Even the most experienced bikers or walkers would have to admit there are spots around town they may not know as much about as others, routes they've never taken or roads or portions of a bike path they haven't been on.
People who do a lot of walking may know the best routes and have an idea of where the sidewalks end, but probably not all of them. In every road, trail or sidewalk system, there are gaps or cracks or places you just don't want to go.
Traverse City now has a planning commission committee that is going to reach out to groups and individuals involved in all kinds of non motorized travel — mostly by foot or by bicycle — to identify what are being called the "missing links" throughout Traverse City — places where walking and biking could be improved by adding sidewalks, improving or changing streets and addressing problem intersections.
Tim Werner, a Traverse City planning commissioner, will chair the committee, which will include fellow planning commissioner Jennifer Jaffe. 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."
City Planner Russ Soyring said the public can help fill in the gaps.
"Where do we put bike lanes? Where should there be bike trails?" Soyring said. "We need the public to tell us what are the really important links as a walker and a bicyclist."
This is the kind of finish work that can make a good biking or walking system a superior system.
While just about everyone knows there are stretches of Division Street that, incredibly, have no sidewalks, not everyone knows which blocks do and which blocks don't, or other stretches here or there about town where the sidewalks are almost unwalkable or there is no sidewalk at all.
Most regular cyclists know first-hand the areas along their regular routes where bike lanes or paved trails simply disappear and they have to fend for themselves; put those same experienced bikers on the other side of town, though, and they're on their own.
The committee won't have to reinvent the wheel. Julie Clark, executive director of TART Trails, said organizations, including hers, have already identified spots that need improvement and good areas for future walking and biking upgrades.
"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.
She also mentioned Division Street and the troubled intersections at 11th and 14th streets. There also are "gaps in the system," where trails or sidewalks stop, she said.
Clark said there are good designs to work from, particularly Elmwood Avenue, which was rebuilt last year. The new street serves drivers, walkers and bikers well because of its narrowed size and sidewalks, she said.
The city commission has in recent years greatly increased the amount the city spends on infrastructure, and a "gap map" like the one the committee could produce could be a great project guide. Spending a relatively small amount to build or repair a mile or so of sidewalks around town could make the city much more accessible for walkers and greatly improve safety.
The next step, then, would be to highlight locations for upgrades and get them on the city's to-do list.
This kind of effort would be a good start for any local community that wants to make itself pedestrian- or cyclist-friendly.