Pedestrians could see more space on city sidewalks

The sidewalks of downtown Traverse City are bustling, but people with strollers or wheelchairs say a four foot walkway is not enough.

A change to Traverse City's sidewalk ordinance could make walking through town a little easier to navigate.

Itâ??s a difference of a foot.

The current ordinance calls for four feet of clear walkway.

The sidewalks of downtown Traverse City are bustling, but people with strollers or wheelchairs say a four foot walkway is not enough.

â??Most of the places we do have to go single file,â?? said Rick Sollars, visiting from Taylor, Michigan. â??There's not enough room for us to walk side-by-side.â??

City commissioners are looking at changing the ordinance to require five feet.

Many places within town could manage with the five foot requirement, but some areas might be in a squeeze.

The pedestrian walkway can't include trees, grates, parking meters or other permanent fixtures which can take a bite out of the sidewalk.

The new ordinance would also require restaurants to put in place a fixed barrier between pedestrians and the café, stopping diners from backing out into the right of way.

â??I could see where this quickly turns into twice the amount of people and all of a sudden they're pushed out onto the curb. And there's no room,â?? said Sollars. â??I think that barrier might be the real solution. Whether it's three feet or five feet, I don't know how relevant that's going to be more so than the barrier.â??

Northern Natural Cider House already has a barrier in place as a condition of its liquor license, but they'd have to adjust the ropes to meet the proposed width regulations.

â??I think we're pretty flexible,â?? said Manager Brooke Van Epps. â??We can fit people in and work with the laws and rules around here and still have people out here enjoying our cider and wine. We definitely want to work with the city and the people to make it better for everyone.â??

While it may open up the streets for walking, not everybody is on board with the changes.

â??It certainly would help with the sidewalk traffic, but I don't think that's really fair to the places that have sidewalk cafes,â?? said Mario Sanchez, visiting from Chicago. â??People like eating outside sidewalk cafés are cool. They should have their room. Three feet is fine.â??

â??I see the need for it but I also see the importance of having the ability to sit outside especially with a beautiful night like tonight,â?? said Sollars.

Commissioners will vote on the changes to the ordinance at their meeting on August 4. It will take place at the Governmental Center at 7 p.m.

The commission decided to put off any further discussions at this time on the issue of platform dining. They'll hold off on creating a separate ordinance for this type of dining until next year.