Traverse City, Michigan is blessed to have an organization like Norte Youth Cycling (a.k.a. El Grupo Norte). Not only do they strive to make bicycling fun and safe for kids of all ages, but they also are tireless advocates for nonmotorized transportation initiates in the city and Grand Traverse County.
One cannot help but notice the bright orange and navy blue outfits and logos, particularly when a “bicycle train” passes. Led by ever-energetic former Manitoban Ty Schmidt, Norte has grown rapidly since it’s inception in 2006. Norte was Ty and wife Johanna’s response to seeing lengthy lines of cars valeting kids to and from area schools and the then woeful number of kids walking and/or bicycling to/from school.
Today, Norte has a variety of programs beyond youth bike trains, which include advocacy for walking and biking, a mountain bike club, youth empowerment projects, educational programs, a summer bike camp, Christmas tree pickup by bike in winter, a clubhouse at the Civic Center that has grown so fast that it’s being replaced by a Wheelhouse, and active involvement in championing Safe Routes to Schools initiatives locally. Did I say they were tireless?
Kudos to Norte for their awesome efforts to promote bicycling and walking in the Traverse City area and to Ty and Johanna for tackling a problem that plagues schools across the nation – the daily traffic jams associated with parents driving their kids to/from school instead of them biking, walking, or riding the bus.
Their efforts have not gone unnoticed as Ty Schmidt and Norte received the 2018 Govenors Champion for Health Award. Perhaps Norte’s mission statement says it best:
“Norte is dedicated to building stronger, better connected and more walk/bike friendly communities by empowering the young and young at heart.“