Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Bike Walk Bus Week

Of course a spring blizzard would come through Missoula the week of Bike-Walk-Bus Week (Walk-n-Roll on the campus). So far it seems to be successful, lots of events all over the place and lots of volunteers helping out on campus. It would be better if the weather would cooperate, kind of hard to promote biking when its snowing.

For those who don't know, Bike-Walk-Bus Week is a week full of events all promoting alternative transportation. I know that was hard to figure out by the name of the event. In a place like Missoula its a pretty easy message to get across – even more so for the campus population. These types of campaigns might seem mundane, but are an important component of getting local organizations, communities, and people working toward transportation reform and building an awareness of what can be done at all levels.

One thing I want to check out – and this is probably real transit geekish – is the new bike parking in front of Taco Del Sol in downtown. Spots for 12 bikes will now take up what was once a parking spot for a car, on the street. This might not seem that significant, but in a society so oriented towards accommodating cars, replacing car parking with bike parking is huge.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

A Saturday from Hell

I had been planning on going to cycle festival at Bonner Park, but my cycle-karma must have been running low because the Bike Gods conspired to keep me from ever getting there.

I started making my way to the park around 1.30. Heading through downtown one of my back spokes snapped and wrapped itself around the hub. So I walked it five blocks to Hellgate Cyclery and they spent 30 minutes replacing the spoke and truing the wheel. It this point its about 2.15.

So I was on my way again, but what I hadn't noticed was that when the spoke broke it made a small puncture in the tube, small enough that air wasn't leaking out normally, but as soon as my weight was on the back tire, it went flat within a few minutes.

So, back to my place for a patch job. Another 20 minutes I was back home and 30 after that I had the tube patched and wheel back on. And off I went for one more attempt. The patch didn't hold though, and within 10 minutes the tire was again riding on the rim. By now its almost 3.00.

Back home for a new tube this time and another 30 minutes of work. At which point the cycle festival was basically over, I would have caught the last 5-10 minutes, but at this point I was so frustrated with how the day had gone that I just threw myself on the couch.

That evening I rode out to see a friend perform in a musical, he was playing the drums for the show. It was a five mile ride to the play which took about 30 minutes mostly because the wind was right in my face the whole time. On the way home in the dark around 9.00, I had another spell of bad luck as I hit a sizable pothole I hadn't seen coming, and once again got a flat.

From there I started walking, and luckily Ashley called and offered to give me a ride. So after three weeks of not using a car, I accepted the ride after the day I had.

Week Three Statistics

Miles Biked: 69.13
Miles Walked: 4.5
Gallons saved: 4.602
CO2 not emitted: 28.8997 Ibs

Sunday's Quote

By the eighteenth century, theories of the city had developed the now common circulatory model... Adam Smith was among the first to view people, ideas, commodities, and wealth as elements that flow and exchange. Streets were seen as arteries, a usage still to be heard, and people or vehicles conducted without cease from place to place.

Mark Kingwell, Concrete Reveries: Consciousness and the City

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Sunday's Quote and Weekly Statistics

We thought progress flowed down all those roads- trucks bearing commodities, cars bearing commuters. But it may turn out that they mainly carried oil, that they were in point of fact less arteries than pipelines. And the trouble with an oil-based geography, unlike the older water-based geography, or even the 19th-century rail-based geography, is that it might not last foreveer.

-Bill McKibben, Introduction for Over: The American Landscape at the Tipping Point

Week Two

Mile Biked: 66.72
Miles Walked: 2.42
Gallons Saved: 4.32
CO2 Not Emitted: 27.1374 Ibs

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Sunday Quote and Some Stats

Amateurs accustomed to emulation made great places. It is the professionals of recent decades that have ruined our cities and our landscapes with their inventions.
-Andres Duany

Some statistics:

Now that I've actually gone car-free, I'll be keeping track of the imapct this has, in terms of miles, gas saved, and CO2 not emitted.

Week One

Miles biked: 38.52
Gallons of gas saved: 2.5
CO2 not emitted: .00756 tons or 15.12 Ibs

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Day One and the Missoula Master Plan

Actually its day three of being car-free, but I don’t think anyone is really counting. I really screwed up by relaxing all through spring break when the weather was miserable, now that its nice, I’ve got too much to do to enjoy the weather.

The Missoula Downtown Master Plan is once again in the news as the final language is being set and the city council starts the long process of overhauling zoning ordinances to make the Plan an eventual reality. The zoning rewrite will most likely be a long process, but already a few points are causing some controversy.

ADUs are part of the called for zoning changes. What are ADUs? Additional Dwelling Units, basically they allow for a second dwelling to be built on a residential lot, like an above garage apartment, or what is sometimes called a mother-in-law house. These allow for affordable housing to be supplied in neighborhoods with high property values and for homeowners to have an additional sources of income. Both the Indy and the blog Missoulapolis have good takes on the issues.

Some neighborhoods already have these as part of their zoning, like the area just across Brooks from the Vietnam Memorial Park. The new zoning would expand the area where these are allowed and make them easier to be built. Right now ADUs must go through a process of approval before they can be built.

Those opposed to ADUs claim they are worried about the “character” of a neighborhood and the density that they may bring with them. I may be wrong, but what I hear is that people don’t want those with lower incomes mixing into their nice, high income neighborhoods while also worrying about what ADUs might do to other people’s property values.

ADUs are a good way to create affordable housing, and how could the ability to earn money from rent hurt property values? The density increase would be miniscule, adding an additional 1-3 people per residential lot, and its not like every lot would suddenly sprout ADUs. This type of infill would also make greater use of the alleyways that currently only serve as access to garages and trash cans.

Jane Jacobs in her book, Death and Life of Great American Cities, concentrates a great deal of her time to explaining what makes up a good working neighborhood. The key comes down to having a variety of activities throughout the day and a mixture of users. ADUs will create safer neighborhoods by placing more eyes on the streets at various times of day when right now their might not be any. This would happen because the people living in ADUs would most likely live on a different schedule from those living in the main houses.

The reality is that this is an issue of how we, as a community, want to accommodate future growth. Missoula already has a large problem when it comes to supplying affordable housing, so do we want to continue to build large apartment complexes full of low and middle income residents on the edge of town, like those built in the last few years around North Reserve? This creates an additional problem of forcing people who have less means to afford commuting to have longer commutes.

We have a choice to make do we want development to occur on the edge of town, or do we want to concentrate on infill. If we continue to grow outwards, large developers, retiring farmers, and the construction industry win out big, but Missoula will lose valuable farm land, open space, and wildlife habitat that helps to make Missoula a great place to live, while taking more money from taxpayers for infrastructure, increasing congestion, and pollution. If we choose infill, we get to keep the overall character of Missoula, keep the open spaces we love so much for recreation, and create a more walkable community while giving homeowners the ability to invest in their own property to provide a better income and home for Missoula residents not lucky enough to afford a home.

Monday, April 6, 2009

A New Adventure

Spring Break is over and with the end comes something new. Today was the first commute to campus from our new place, a very peaceful ride in the morning. All but 5 blocks is along the river trail, which is almost abandoned at 10 am. It’s a nice change of pace not to have to constantly be thinking of car traffic when riding.

This week will be the beginning of my year of car-free existence. I’m certainly a little nervous, not about giving up the car exactly, but more about what giving it up might do to other things in my life.

So… here are some ground-rules that I will attempt to follow. I say attempt because this is an experiment to see how easy it is to life without a car. I’m not perfect, and just because I might give in and use a car at some point in the next year doesn’t mean that this project is a failure.

1. Within Missoula, I will only use a bike, mass transit, or walking to any destination.
2. For the purpose of accessing public lands around Missoula, I will try and get there without a car, but carpool will be acceptable.
3. Long distance travel will be accomplished by mass transit, which means bus and train. I will try to avoid air travel, but if something should come up where I can’t avoid it, I will use it.
4. If I get hit by a car, riding in an ambulance is o.k.

And in the spirit of all things car-free. Real Geeks Ride is something I came along this morning. Its and interesting site following two guys as they cycle across America attemtping to get people to cycle to work.
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