Monday, August 31, 2009

Complete Streets Comes to Missoula

Within the last week Missoula Montana has joined the likes of San Diego, Salt Lake City, Miami, and New York by passing a resolution that calls for Complete Streets. The resolution passed the Missoula City Council on Aug. 24th a wide margin. The resolution has been pushed for by local resident John Salmonson and its thanks to his hard work and many others including BWAM that we have this change in policy. More can be viewed here and the actual resolution can be found here.

The new policy calls for any new construction or reconstructed streets to be designed with all users in mind to create a safe environment for pedestrians, cyclists, motorists, and transit. Missoula is already a fairly friendly place for pedestrians and cyclists, but that usually only extends to certain neighborhoods such as those around campus and closer to downtown. There are currently many sidewalks badly in need of repair and even many places where sidewalks just abruptly end.

The Complete Streets measure won't change anything overnight; there are millions of dollars of projects spread around Missoula that need to be taken care of. This will be a decades long process to "complete our streets" here in Missoula. But this is still a major step forward for the bicycle and pedestrian organizations within Missoula. The hard work that many of these groups and the individuals volunteering their time to advocate the city, county, and state for better infrastructure over the last decade is finally legitimized in this resolution. The potential is great as the design process is now officially sanctioned to have Complete Streets designed in rather than as something that local groups have to push and fight for.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Week 21 CarFree Stats

Calculate your carbon emissions @

Week 21

Miles Biked: 78.85
Gallons Saved: 4.93
CO2 Not Emitted: 30.94 Ibs

Month 5

Miles Biked: 286.47
Gallons Saved: 17.9
CO2 Not Emitted: 449.76 Ibs

Friday, August 28, 2009

Random Bicycle Crap Fridays

Queen Bicycle Videos - I can't decide which one is the Worst

And then we have the artsy entry, just because its done in black and white

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Don't Always Trust Free Shit

I learned a valuable lesson yesterday, one that almost cost me my fixed gear bicycle. Good components are important, because shitty ones will blow up on you.

Riding around Missoula trying to have some new prints ready for saturday's market, I started to hear a strange noise. At first I thought it was just my ipod headphones not being plugged in all the way, thus creating interference, but the noise kept getting louder. With my earbuds out there was a series of clicks, pops, and grinding coming from my bike; lets just say this scared me a little.

Flipping my bike over, the chain was extremely tight, and when set in motion would almost immediately come to a stop. At first I just thought my chain was binding up and being afraid to ride anymore in case something were to happen, I threw my bicycle over my shoulder and walked the mile or so to the nearest place I could get some help, Sports Exchange.

On getting there, the owner and I flipped the bike over out front of his store to take a closer look. We soon found a seal popping out of the bottom bracket at the beginning of the crank arm. Trying to pop off the crank, the internals of the bottom bracket were loose and moving around. At that point I decided to venture to a full service bike shop where they would have all the right tools for this job.

I hit up Hellgate Cyclery and they helped me out right away. Within two minutes they had the bottom bracket apart and found that the bearings in the bottom bracket had flown apart. Not only that, but it was a French bottom bracket in an English setup (the male/female threads are opposite - damn French).

Let me explain the history of the bottom bracket. When I was searching for a frame, I had come across a Nishiki with a bottom bracket already in it. At the time I had debated whether to replace it or not, and figured why buy something new when the part is already there and seems to work. The frame had obviously been through a few owners and setups as it had multiple pain jobs that I had to strip away. Someone had slipped (maybe not the right word since it would have been a real pain to get the bottom bracket in) in a French bottom bracket without knowing what they were doing.

So, now that the part had eaten it, my frame was potentially no good if the threads couldn't accept a new bottom bracket. At this point I wondered off to a bar a few blocks away to drown out my thoughts of having to find a new frame. They worked on the thing trying to salvage the frame and an hour later I checked back in.

Luckily, upon returning to Hellgate Cyclery, my fixie was all put back together again. I have to thank those guys for really saving my ass. Now every time I am able to hop on my bike, its all thanks to them.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Bicycle & Transit Infrastructure More Efficient Than Car - Road Combo

Classes start up again within a week, and what am I doing for my last week of summer? Why... reading a book titled Sustainability and Cities by two professors, Peter Newman & Jeffrey Kenworthy.

The book lays out how the automobile city is an extremely inefficient method of moving both people and goods in an urban setting. The freedom that has seduced so many people into buying a car in the belief that all roads are empty like in car commercials is questioned and proven to have been a very short transitory state. Sustainability and Cities is full of great data compiled from academic studies - admittedly a little old at this point, as most were undertaken in the '80s and '90s -but still very useful.

Again and again the bicycle and transit come out on top of all other types of transportation. For example, a study (Aschauer 1989) of transportation costs associated with moving around the Boston urban area shows that on a per mile basis, cycling is the cheapest form of transportation. In the study cycling costs $.13-.14 per mile compared with a single occupancy vehicle (SOV) at $.81-.94 per mile while rail operated at $.29 per mile.

The costs associated with personal vehicles is something that most people dealing with transportation and alternative transportation are well aware of. Even so, it can be a very contentious issue as promoters of laissez faire will point out that cars promote economic activity, provide freedom of movement, and are what the public wants, and so roads are needed because the demand is present; this, of course, discounts the fact that roads are a government provided service, that externalities are discounted, and the billions of dollars spent convincing people that they aren't good Americans without a car.

In five studies conducted in the early '90s the average external costs of operating a vehicle came to $3,063 per year (those costs not taken into account and not paid for by the individual). In 2007, there were roughly 250 million registered vehicles on the road in America. That comes to $765 billion in external costs that are not factored into our conscience decision to operate a motor vehicle (very rough estimate, probably higher at this point). Externalities in this case include pollution, loss of productivity from congestion, traffic accidents, etc.

This doesn't even begin to take into account all the myriad costs associated with the build out of auto-centric cities. Dependence on auto use forces other urban systems to change - we need a place to park all those cars - and each one, sprawl, parking lots, land paved over for roads, congestion, adds to the inefficiencies of automobile use.

This point can be visualized in the following graph (sorry for the low quality), which displays the relationship between density and private transportation energy use. The graph shows per capita energy use - basically how efficiently we use our wealth to accomplish our daily needs - and America scores very badly - with our cities hovering around 60,000 megajoules (MJ) expended for transportation on a per capita basis. One MJ is equal to 947 BTUs, 1 million joules, 238 kilocalories or .277kilowatt hrs - thats a lot of energy. 60,000 MJs are equal to 56 million BTUs.

Every other region of the world is more efficient in moving people and goods around their cities than America, with Asia being the most efficient. Pretty straightforward, the more dense a city, the less one has to travel to take care of their daily needs and trips to work. Why drive when most things are within a mile of your residence.

America has, for a long time, believed that economic and ecological constraint do not apply to how we organize our society. We could always develop land on the urban fringe to create jobs and housing for our growing population while ignoring the costs. This worked well for the first half of the experiment, but now the costs have so exceeded the benefits of low density sprawl that we are seeing major environmental, economic, health, and even moral consequences from our arrangement of cities. Suburbs aren't going away, and neither is the car or the detached single family house, but its important that these things are re-envisioned to meet America's needs and challenges in the 21st century.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Missoula Roundabout Almost Ready to Ease Traffic Headaches

Missoula is getting its first single lane roundabout at the intersection of Higgins - Hill - Beckwith. This is completely different than the current traffic circles that can be found in our towns residential neighborhoods; which are meant to calm traffic at non-controlled intersections.

The roundabout has been under construction for about two months (more here) and is meant to make safer and more efficient a major intersection for traffic going to both the University of Montana and downtown. Pedestrian safety was a major design factor for the reconstructed intersection as the old intersection provided no safe or marked way for pedestrians to cross.

Roundabouts like the one about to open have been proven in numerous studies (here and here) have shown that roundabouts can reduce traffic accidents at intersections by anywhere from 30% to 70% depending on the prior intersection environment; this is mostly due to decreased speeds and the elimination of traffic crossing paths.

The Higgins - Hill - Beckwith roundabout will also feature some beautification with a park on one corner and the landscaping that can be seen in the photo below.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Carfree Weekly Stats

Calculate your carbon emissions @

Week 20

Miles Biked: 35.29
Gallons Saved: 2.21
CO2 Not Emitted: 13.85 Ibs

Week 19

Miles Biked: 97.58
Gallons Saved: 6.09
CO2 Not Emitted: 38.01 Ibs

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Confirmation - More Bicycles on the Road = Safer Cycling Environment

My neighbor, Hank Green of, came across an interesting graph courtesy of Treehugger. In this short article here Treehugger shows the relationship between the number of people taking to the road on bicycles and the number of annual injuries and fatalities.

Essentially, the graph shows that between 1998 and 2008 the number of cyclists on New York City streets roughly doubled while annual casualties dropped from roughly 5,000 to under 3,000. This is something that many bicycle advocates have been arguing for some time now. The original article out of The Atlantic Magazine is conformation of this relationship.

Now... there is more going on here than just increased numbers bringing about increased safety for cyclists. The increased demand from bicycle commuters has corresponded to an increased supply of bicycle facilities on NYC streets and the inclusion in the design process of road features that makes cycling a more attractive and safe option.

Whatever other factors contribute to the decrease in cyclist fatalities, the situation in NYC is something that all bicycle and alternative transportation supporters should take note of. Just from my own and other people's experiences in the parts of Missoula - where cyclists have become normal and even clog the bike lanes at certain times of day - there is an increased awareness of and respect for cyclists coming from motorists. However, in parts of town where cyclists rarely venture, the slaughter continues, on streets like Reserve - a five lane expressway.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Going to the Country

Just a little update... I'll be in Ft. Benton Montana for the week, so the postings will be pretty light. More to come next week.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Random Bicycle Crap Fridays - Bicycles of Missoula Vol. I

Missoula has some great bicycles to be found around town. In the last few years a lot of vintage Bicycles have come out of hiding, adding a lot of variety to the streets of Missoula. Here are just a few.

This first one isn't vintage, but a custom fixed-gear build by Cody Gould. He sent me this photo after he saw a photo of my fixed-gear, joking that one of us was the evil twin since we had such similar setups - though I don't have wood grain wheels like Cody. The frame is a custom hand-built frame from a friend of his out of Helena.

I like the colorway of this next bike, but I think the bike is a little naked with that puny chain locking it up.

This bike was setup for a father - daughter ride. I don't know if people can make it out, but the second seat has a second crank that a little child can reach, although the little girl could only reach it with her toes.

I really had no idea what the lever was for, I just thought it was interesting

The handlebars caught my eye with this fixed-gear, also looks like custom paint.

Good example of the vintage style that is showing up in Missoula

Clean fixed-gear build, props for the color coordination

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Bicycle Themed Music Videos: New Trend?

So... I usually hold this stuff in until Fridays, but I already have a post planned for then. Plus this is just too good of a bad music video to pass up. I mean its got everything the bike culture has to offer: fixies, road bikes, wannabe triathletes, bicycle clans, bad fashion, and trackstands.

Is this a new trend? I'm sure BSNYC will let us all know soon enough.

Via @Cyclelicious

Monday, August 10, 2009

Carfree Entrepreneur Profile

As I have probably said before - and no doubt people from outside Missoula are tired of hearing about - Missoula is a one of a kind place. And like Portland, us arrogant Missoulians like to shout this from the top of the nearest mountain... as long as it has a big letter on it. Thats why there is a Facebook page advocating that Missoula should be the capital of the WORLD.

I digress, the intention of this post is to showcase yet another Missoula carfree Entrepreneur from the Farmer's Market.

Meet Chris Johnson - founder of Zoo City Apparel

Chris started Zoo city Apparel in 2007 as a custom printing and design shop for clothing. He has since expanded his business into reail and wholesale markets that include local hipster fav Betty's Divine.

Chris was also a founding member of the Zootown Arts Community Center (ZACC) that has been an important anchor in the revival and redevelopment of Missoula's Northside district. ZACC, as member Holliday Jeremiassen puts it, "...prides itself on bringing art to the entire community, offering scholorships and other forms of assistance to families in need. Its a great way for emerging artists to learn how to market and sell their items in a local retail outlet."

Chris does just about everything he possibly can on his bike, with the help of a very cool trailer. But I'll let Chris tell it from here.

Why did you chose to be carfree in running your business?

If you do most of your moving about within Missoula, it's a no-brainer. This town is flat, easy to commute around in and has copious bike trails, paths, lanes and secret backways to ride. So there's a common sense aspect to it of course and then there's the moral/ethical reasoning that we all know so well and need not be repeated here. There's also a demonstration or evangelical sort of side to it of "Hey look at all this big, heavy-ass shit I just hauled on this trailer- you can do this too!". But, aside from all that, I just like to ride.

What have been the major obstacles and challenges of operating a business carfree?

It's hard to think of much.... Probably the lack of a vehicle for quick business trips outside of town. That usually requires either a car rental, or a commandeering of a friends truck. I've been working in fits and starts toward a small car share with friends. Typically, I'll help cover some costs of someones vehicle in exchange for getting use of it a few times a year when other options won't work. See that last question for a little more on this.

How did you decide to start your business?

I was a street vendor as a third side-job when I first came to town (another story involving bicycles), distributing a lot of stuff from Microcosm publishing and things like that. Street vending felt right to me so I decided to start printing my own clothing and from that first step the rest of this sprung up. My drive to operate a business stems from my desire to stay in Missoula- I love this place but it's a hard line getting paid enough to survive.

Are you carfree in all aspects of your life?

No. Is anybody? I'm not a hardliner when it comes to this (or much else in life) and I think that sort of attitude can turn people away from it. You have to recognize that a lot of internal combustion takes place to keep your daily American life in motion no matter how much you ride a bike. All the components of my clothes are sourced as close to Missoula as possible for this reason.

While I haven't owned a vehicle for years I do still use them. Cars and especially trucks have an "appropriate use" and I am certainly one to take full advantage of that where I can. I do enjoy getting out of the valley once in a while and a rig can make that happen when time is too short for a little bike tour. That's the main thing I use them for- recreation. And, this might seem paradoxical, but I actually enjoy driving and like cars quite a bit. Were money no object, I'd have a nice greasel rig parked in the yard for getting the really big chores done and for muddin around in. I just don't see where you need a vehicle for the vast majority of your daily tasks.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Week 18 Carfree Stats

Miles Biked: 64.98
Gallons Saved: 4.06
CO2 Not Emitted: 25.5 Ibs

Friday, August 7, 2009

Random Bicycle Crap Fridays

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Missoula Hit-&-Run Incident Sparks Same Old Us vs Them Arguement

In this post I get a little local... but I'm sure this kind of thing happens in every corner of America.

You would think that when an innocent elderly women gets killed as a result of a hit and run incident at a busy intersection, people from the community would band together to express their grief and desire for a safer transportation environment. But no, thats not what happened. Very quickly the Missoulian articles... here and here turned into a shouting match between people (mostly avid cyclists and pedestrians) blaming the motorist and those that deafened the motorist and said that anyone on a bicycle or a pedestrian on that road was an idiot and most likely deserved what they got. (Its a shame that by now you can't view the long series of comments made about the initial news story).

I'll just give a quick overview of what happened. On June 22nd at the intersection of Brooks and Reserve streets (a big 20+ lane intersection with sweeping corners) a women was walking her bike across the intersection in the crosswalk going northbound when a pickup truck that was idling in the left hand turn lane suddenly proceeded into the intersection and struck Beverly Joyce Felton whom eventually died of brain injuries.

The man in the pickup sped off and later turned himself in and admitted to hitting Beverly, this of course was only after a witness had come forward and identified for the police the man's vanity plates.

As I said before, I wish the record of comments was still available, but I can sum things up for people from memory. Within only a few comments people started blaming the "victim" for not paying enough attention to her surroundings, for even being on that street because it is so dangerous, complaining generally that cyclists and pedestrians act as if they own the road and that their arrogant behavior was the problem, and that Beverly was an idiot for even being out there while not in a car.

The "Bicycle Nazi," as some of the angry motorists called them, fired back with the usual stupid people in SUVs rant.

All this went on all the while Beverly's family members were participating in the debate, calling for all sides to calm down and realize that a human being had just died and that people need to respect that fact and not use this as a forum to express hatred of "the other."

The sad thing is that it now continues in the latest article, although not nearly as bad. It only takes one person's comment to send the rest of the discussion on a tangent about the cranial deficiencies of the other group. All the while Beverly's memory is trampled upon while individuals get in their own hateful speech about their adversaries on bikes or in cars.

Perhaps the most ridiculous thing about all this is the fact that the man turned himself in and admitted to hitting Beverly, and yet is now pleading not-guilty. The judge has let him out on bail with his driver's licence in hand. People are defending this decision as his right to a fair trial and that we shouldn't jump to conclusions. But honestly... when someone is charged with murder using a hand gun I don't think they let that person out of court with a Glock in their hand... no, they confiscate any deadly weapons, but apparently this man still has access to his.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Carfree Farmers Market Profile - Deborah Marshall

This is a series that I have been meaning to start for some time now. Participating in the Saturday Markets here in Missoula as a vendor is a totally different experience than just walking through on a morning stroll. There are lots of great, creative, and fun people all trying to use their creativity to make a little extra cash and be part of what makes the Missoula community so unique. Some are extremely successful and participate in the markets only as another avenue for their goods while others work full time jobs and squeeze the market in as a creative outlet.

I'm not the only one at the market that does everything by bicycle. There are actually a number of individuals that transport their goods using a bicycle trailer. This is one of those many individuals, and the first in a series of posts featuring Missoula's very own brand of bicycle entrepreneurs.

Meet Deborah Marshall
Deborah has been a vendor selling handmade jewelry at the People's Market of Missoula for two years. She works as a professional massage therapist and jewelry has always been a hobby that she has recently turned into a more serious venture.
Here is the interview that I conducted with Deborah both at the market and through email.

You said your car had broken down and thats why you had gone carfree, could you provide details about what happened and when?

My car was a 1987 Isuzu Trooper, and in mid April, the timing belt broke about 6 blocks from my house. The engine is shot, and would have to be rebuilt, and would be very expensive. Last summer even with a working car I rode my bike 90% of the time. As long as the weather is decent I will choose the bike most of the time.

Which do you prefer, bike or bus?

In the summer I prefer the bike, or putting the bike on the bus, which is what I do if I have to go out towards Costco area. In the winter I ride the bus more often, because of the ice on the roads.

How long have you been a vendor at the market?

This is my second year to be a vendor at the market. I rode the bike with the cart all last year for the market.

Is it difficult carrying your equipment without a car, both for the market and on the bus for your massage therapy work?

Actually it is not hard using the bike cart and carrying my stuff for both market and seated massages. I also don't have any trouble carrying my massage chair on the bus. But I also play the harp and that I can not carry in the cart or on the bus.

Do you feel differently about cars now that you live a life without using one?

Here in Missoula I would much rather ride the bike unless the weather is really bad. I also don't like riding in 100 degree heat. I know that I would not like riding a bike in a major urban area because of the traffic. I feel that a car is sort of an unfortunate necessity in many instances in our culture, and because of my harp I need a car. If we had really good public transportation that would make a huge difference in my decisions about using a car.
My biggest complaints about the bus system is they don't come around often enough, don't go to some of the places I need to go, don't run long enough in the evenings, don't run a full schedule on Saturdays, and don't run at all on Sundays. I would be a big supporter of trains, especially to places like the Bitterroot valley, north to Polson, and really everywhere. And if there were decent bus systems at your destination, I think it would eliminate a lot of car driving. True public transportation should as much as possible meet the peoples needs not force people to meet their agendas, that is the only way we will be able to get people to choose to use public transportation.

Would you recommend being carfree to others?

I do recommend biking as an alternative to cars all the time. In most instances it is much better as far as I am concerned. Of course up here winter is a huge problem. I am not interested in being on our icy roads, even with studded bike tires.
Also the snow plow berms eliminate an "escape" route if you are forced off the road by bad drivers or a sliding car out of control. Many many of the residential streets and less traveled streets which I routinely ride on to get out of the way of traffic are in very bad shape snow and ice wise in the wintertime.

How has being carfree changed other aspects of your life?

Of course there is the exercise aspect of a bike which is great but also I think a bike is more peaceful, I love being able to tool along at a much slower pace and see the flowers and gardens, I love being about to say hello to someone in passing, or even stop to talk, which is not usually possible in a car.
I really like the fact that a bike does not isolate you from the natural world and other people like a car does. Riding a bike does force one to plan ahead more. It is so easy to just "hop in the car and go" and for me choosing to ride the bike takes a little more forethought, especially in managing my time, so that I leave early enough when riding the bike.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Week 17 Carfree Stats

This week I surpassed 1000 miles of commuting and errand running on my bike... and thats all I have to say today.

Week 17 Stats

Miles Biked: 88.62
Gallons Saved: 5.54
CO2 Not Emitted: 34 Ibs

Month 4 Carfree Stats

Miles Biked: 295.83
Miles on Bus: 1046
Gallons Saved: 83.86
CO2 Not Emitted: 1064 Ibs
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