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A Safer Way To Cycle: 8th Street Plans Reshape Vital Corridor in Traverse City

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At CyclingLawyer.com, we’re always keeping our eyes on laws, regulations, even technology that helps keeps cyclists safe. But what about infrastructure itself? The 8th Street Project in Traverse City is a beacon of hope for those who support designing cities for people, not for traffic.

It’s been a long time coming. Any cyclist or motorist who has braved a journey along Eighth Street, and you certainly know why this project has been so important. The mixed surfaced road includes cement and asphalt sections, patched in places and with potholes as deep as your hub. For drivers, the stretch of road from Boardman Avenue to Woodmere Avenue is a mile-long grimace; for cyclists, it’s downright dangerous. For decades, the road has been at the center of the debate around east-west traffic in the city with little to no resolution reached. With just two other main arteries for traffic moving from one side of the town to the other, Eighth Street is decidedly not a highway or thoroughfare. It’s a 25mph road that rarely sees traffic traveling under 30, featuring two lanes flanked by painted bike lanes so faded that many drivers use the extra space or veer in and out of the lanes at random.

It’s infrastructure that doesn’t work for anyone. After years of planning, countless studies, and plenty of talk in City board meetings, Eighth Street is going to be reborn, and this time, it will have cyclists in mind. The new design, the construction of which was just awarded on April 16, incorporates elements that give ample space to pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists. It will be the first city to incorporate divided bicycle and pedestrian tracks in the state, mimicking the nearly universal approach found in cycling-focused nations in Europe like Amsterdam.

It didn’t come about easily. Focused and dedicated support from local organizations like Norte, TART, and the 8th Street Envision Plan. Since 2014, many vocal supports of non-motorized transportation presented the many benefits of including and prioritizing pedestrian elements in the reconfigured, refocused Eighth Street. These elements helped preserve Eighth Street as a mixed commercial and residential road, with a low speed limit and hundreds of homes located just a block away.

The redesign will lead to safer travel for cyclists, motorists, and pedestrians and offer a more inviting environment for visitors. The new plan will support the many businesses located on the Boardman-Woodmere stretch, but encourage travel to and from business on either of the this section as well. More families, more faces, more human interaction while still offering a convenient way for cars and buses to make a quick dissection of Traverse City.

This stretch of road might be less than a half of a mile, but it’s a long stride in the right direction for cities looking to design themselves for a future that address traffic as people, not just cars.

There is plenty more to learn about this project, and the very best place to start is at the Envision 8th Plan website, which has documented the evolution of Eighth Street since Day One. The Traverse City Ticker only just announced the terms of the contract that will see the project, scheduled to begin this spring.