Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Covered Bike Racks in Missoula?

I just came across this bike rack design on the city of Missoula's website. Its a design for a covered bike rack and the date on the document is from 1998. However, I have been living here for about 7 years and have never seen on of these covered racks.

This isn't really a big deal, but this information is on Missoula's Bicycle and Pedestrian Program website. So why is a government website putting out false information? Maybe because no one will notice, other than me, but really if a government agency is going to claim they have done something, it would be nice if they actually did it. I would love some covered bike racks in this town, or something that is a little more pleasing to the eye than the usual racks around here.

Monday, September 28, 2009

A Few Thoughts on Jane Jacobs

I finally made it through Death and Life of Great American Cities the other day and can move on with my life. I'm embarrassed to say that I started reading Jane Jacobs' classic last spring while there was still snow flying.

While the book is showing its age, especially regarding discussion about banks and housing projects (now that most housing projects have been or will be torn down). Nut overall Death and Life is still a very important piece of literature.

Jane Jacobs obviously takes a lot of pride in the small details that make up a city, the parks, people, sidewalks, building facades, and local entrepreneurs that make up a city. The small details are what matter the most when it comes to building a community with a sense of place and character and it is precisely these most important small details that planners often over look.

That is the inherent contradiction of planning, it is a profession that takes a look at the big picture for the most part, and until recently when collaborative planning has become part of the process, the small details that make a community thrive were missing from planners' radars. That is way the collaborative process is so important, to fill in gaps in knowledge and design that planners might not have access to.

The book is a big proponent of cities as "organic" structures that are not stagnant but alive and constantly in flux. As such, organic growth of neighborhoods, associations, relationships, and the urban structure of cities are what make fro vibrant and strong cities and not massively scaled urban renewal projects that attempt to sanitize an area.

She doesn't spend much time on the car, other than to emphasize the positive feedback the car's influence on city design has on the erosion of vibrant and diverse cities. Cars must be designed for, and in accommodating the use of cars, forces a separation and spreading out of what used to be mixed-use areas because of the pressures of moving and storing vehicles.

Her message from all this critique is simple; that people have to take back the planning process from government bureaucrats that don't have a city's or neighborhood's best interests in mind. Ideas such as Radiant City and Garden City design must be thrown out and replaced with something that actually expresses the reality of people's needs and psychology.

I guess since planning will be my profession I need to heed her words even though the planning process has significantly changed since the book was originally written.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Week 25 Carfree Stats

Calculate your carbon emissions @

Miles biked: 62.47
Gallons Saved: 3.9
CO2 not Emitted: 24.52 Ibs

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Random Bicycle Crap Fridays: Advertising FAIL

For today's Random Bicycle Crap Fridays, patent pending, I am once again diverging from my normal pattern of irrelevant nonsensical crap and featuring something I find just a little ironic.

Obviously, people that visit this blog know that its about trying to live carfree for a full year besides the other transportation and urban design related musings. But this small little tiny detail must have slipped by someone recently when they wanted to advertise on this site.

A spokes-person for emailed me inquiring about possible advertising space. Here is the email:

My name is ____,

I work for, a rental car search engine.

I stumbled on and was interested in advertising on your front-page.We are interested in a link featuring our company.

Would you be interested in something like this? Also, would you be willing to set up a 6 month or 1 year deal?

Please let me know.

Thank you for your time.

I personally find this fairly amusing, as I never set out upon this journey with the idea that I would make any money. Not only that but obviously this person didn't spend that much time figuring out what this blog is about, but maybe that is my fault. Do rental cars count as "alternative transportation"?

I guess these are the kinds of opportunities/hassles that I have to now deal with since becoming a "new media" content producer/shit shoveler. The kind of opportunities I like having offered to me are more like book reviews (which come with free books). I had my first complimentary book sent to me by a publisher titled, After the Car, by Kingsley Dennis and John Urry. I have not started reading it yet, but now that I'm done with Jane Jacob's masterpiece, I can finally move on.

What I want to know from the few readers that have made it this far, and I'm guessing thats not many since there is now video of a cyclist hitting their nuts on something, is is there a difference between the two offers?

I automatically accepted the offer for a review copy of the book, but have yet to respond to the advertising offer. After the Car seems to fit perfectly with the message/bullshit I broadcast from this blog on a daily basis, but the rental car thing is just plain contradictory. But am I selling out by accepting either of the offers? Or would I be selling out if I accepted the rental car advertising offer?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Random Bicycle Updates

As I said in my previous post, its getting to be busy around here, and so I'm falling behind with posts and not keeping up with things as I should be. Case in point, two widespread events that I missed until the days of the events; Park(ing) Day and World Carfree Day.

First up is a call for public participation in a new series of photo slide shows at

From the Streetsblog:

We need your help.
We want to see what you're seeing when you're out there on the streets of America, and we're going to be asking you to send us your pictures on specific themes in the weeks to come.
This week: bike traffic.
In pretty much every part of the country, fall is prime biking weather -- not too hot, not too cold. Just right for riding to work, doing your errands or getting out and about for some recreation.
Well, we want the proof. Shoot us your pictures of bike traffic in the places you live -- the more cyclists the merrier. Of course, while pictures of jam-packed bike lanes are welcome, feel free to send along anything noteworthy, beautiful or just plain fun.
We'll gather the results and put them together in a slide show for your enjoyment and edification.
You can send JPEGs to me at sarah [at] streetsblog [dot] org. Or tag your photos with streetsblog in Flickr.
Don't forget to include caption info, and let us know how you want to be credited.
Need a deadline? Submit your entries by next Tuesday, September 29th.
And have fun out there!

This being Missoula, Montana, we don't have the population, or the people paying attention and willing to organize for everyone of these big events. But we're doing our best here.

Park(ing) Day took place on Sept. 18th and was a demonstration of citizens taking back public space from cars. The local paper, the Missoulian, even covered the event in their Strange News section. Part creative art project, part public demonstration project... the goal is to show that public space currently used for parking cars can offer much more in the way of public needs, engagement, and cultural expression.

World Carfree Day took place yesterday, and while not a big event in America, certainly a big rallying cry around the world. Both these events ultimately aim to get people engaged in thinking about how cities can be different from the auto-dominated environments most are today.

Here in Missoula, Pedalfest took over Caras park all day Saturday. A celebration of everything cycling, the day started with a costumed ride around downtown, followed by lots of music, bicycle stunts, bike jousting, and plenty of flowing beer. I'll have a more in depth look at the event with photos within a week.

Finally, Missoula is once again attempting to organize a series of Sunday Streets events for next year. Originally they were going to happen this year, but too much organization had to be done in too little time. The tentative idea is that two events will happen next year, one in the spring and one in the fall. If anyone is interested in being part of the planning and organizational process, meetings happen once every two weeks on Fridays @ 9 am @ Liquid Planet. Nest meeting is this week.

Monday, September 21, 2009

James Corless of Transportation for America

Photo via T4A

Last week was a big week in terms of both my class load and things happening that I want to write about. I hope I can catch up a little this week.

On Thursday, James Corless from Transportation for America (T4A) was in Missoula for a small conference on health. While he was here he also gave a short guest lecture at the University of Montana sponsored by ASUM Transportation.

What is T4A? Its a large non-profit organization geared toward campaigning and advocating for reworking America's national transportation system. A large coalition has been built around the need for reform of over 300 other non-profit, for-profit organizations, and government officials. As an organization, T4A is very much geared toward lobbying and policy, but have a wide range of resources available for partner groups to access.

Mr. Corless' speech covered the usual "why we need reform" points that most of the people in the audience had probably heard before; certainly preaching to the quire. But he had a lot of good points to pass along. He stressed the connection of land-use and transportation and that the two are so interrelated that they can not be treated separately.

Our current land-use patterns certainly don't promote people getting out of their cars and hopping on transit or a bike. The last 70 odd years have seen an erosion of our cities and public spaces to provide for vehicular traffic. And as this process has continued, the more cars are accommodated, the more cars are present on our roads and need to be stored somewhere, which then reinforces the need for more space for cars and more travel by cars.

The only way to stop such a process is to stop designing for ever more cars and design for more public space to be given over to transit, sidewalks, and cyclists; as demonstrated by the recent Park(ing) Day events that aimed to take public space back from vehicles. This strategy needs to be accompanied by a reorganization of our land-use practices. Putting a transit corridor down a an area of sprawl does little to alleviate traffic. But add in mixed-use zoning and Transit Oriented Development (TOD) along that corridor for several blocks on either side, and all of a sudden you have a game changing situation.

Another important factor is the cost of transportation, not just monetary, but time and convenience (as even Thomas Friedman knows and points out in his recent column). If transit can be made to be faster and easier to use, while var travel is made harder to use, people will naturally switch. This is what has happened for almost a century, but in reverse; making it harder for people to use transit or walk to where they need to go. And so people have intuitively made the switch by the millions to use of the SOV because other modes of transportation where so damn hard and confusing to use.

Once people see that transit or active transportation (biking/walking) can be enjoyable, easy to use, convenient, and cheap they will flock to it to reach there destinations. Vehicular traffic now creates so much of its own friction as people compete for limited road space and congestion builds, that people don't want to deal with the stress of driving. Give people an enjoyable experience on their way to a destination, as Phoenix is discovering with their new light-rail line, and people will flock to public transportation.

A long road to reform looms ahead, but already local and national organizations like BWAM and T4A are already working hard to make a difference. It will take a lot of collaborative effort to achieve T4A's vision for transportation. Thanks again to James Corless for talk with us here in Missoula.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Carfree Stats For Week 24 and Month 6

After this week I am basically half way through my Carfree year. Of course, this being Montana, the easiest half is now behind me.

Calculate your carbon emissions @

Week 24

Miles Biked: 86.42
Gallons Saved: 5.4
CO2 Not Emitted: 33.91 Ibs

Month 6

Miles Biked: 284.12
Gallons Saved: 17.76
CO2 Not Emitted: 111.49 Ibs

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


I was debating even writing about this, but since I wanted this blog to chronicle the highs and lows of being carfree, and this is certainly a low that I am ashamed of.

Yesterday, right after getting to campus, I hit a pedestrian with my bicycle just in front of the Adams center. It was a fairly low speed impact and I didn't even knock the man down; he looked like the kind of person that plays a lot of sports and so was just going to take the pain and walk it off without complaining.

What happened is that I had just transitioned onto the side walk in front of the Adams Center on my way across campus. I saw the guy walking in the same direction as me as well as an on-coming cyclist. The guy was walking with his head down and so didn't notice the other cyclist until he looked up. At that point I was already going to might right to go around him, but when he saw the on-coming cyclist, he stepped into my path. I couldn't go anymore right, since there was a big-ass sign I would have hit, so I tried to veer to the left but there was no room and I would have hit the cyclist. So, in the end I hit the brakes hard and then hit the pedestrian. I made sure he was alright and he just kept walking and ensured me that he was fine, so I headed off to my destination.

Like I said before, I'm ashamed that this occurred. I guess if you bike long enough things like these will eventually happen, as I've been hit by a car. I don't feel like I was riding dangerously, but that doesn't change the fact that I fucked-up just a little.

If anyone out there knows a big guy that likes to work out at the gym on campus that had a run-in with a cyclist yesterday, let me know because I think I owe him a drink.

Monday, September 14, 2009

A Little Wisdom from Jane Jacobs

Traffic arteries, along with parking lots, gas stations, and drive-ins, are powerful and insistent instruments of city destruction. To accomidate them, city streets are brocken down into loose sprawls, incoherent and vacuous for anyone on foot.

-Jane Jacobs, Death and Life of Great American Cities

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Week 23 Carfree Stats

Calculate your carbon emissions @

Miles Biked: 61.23
Gallons Saved: 3.83
CO2 Not Emitted: 24.03 IBS

Friday, September 11, 2009

Fridays Random Bicycle Crap

Today's post is dedicated to my lovely fiance, Ashley. Thanks for being there with me on this long and convoluted journey.

I'm going to veer off my usual course for this Friday's post and subject people to some of my thoughts. Plus... I really don't feel like wading through all the stupid stuff out there on the intertubes.

When I first started this carfree experiment, Ashley was pretty insistent that I try it out for a month or so, and depending on how that went I could expand it. She was also pretty upset about me not driving and how that would affect her life, as she felt it would be an unfair burden; plus no more DD at 2 am. I figured that a month was a pretty puny goal and held strong on the full year idea. Now I'm just about half way through and Ashley's attitude has changed just slightly.

Now within the last few weeks Ashley has expressed different opinions about cars and bicycles. She has repeatedly said how frustrating driving anywhere can be, how crazy and inconsiderate other drivers are, and how long it takes to get anywhere with congestion - and all this in a town of about 70,000.

At the same time she has discovered how fast a simple bicycle ride can be to get to places and how enjoyable it can be as well. Recently she has been coming home and asking me how long I think it took her to get somewhere and when I'm wrong she proudly exclaims her time.

I must say that I'm proud she is finding bicycling so convenient and fun. She has significantly increased the amount of trips she does by bicycle and she is getting more comfortable riding around town. One of my goals of this experiment was not only to see if I could not operate a vehicle for a year, but to hopefully inspire other people to do the same. I didn't have any naive idea that this blog would reach people and they would get my message, but I was mainly hopping that people close to me might make small changes in their daily habits.
I guess I've succeeded in that small goal. Have a good weekend everyone.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Missoula Roundabout Opening

Last week Missoula's first roundabout opened to the public. It was a pretty large event for the opening of an intersection; maybe because it was built with stimulus money and was the first large project to be completed in the state of Montana. A lot of big political players sent people from their offices, such as Senators Tester and Baucus and all the local politicians were on hand for the ribbon cutting.

Before I get any farther along though, I would like to point people's attention to the photo above. Hopefully people can notice the abundance of signage present; 32 in all, even everyone in my Land Use Planning class thought that was a little excessive. I think Montana's DOT was a little scarred of stupid or distracted drivers driving through the middle.

Of course I believe the signage itself is a bit distracting, and even with all the signs people in cars still tried to blow through the intersection when it first opened. Most of these people were on cell phones and one even came close to running over city councilman Jason Wiener.

Here in America, traffic engineers like to tell the public exactly what type of behavior is expected of them, mostly through signs (but then we do things like have speed limits on wide, open, and straight roads that encourage speeding). Drivers are mostly o.k. with this, since it allows them not to have to think too much while simultaneously being on the phone.

But does having 32 signs at a roundabout do anything for safety, or does it fill a contractor's pockets? A roundabout is a perfect situation for "shared space," a concept first proposed by Hans Monderman. Essentially, shared space takes away all on road instructions and allows users of the road to "negotiate" with one another for road space. The intent is to slow traffic, increase safety, and allow all users to share the road more equitably. I can almost guarantee that most people's reaction to this idea in America would anger and puzzlement. There are places in America that already implement this principal, such as Savannah, GA as pointed out at the Proper Scale blog.

Anyway... back to the opening ceremony. Below is the ribbon cutting ceremony performed by our mayor, John Engen and Jim Lynch, head of the MDOT.

And what would the opening of a roundabout be without cyclists to test it out? As you can see in the photo below, we had a pretty good turnout. The MDOT was giving out pamphlets on how cyclists and pedestrians should behave in the roundabout. It called for cyclists to dismount and walk their bikes through the cross-walks. Lets just say that none of us cyclists performed that stunt.

Missoula's own bicycle ambassadors, where there to educate the riding public about proper on street behavior. Ben even had a hand painted helmet on, go Vikings!
Dogs even came out to participate in such a monumental moment. Below is a BWAM member's dog along for the first ride through the roundabout.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Infrastructure Needs to be Factored in on Long-Term Transportation Cost/Carbon Emissions Calculations

Tracy White recently left a comment on an old blog post of mine that discussed the per-mile Carbon Dioxide emissions of different modes of travel. She brought up an excellent point that infrastructure costs and resource-use needs to be taken into account in cost-benefit analysis.

She even conveniently linked to an abstract of a research paper that indicated that adding such information to the analysis can significantly add to the lifetime energy use and greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). The study's abstract finds... "that total life-cycle energy inputs and greenhouse gas emissions contribute an additional 63% for onroad, 155% for rail, and 31% for air systems over vehicle tailpipe operation."

This seems like a a substantial impact... and I'm sure that it is. But the headline numbers touted in the abstract can be misleading. Now, I will admit that I have not taken a look at the full text of the study. Rail's impact on a per mile basis is much lower than that of cars, especially SOVs. It is because rail starts out at such a smaller GHG impact that the increase is so much higher when infrastructure is taken into account.

I'm sure that rail's lifetime environmental impacts are still much lower than that of vehicles, and from the research I have seen that is what people are finding. I'll have to dig into the study a little more when I have the time. Thanks Tracy for bringing up a great point that needs to be considered in these types of issues.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Week 22 Carfree Stats

Calculate your carbon emissions @

Miles Biked: 57.62
Gallons Saved: 3.6
CO2 Not Emitted: 22.61

Friday, September 4, 2009

100th Post - Random Bicycle Crap Fridays

The Mustache Ride

Just a few pictures from the Sean Kelly's Cruise Tour held on Wedsnday Sept. 2nd. About 70 people showed up, their biggest turnout this season.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Does Motorist Road Rage Against Cyclists Never End?

Yesterday I came across two stories describing extremely disturbing examples of road rage against cyclists. Thanks to BikePortland and Cyclicious for covering the incidents.

The first happened in Portland during the afternoon. Apparently a motorist in an SUV and cyclists got into an argument in a parking lot. The driver then proceeded to back his vehicle into the cyclist, a man in his fifties, at approximately 40 mph. "After impact the the victim appeared to be stuck to the back of the SUV." The cyclist was taken to the hospital in critical condition with his condition improving since the incident.

The second story I came across didn't end so well for the cyclist. Canadian politician Michael Bryant was arrested on on Tuesday for criminal negligence in the death of a cyclist. Witnesses say that Mr. Bryant and bicycle messenger were involved in a collision. When Mr. Bryant tried to flee the scene, the cyclist grabbed on to the driver side door and wouldn't let go. The car then accelerated and tried to knock the cyclist off the car by running into lampposts and mailboxes. Eventually he succeeded and the cyclist fell off after which he was taken to the hospital and died shortly after arriving.

These are both sad examples of how utterly unequally matched cyclists and motorists are. If a cyclist ever got pissed off and rammed an SUV the poor cyclist would probably walk away with a few broken bones.

These are WTF kind of moments. What is it that is causing all this road rage against cyclists? I can't believe that people on bicycles are behaving so badly as to warrant a lot of this behavior. And I also can't believe that these motorists are truly as big a set of assholes as these incidents seem to portray them as. I think its more to do with the situation society has built for itself in terms of our urban environment - we must really suck at providing a healthy urban environment that produces well adjusted adults.

These two incidents are just as bad as the man who shot at a cyclist for riding with his family on a busy street a few months back. In the end there is NO rational explanation for this kind of behavior other than that these people really need to get out of their cars more often.

I'm a big believer that cars kill communities; whether they be communities of people or wildlife, the car is not a force that brings people and places together, but divides them. Cars compete for a limited amount of road space usually at high speeds and a limited number of parking spots. This situation isn't conducive to cooperative community building, but I guess it is the American way; fighting to appropriate a limited resource, CAPITALISTIC social engineering at its best. The infrastructure needed to support cars even destroys whole neighborhoods, especially when building freeways, just so that better off suburbanites can get to their downtown office jobs a little faster.

When people get out of the car and walk or bike, they have time to appreciate their surroundings, they can meet their neighbors and have an in depth conversation, and generally interact with the world from a totally different perspective than from the protected-electronic cockpit of a car. But thats just the opinion of one carfree asshole, I'm sure a bunch of motorist assholes would wholly disagree with me and be willing to back over me to prove it.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

New Belgium Brewery Promotes Going Carfree

If your a beer enthusiast/snob, or even a cyclist, then you'll know the name New Belgium Brewery. They have long been champions of bicycles, having long been the organizer and sponsor of the Tour De Fat Festival that travels the country and ends up giving away many bikes for festival competitions

But this year is a bit different as New Belgium is promoting going Carfree through a video contest in each of this year's locations. They want people to trade in their cars for bicycles and at this years 11 Tour De Fat locations they will give away 11 hand-crafted commuter bicycles and trailers to the winner of the video contests. New Belgium will promote the winners through a Tour De Fat ceremonial event in each city and will follow people's carfree success and folleys over the next year.

This is a big step forward for the carfree movement. Such a huge sponsorship and promotional campaign of the carfree lifestyle is something that only a few years ago would have seemed unthinkable. I'm sure this campaign will evoke a lot of media attention, mostly for the novelty, as "normal" Americans wonder why the hell someone would give up their car. But at the same time this will give a big boost to the idea of being carfree, and I know that I will be watching the google stats through the end of the Tour De Fat to see if it boosts carfree searches.

I must say that I'm a little jealous of the marketing they will be doing. Missoula used to be a Tour De Fat stop, but we have lost our sponsorship and now have the Pedal Festival. Anything that promotes the idea of getting people out of their cars is great and this is the kind of creative marketing that can help the carfree movement really gain some ground. Cheers to New Belgium for trying this, maybe this will make me drink a little more Fat Tire or 1554, although its a little hard when Kettlehouse is based in Missoula
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