Street Talk: City keeps rolling


Grand Rapids is once again a Bronze Bicycle Friendly Community, as awarded by the League of American Bicyclists.

Grand Rapids is one of more than 400 communities in the country that received recognition.

“We applaud Grand Rapids and these communities for making bicycling a safe and convenient option for transportation and recreation,” said Bill Nesper, executive director at the League of American Bicyclists.

“We are encouraged by the growing number of leaders who see bicycling to build more vibrant, healthy, sustainable and connected communities, and be a part of the solution to many complex challenges faced at both the community and national levels. We look forward to continuing to work with these communities as we move closer to our mission of creating a Bicycle Friendly America for everyone.”

According to Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss, the BFC program continues to raise the bar for communities working to improve their bicycle friendliness.

“We are committed to making Grand Rapids a more bicycle-friendly community,” Bliss said. “This is demonstrated, in part, through the Driving Change campaign and the connected bicycling network throughout the city. We will develop Grand Rapids’ first bicycle master plan starting in early 2018, and we welcome everyone’s input as we work toward Platinum award status.”

Kristin Bennett, Mobile GR’s transportation planning and programs supervisor, said Grand Rapids welcomes the recognition but continues to take steps to advance and is progressing on many of the League’s recommended “Steps to Silver.” A nationally recognized expert in bicycle and pedestrian transportation planning, design and programs, Bennett said Grand Rapids has shown great progress toward that goal.

Some of that progress includes the Driving Change education program, a near completion of a bike share feasibility study and strategic business plan to be presented in early 2018, completion of 83 centerline miles of designated bicycle lanes and recent completion of a concept plan for a Grand Rapids bike park.

’Tis the season

Beware elves toting iPhones.

Lake Michigan Credit Union this month is running a program called Santa’s Best Helpers. The video contest is designed to recognize community members who better the lives of others throughout the year with acts of kindness, service and goodwill.

LMCU is giving away three, $100 Visa gift cards to winners.

The contest is part of LMCU’s Santa Squad, an annual initiative focused on giving back to the community each day in the month of December leading up to Christmas Eve. Santa’s Best Helpers is a new addition to the program.

“Santa Squad has always been about our team going out into the community and impacting the lives of others during the holiday season,” said Alexis Rangel, community relations manager and Santa Squad program leader. “We created Santa’s Best Helpers because there are people who have dedicated a significant portion of their lives to doing this year-round, and those people deserve to be recognized for the difference they’re making.”

To nominate someone, individuals must create a one-to-two-minute video explaining who their nominee is, how they’re giving back, and why they deserve to be named one of LMCU’s Santa’s Best Helpers. Submissions can be made at

Tech save

Although retailers enjoy entering the black each holiday shopping season, it’s not always an easy time for consumers trying to hang onto good saving habits.

Sparta-based ChoiceOne Bank is using the opportunity to partner with a mobile app provider that will help customers work on their long-term thinking.

Starting earlier this month, the bank signed an agreement to be “the first bank in the country” to offer Plinqit, a mobile savings tool created by Ann Arbor-based HT Mobile Apps.

According to ChoiceOne, it “provides an easy way for people to save money using automated transfers into their Plinqit account held at ChoiceOne Bank.” Plinqit rewards users for reaching their goals or referring friends to save.

“We are pleased to announce our partnership with HT Mobile Apps and offer Plinqit,” ChoiceOne Bank COO Adom Greenland said. “We are excited to offer Plinqit to our customers and to be the major depository institution.

“Plinqit will help our customers, as well as all others who use it, to save money in a fun and easy way using their mobile device or computer.”

ChoiceOne also offers mobile banking, mobile deposits, advanced payroll cards, online loan applications and online account openings. The addition of Plinqit is part of the bank’s plan to attract millennial customers.

“One in two Americans struggles to save even $500, while 25 percent of the population has zero dollars in savings,” said Kathleen Craig, founder and CEO of HT Mobile Apps.

“Money stress leads to so many other issues. Helping people save through Plinqit and hearing stories of how this product is helping them reach their long-term goals is hugely rewarding for our entire team.”

ChoiceOne rolled out Plinqit to employees in September. Plinqit is now available to customers of ChoiceOne Bank as well as the public at A downloadable app is on the roadmap for 2018.

Another Great Lakes

The president of Cascade Business Team, Christina Keller, has long had a passion for solving social problems, stretching back to her numerous involvements as a student with nonprofits in Africa and South America. One of these programs, Solar Light for Africa, gave her the chance to interact with the leadership of Uganda.

Solar Light for Africa is an American organization founded by Bishop Alden Hathaway in 2000. The organization engages American youth mission teams with communities in Uganda every summer to help provide solar power to schools, hospitals, churches and orphanages.

The organization has gained praise and support from Ugandan First Lady Janet Museveni, who often accompanied groups on their assignments.

“She traveled with us to various different sites,” Keller recalled. “They’ve done over 13 summer trips since 2000. I went on about two or three as a student.”

Keller characterized Museveni as a “calm and quiet” figure.

“I talked with her a little bit, she was very subdued, very calm, very proper,” she said. “If you got her talking about anything, she’d go back to, ‘We’re so glad you’re here.’ She wasn’t very revealing of her personal self.”

First Lady Museveni is the wife of President Yoweri Museveni, who has been in office since 1986. He was involved in the rebellions that toppled Uganda’s previous leaders Idi Amin and Milton Obote. Museveni’s presidency often has been marred by involvement with the civil war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as well as infighting in the Great Lakes region of Uganda.

Keller added that whenever Museveni accompanied the students on-site visits, they had much tighter security, usually involving four or five guards armed with AK-47s. Keller said she felt safer when the First Lady was not around because her presence gave them a higher profile.

“Americans were not really targets,” she said. “It’s so much infighting in that region that you’re just kind of an interesting thing to look at.”

In spite of Uganda’s political turmoil, Keller said the country reminds her a lot of West Michigan.

“They even call it the Great Lakes area, they have the Nile and a few lakes in the region,” she explained. “There is something that feels more like the heartland. I think some people there even call it the heartland of Africa.”

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