Environment Picture

Michigander Bike Tour’s 20th underscores value of Complete Streets policies

Cyclists, 700 strong, take two-wheeled tour of Michigan communities
The Williams family taking a break
Peddling beneath a canopy of West Michigan trees, Michigander Bicycle Tour cyclists hit the trails July 16-22 for the 20th annual Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance (MTGA) two-, six- and seven-day bike tours.

Seven hundred family members, friends and trail lovers braved scorching summer temperatures and torrential downpours as they crossed more than 300 miles of greenways and country roads. Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance, an MEC member group, prides itself on hosting such a premiere trail adventure.

In the midst of the trip the Alliance asked cyclists to define the Michigander Bike Tour:
  • “These are 400 of my closest friends.”
  • “An easy, organized way to take part in a bicycle tour.”
  • “A mixture of two wonderfully fun things: riding and camping!”
  • “Accommodating for families with young children.”
  • “Not always fun, but the satisfaction and accomplishment of finishing is unbelievably rewarding.”
Many riders have described the bicycle tour as the ultimate “staycation,” encompassing fun, family, friends and fitness all under the Michigan sun.

Boost for Complete Streets
As advocates for Complete Streets legislation, MTGA recognizes the tour as a campaign for trail connections. Participation in the Michigander helps publicize the need for non-motorized links from the trails to destinations such as downtowns, recreational spaces and the schools that serve as Michigander campsites during the tour.

Three major cities on the 2011 route have implemented Complete Streets resolutions or non-motorized transportation plans. Those plans require communities to explore or incorporate the needs of cyclists, pedestrians and other non-motorized modes of travel into road construction decisions. In addition to Holland and Kalamazoo, the lakeside city of Grand Haven passed legislation only days before the tour took to their streets. In the future, these communities will be well equipped to safely handle increased biking and walking in their towns.

Visiting from Alabama, one family conveyed their appreciation for the bicycle-friendly communities of Michigan during an interview for the MTGA blog site (www.michigantrails.wordpress.com). Having ridden many tours across the United States, the family described the pleasant road conditions between trail systems as some of the nicest they have encountered and appreciated the respect granted by motorists for passing cyclists.

The Michigander shines a light on growing community support for the construction of roadways that are friendly to cyclists and pedestrians, specifically as a means of connecting our trailways. Michigan has the potential for five shore-to-shore cross-state trails outlined in the “Great Lake to Lake Trail” plan. Utilizing both on- and off-road connections, each route offers a unique view of Michigan spanning the Southern regions of the state to the Upper Peninsula.

The need for connections in the trail gaps naturally serve as the spine for local Complete Streets development. Urban communities need designated bike lanes to complete their trail connections into town, while the rural, less-congested areas could benefit from a wayfinding system that points cyclists through communities. These are both components of a local Complete Streets network.

The ultimate goal of hosting the Michigander Bike Tour is to promote MTGA’s mission of fostering and facilitating the creation of an interconnected statewide system of trails and greenways for recreation, health, transportation, economic development and environmental preservation. We thank all of the riders, volunteers, and staff for aiding in our efforts to create a connected Michigan!
-Chelsea Dietlin, Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance
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