Thursday, February 26, 2009

This Guy Gets It, The Senator However...

Figure I would test embedding video today. Thanks goes to Twin Cities Streets for People blog for finding this little nugget of American ignorance, arrogance, and good old government incompetence.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Difinitive Start Date

I have a start date for going car-free. I have been waiting to start because we have been looking for a new place to live, and now we have found one. Personally, I didn't want to stress test my current relationship by trying to make the move while only using a bike. The new place is on the west side of Missoula, a nice neighborhood with lots of charm. It used to be a blue collar neighborhood back when the mills still operated in town, once the mills closed that part of town went into decline. However, over the past decade it has come back with lots of renovations, new construction, and lots of young families moving in to the area.

It's a great central location that provides easy access to much of Missoula. Doing a little work with Google maps, I figured that its 2 miles to Costco, the new light at Palmer St should make crossing Broadway much easier and safer, though I don't know if Costco has a bike rack. Some other important points in Missoula include; downtown (less than a mile), half a mile to the new Safeway, less than 2 miles to the North Hills trail system, 2.5 miles to campus, and 1 mile or 2.5 miles to Bayern and Kettlehouse Brewries.

So, by the first week of April we should be all moved in and I can give up driving.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Past Peak Oil

For anyone interested, the Oil Drum has a great post today about non-OPEC member nations being past peak oil production. From the statistics it appears that non-OPEC nations reached peak back in 2004 in regards to oil.

What does that mean? For most people, the only concern this will bring to mind is the utterly unsustainable oil price of $40 a barrel. If production declines even moderately, say 2-3% a year, the price will once again shoot-up. Maybe not immediately to the peaks we recently experienced, but give it some time and we will see oil prices much higher this go around. Even with the current economic crisis, oil demand is not falling at 2-3% a year, so we have a situation where demand will be far out pacing supply, leading not only to higher prices, but to shortages ala the 1970's, only this time we won't get over the oil shocks.

How can people prepare for this inevitable future? First, as a nation, we can stop building suburbs and start concentrating on refurbishing existing towns along New Urbanist guidelines while building the transportation and alternative energy infrastructure needed to help make the transition to a world with less oil. People that live in urban areas consume less energy and produce less carbon emissions according to an article over at City Journal (thanks to CarFree USA Blog for finding the article) Thats only part of the solution. As individuals, one of the fastest ways to lower personal energy consumption is to stop driving. I know that our current living arrangements in America don't always allow for this to be a reality, but no other behavioral change will do more to reduce energy consumption and save people money. For other ideas on what can be done, check out the book Plan C: Community Survival Strategies for Peak Oil and Climate Change by Pat Murphy and anything by James Howard Kunstler is also a great source of information.

Sunday, February 22, 2009


Today I installed and tested a new toy for my bike. Like a pedometer, the Cateye Micro Wireless device (approx. $30) records trip information for cyclists. It can record and display trip length, current and average speed, trip time, and even has an odometer to keep track of total millage.

The Cateye works by placing a small magnet on one of your wheel's spokes and a corresponding unit that reads the passing magnets rpms and transmits the data to the display unit. Its just a cool little device that makes keeping track of your cycling millage a little easier.

On another bike-tech note, here is a good article from Wired's gadget blog about a neon setup for bicycles. A cool idea for those that want a little flash to go along with their bikes, and an alternative to ordinary bicycle lights for those that ride at night. The only question I have is... how long would one of these last before it was stolen or broken by somebody?

Friday, February 20, 2009

Less Driving, Wrong reason

An article from Rueters, here, states that for the 14th month in a row, Americans are driving less. The drop in driving, however, is slowing because of lower gas prices. While this could be seen as a good thing, I'll be cynical here and view this for what it most likely is. People are only driving less because they are losing their jobs; no job means no commuting. It also means less money for consumer goods, so less trips to the mall. People probably aren't changing their behavior, they just have nowhere to go, and less money to spend.

Ironically, this also means that state and local government are generating less money from gas taxes, exacerbating the budget crunch.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Sorry David - A Statement of Belief

A recent op-ed by renowned conservative intellectual, David Brooks, I Dream of Denver has been bouncing around the net and making a big stir within the planning community. He basically states that planners have their heads in the clouds when it comes to reshaping the way Americans live and how our cities and communities operate and relate to one another. According to Brooks, the current downturn in the development industry is only temporary and that once the good old American economy is back up and running, Americans will continue to move farther away from urban cores to the exurbs.

I guess this is a good time to write a brief statement of my beliefs regarding planning and why I have chosen to give up my car... most of which opposes Brooks' point of view.

It is true that as a future planner I would like to see American cities revitalized and become livable and walkable environments. Why? Because I believe that as a nation we have to change the way that we live and interact with one another and our environment for the future vitality of our country. We can't go on expanding suburbia ever outward, there aren't the resources, the oil isn't there to allow use to continue to increase our driving and our society can't take the pressure that sitting in a tin-can for three hours a day does to a person. Do we really want to pave over every acre of farm land, or meadow, or rid ourselves of the charms of small towns and replace these things with the monotony of cul-de-sacs and strip malls?

Not only is suburbia an aesthetic and culture sink hole, but the economics can't last. I know the American economy is built upon the ever expanding binge-consumption of useless plastic crap, but for the health of ourselves, our communities, and our environment we need to consume and want less. Its a difficult transition to make, because almost everything in our American culture tells us that consumption is good, your not a good American if you don't consume. Our last president even told us that the most patriotic thing, as Americans, that we could do was to go to the mall.

The car and the physical infrastructure that is required to maintain the aoutocentric, mobile lifestyle of Americans is becoming to big, to destructive, and to costly. Living a life in which alternative transportation plays a large part consumes less, pollutes less, costs less, and has the added benefit of allowing face-to-face interactions with those individuals that you call neighbors. We need community right now, to get use through tough times, and that can't be fostered sitting in a car competing for lane space.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Night Lights

Zootown - LP 1st Attempt
Zootown © Along the Trail Photography

Well... I walked to the Clark Fork River last night to get a few night shots of
downtown from across the river. One thing about walking anywhere at night in Missoula is that as a pedestrian, cars really can't see you. It wasn't until the Hip Strip that enough street lighting was present that I actually felt safe from speeding motorists. I don't think this is much of a problem, but with better lighting in a few places, it might encourage people to walk a little more once the sun sets.

Monday, February 16, 2009

A Piece of the Transportation Puzzle

Dest Damn Bread Shop
Great Bread, and Great Business Participation
Businesses like Great Harvest can have a large impact on how our daily travels happen.

Transportation policy, in a larger sense, is a byzantine behemoth with many false paths and dead ends. Anybody that has followed the Russel St reconstruction knows this and the feeling of utter insignificance that can such a project can engender, especially when a great deal of the money comes with DOT strings attached. Local voices can easily be drowned out by the noise generated by large governmental organizations and finance debates.

If local concerns and needs can not fully make an impact on this process, then how do local values express themselves?

Bike Parking @ Great Harvest
Small measures can have a large impact.
There is space for about 10 bikes at this bakery,
Thats more parking capacity then what is provided
for cars.

One piece of the puzzle that can have a large impact are local employers. Missoula is lucky in the sense that a large proportion of work places actively encourage alternative transportation options. Its as simple as placing a bike rack in a convenient place or restricting parking spaces (not always an option due to zoning). Employer attitudes concerning transportation can have a substantial impact on the reality of our roads. Not only can businesses shape the way their employees and even customers commute, business interests can help or hinder many aspect of transportation policy. Large corporations such as the car manufacturers helped shape the realities of transportation during the 20th century. Local businesses can also have an impact, by publicly lobbying local governments for well-rounded policies.

Organization and communication are key to developing sensible strategies that can equally meet the needs of everyone in a community. Missoula would be in a far different place concerning transportation policies without local business organizations and local government frequently communicating. Programs such as Missoula In Motion are great initiatives, but without a partnership between different interests within the community, its success would not be possible.

Ultimately, if a community wants to have an impact on something as large as transportation policy, it is up to each individual and organization to make and work towards the right choices. Small changes done on a large scale can have profound effects.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Car Light Night

Night Rider, originally uploaded by AlongtheTrailPhoto.

Well... I still haven't transitioned to a car-free existence, but am doing my best to be car-light at the moment. Last night a bunch of us flickr addicts from Missoula got together for some night photopraphy. It was a really great experience and I learned many things and met many new and fascinating people.

Getting downtown on my bike wasn't very tough at all - after recovering from the disorientation of not having ridden at night for some time - as the river trail system is a great asset to Missoula. Of course, on such a cold night I was the only one out on a bike. Getting home after a few was another matter.

Here's on of the photos from the shoot:


Thursday, February 5, 2009

Work in Progress

Well, this is the first post of Imagine No Cars, a blog that will focus on my journey using only bike, bus, and my own leg power to meet all my transportation needs. I'm waiting to start this one year experiment until the weather improves and I have a chance to become slightly more organized.

So... For now this will act as a place holder.
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