By vanessa Mccray
TRAVERSE CITY — Tim Werner wants everyone to be at ease as they pedal through the city — not just the town's hard-core cyclists.
It's one reason Werner, a Traverse City planning commissioner, will chair a new committee that will develop a non-motorized community plan. The committee will include fellow planning board member Jennifer Jaffe and reach out to other groups and individuals interested in the transportation issue.
Werner said the idea is to create a city where "your kids can be safe biking down the street, but also your 80-year-old neighbor."
The committee will identify "missing links" throughout Traverse City — places where walking and biking could be improved by adding sidewalks, improving or changing streets and addressing problem intersections.
"Where do we put bike lanes? Where should there be bike trails?" said city Planner Russ Soyring. "We need the public to tell us what are the really important links as a walker and a bicyclist."
The planning commission recently established the committee. It also will work to improve the city's Bicycle Friendly Community rating, awarded by the League of American Bicyclists, from "bronze" to "silver" level.
The city's current award is valid until May 2013, and it needs to reapply for the distinction next year. Michigan's only "silver" level city is Ann Arbor. Traverse City is joined at the "bronze" level by Grand Rapids, Houghton, Lansing, Marquette and Portage.
The committee won't have to start from scratch as it examines city bike and pedestrian trails, lanes, streets and sidewalks, said Julie Clark, executive director of TART Trails. Organizations including hers already identified spots that need improvement and good areas for walking and biking. The plan will help prioritize future projects, she said.
"We do have a pretty solid foundation of infrastructure to build from, but there are ... key areas where we can start to focus attention on," Clark said.
Among the spots she finds lacking are the Division Street intersections at 11th and 14th streets. There also are "gaps in the system," where trails or sidewalks stop.
She also pointed to well-designed spots in the city. Elmwood Avenue, rebuilt last year, serves drivers, walkers and bikers well because of its narrowed size and sidewalks, she said.
The end result should be a planning guide the city can look to as it reviews projects, Werner said. The committee wants to finish its work this year.