allow at least four feet of clearance from barrier to curb.
The much-maligned chained-off section of Union Cantina that forces folks to curve by curb, light pole and tree, then … ? “It’s awkward,” admits Colleen Paveglio of TC’s Downtown Development Authority. “But it’s good – they’re within the limit.” (The Ticker measured; she’s right.)
Overstepping the sidewalk bounds, however, is just about anybody on wheels except babies in strollers: Bicyclists, skateboarders, in-line skaters – none are allowed to ride on sidewalks in TC’s downtown district, that area inside Park, Front, Pine and State streets.
“Everywhere else [in Traverse City] you can ride your bikes and skate on sidewalks. Just not downtown,” says Bryan Crough, the DDA’s executive director. “It’s purely a safety issue.”
Violating the ordinance (see Chapter 420) will cost $75 if you’re ticketed. Warning: It isn’t just local police ticketing offenders; local parking ambassadors also are empowered to ticket wheeled rebels, says Crough.
“We don’t discriminate, but there’s only so much room and limited space – and there’s just not room for that kind of velocity,” he says, adding that the blind corners at curb-cut entrances and alleys are notoriously dangerous for bike-car crashes.
So where can bicyclists go? In the downtown area, bikes belong in the bike lanes, moving in the same direction as cars and observing the same rules of the road – stopping at stop signs, going one way down a one-way street, etc., explains Capt. Steve Morgan of the TC Police Department.
Outside the downtown district, bikes can be on the sidewalks or the streets. If you choose to ride on the latter, simply ride like you drive, says Capt. Morgan: observe all traffic signs and signals, yield to pedestrians, and use lights and reflectors at night.
Cyclists must use hand signals for all turns, ride as far right as possible in the right lane (or on its shoulder if one is available) – except when turning from a left turn lane or going around a parked car, in which case a three-foot buffer zone is recommended.
Be warned: Bicyclists found breaking a road rule outside the downtown district can get dinged with a motor vehicle code violation, an $85 ticket – or worse.
So far this summer there have been three injuries due to bike-car accidents. Last summer, says Capt. Morgan, there were 31: “We had a bad year last year. Very bad.”
Signal Brush-up for Bicyclists (and the Cars Behind Them)
Left turn: Left arm extended straight out
Right turn: Left arm bent up at 90-degree angle
Stop: Left arm bent down at 90-degree angle