Friday, April 9, 2010

Friday Fun Day

Friday couldn't have come soon enough this week. But not because it was a bad week... how could it be a bad week when Missoula got ranked #4 city under 100,000 people for bicycle friendliness in America? Though however wrote the piece must have looked at wikipedia to get their info on Missoula.

No... this week was simply full of deadlines and copious amounts of sleep deprivation. I'll be taking a small break from blogging at this site over the next month while head into the hell that is the last month of classes. I'll also take the time to think about how to move forward with this blog. With my objective complete I would like to rework the focus and design of this blog but into to what I don't yet know.

Here is to another week on the bike and to the weekend ahead.

Now... for the fun part. Shit from the 80s is always good for a laugh.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

A Year Well Spent: One Year Spent Carfree

Its been a year of carfree living and I must say that I'm surprised at how fast the time went by and how relatively easy it was to get through the last year. There is no party or press release to send out, just a sense of accomplishment in knowing that I stuck to a goal I set for myself and in the knowledge that that I have grown as a person and learned many things about myself and the world us humans have built for ourselves.

I started this little project to see just how much of a difference one person could make on a bicycle and it seems that I have accomplished more than collecting stats. Ashley informed me that she feels my commitment had challenged her to think about getting around town in a different way and inspired her and her family to hop on a bike or walk more often. I even got her cousin Katie from Houston to ride a bike after more than three years of missing out on such joy. Katie let me know that, "you just don't ride a bike in Houston."

I also wanted to experiment with carfree living in a small city. Many of the online discussions encouraging mass transit or active transportation featured the same old argument that in many American cities it just isn't possible to live without a car and that such a lifestyle is only for those elitists from the coast. Well I did it in the middle of Montana in a town with limited bus service. After a year I'm convinced that most of the barrier to people getting out of their cars is in fact psychological in nature.

Of course Missoula certainly isn't the worst place to ride a bike as your main transportation and I would even challenge towns such as Boulder, CO and Davis, CA to try harder because Missoula is catching up on these bicycling paradises. Missoula's grid system of streets sure helps, allowing cyclists to skirt around heavy traffic if they wish, and the strong emphasis on outdoor activities doesn't hurt either. Hell, people around here have such a hard time waiting out the winter that the first day in the 50s brings out shorts and Chacos. There were barriers and adjustments that I had to make. I missed out on a lot of the great outdoors that Montana is famous for. I was certainly confined to the Missoula urban area much more than a would have been normal, but I made the most of it given the great culture that Missoula has to offer.

I didn't get through this year alone and have many people that helped out in different circumstances. Ashley, my fiance, turned around from her initial skepticism and supported me till the end; Troy, a friend, never stopped offering me car rides and was there when I truly needed them, and Free Cycles allowed me to learn how to maintain my lowly fleet.

So how much of a difference did I make? Over the course of the year I logged 2,932.92 miles on my bike running errands and commuting. All those miles add up to 226.8 gallons of gas saved, and @ $3.00/gallon that adds up to $680.56 saved. Add in $1800 saved from not needing car insurance and $360/month, for a total of $4320/year, from car payments I no longer had to make and I saved a total of $6800.56 over the course of the year. Thats $6800.56 that I'm certain I spent elsewhere supporting Missoula business. I also saved 1750.98 Ibs of CO2 from entering the atmosphere just by using a bicycle as my main form of transportation.

Where are the keys? ... I'm going for a drive. That last part is a joke.

Carfree Stats Update

Week 52

Miles Biked: 0
Gallons Saved: 0
CO2 Not Emitted: 0

Week 51

Miles Biked: 63.78
Gallons Saved: 3.986
CO2 Not Emitted: 25.04 Ibs

Week 50

Miles Biked: 48.39
Gallons Saved: 3.024
CO2 Not Emitted: 18.99 Ibs

Week 49

Miles Biked: 70.14
Gallons Saved: 4.38
CO2 Not Emitted: 27.53

Week 48

Miles Biked: 69.44
Gallons Saved: 4.34
CO2 Not Emitted: 27.255 Ibs

Week 47

Miles Biked: 56.36
Gallons Saved: 3.522
CO2 Not Emitted: 22.13 Ibs

Week 46

Miles Biked: 93.87
Gallons Saved: 5.867
CO2 Not Emitted: 36.84 Ibs

Week 45

Miles Biked: 74.90
Gallons Saved: 4.681
CO2 Not Emitted: 29.39 Ibs

Week 44

Miles Biked: 89.34
Gallons Saved: 5.584
CO2 Not Emitted: 35.07 Ibs

Thursday, April 1, 2010

I Just Drove A Car!

This being April 1st I thought this would make a good topic, though this is no April Fools Joke... anyway it wouldn't have been a very good one.

I've been in Portland for going on a week now and even though I've spent most of my days traveling from coffee shop to coffee shop in search of the best Americanos and free wifi I haven't mustered the resolve to sit down and address any of the issues swirling through my head. Honestly, this blog has come to feel like a chore more than something enjoyable or a way to get ideas out of my head, which are just a few of the reasons I started this damn thing in the first place.

No... it took me renting a car and getting out of Portland for an afternoon to actually sit down and write. So let me address the car, which I know seems unusual since this blog is about being carfree, doesn't renting a car and driving go against what I'm trying to do here? Ashley, the reason I'm out here in Portland for a week, is currently at a job interview in the burb of Sherwood, so rather than go the tortuous route of public transit (more than 90 minutes on a bus) we rented a car for a day and took a 25 minute drive south of the city to Sherwood. Ashley pointed out very correctly that me renting a car to whisk her to her interview and save her from transit hell while saying fuck it to my little carfree project is LOVE!

Sherwood sits on Highway 99, a four lane expressway, with the usual clusterfuck of strip development that eats away at any sense of place. Sitting in Starbucks (If it ain't Stumptown it ain't fucking coffee) having only seen this strip development I thought aloud to Ashley "Sherwood... I Sherwouldn't."

Luckily I explored a little off the Godless Corporate Strip and wandered into the old downtown... blink and you could easily miss it. I'm now sitting in a nice little local coffee shop right across from the train tracks. Obviously Sherwood was at one time dependent on the railroad, before the traffic engineers decided it would be a great place to plop a highway at the edge of town. Its a hidden gem in an otherwise unimaginative suburban setting.

I don't really know where any of this rambling is meant to lead... in circles maybe? I almost feel bad for losing interest in this blog, I feel like I've given up on a goal. Here I am in Portland having an 'almost carfree' vacation with only a week left to go in my year and I haven't even written anything profound about my year long experience nor summed up what I learned from this little project. I don't really see me having the time in the next few days either, the best I can promise is getting a little bit of writing done on the train ride back east.

As for right now... thanks for coming along on this journey with me... hope y'all found it as comical as I did.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Just Not Enough Time

Dear Blog,

Work and classes are simply kicking my ass this past month and I have neglected thee. Maybe I will be able to spend some time actually writing something halfway intelligent... but this isn't that time.



Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Finally... A Wonderful and Sunny Weekend

This last weekend saw some simply amazing weather and of course this brought out the people in droves. Unfortunately the nice weather only lasted for two days but I sure took the opportunity to get out with my camera and enjoy the sun. And so did this little guy here, Owen, who was with his parents out front of Bernice's Bakery. He was very excited to be out on a bike.

I also came across Ryan pictured below with temporary cast on his right foot. Did that stop him from being on a bike? HELL NO! Ryan is of course a well know face in Missoula, of Kettlehouse fame, and every time I run into him outside of a bar he seems to be injured. Last fall he had just experienced a blowout of the rear tire on his fixie that sent him flying and gave him some wicked facial features. Now he has a cast on his leg from playing hockey. So how does he get around on a bike with that big cast? ...without a pedal strap and liberal use of a brake.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Bicycling Comes to Google Maps

A not so complete bicycle map of Missoula via Google Maps.

Google has finally added a layer that includes bicycle routes and trails according to BikePortland
This is a step in the right direction for a tool as ubiquitously used as Google Maps. This tool would be very handy in a larger city or as a beginning cyclist wanting to find an easy way around that avoids traffic.

One thing that always frustrated me about Google maps was that there was no layer to turn on for cyclists. Obviously this isn't a big inconvenience because cyclists can go pretty much anywhere cars can go. But still, I wanted to be able to search a map and maybe see an alternate route that would be better suited for a bicycle around that badly designed five lane arterial that I just don't feel comfortable riding on.

For a town such as Missoula this really isn't very critical since its small enough that it is pretty easy to figure out the path of least resistance from place to place. The map above also only shows off street bike/ped facilities, mostly trails, and not on street bike routes or lanes. And of course this will never replace the knowledge that people naturally gather from the experience of just trying to get around by bicycle... I still have friends that show me their routes, and often times better routes, around town even after years of cycling in Missoula.

With a little more development this could be another very worthwhile Google experiment.

Just as I Finish Up... Another Person Shares Their Carfree Experience

Meet the "Average Joe" over at As of January he started a year long carfree experiment to, "highlight the challenges and choices I will face in my every day life and the impact they will have on me as I live this (sadly) “alternative lifestyle.”

"It’s important to understand I am an average Joe, in my thirties, working a 9-5 desk job. I have a wife and a one year old son. I live in an average size city, with an average public transportation infrastructure, and I live 7 miles from the city center. My wife is not a zealous bicyclist, and truthfully, not very supportive of this project! My wife does own a car and I will probably occasionally drive it with my family in the car."

Good luck Mr. Average Joe and have fun with the journey.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Federal Gov't FAIL: US DOT Set to Shut Down

As we've become so accustomed to hearing from D.C... the game of politics is getting nothing done and now the United States Department of Transportation is facing a temporary shutdown. A "Jobs Bill" meant to extend unemployment benefits has been blocked by a single U.S. Senator Jim Bunning (R., Ky.). According to the Wall Street Journal the bill included a funding extension for Highway Trust Fund which has now expired, causing 2,000 USDOT employees to be furloughed and potentially $768 million in infrastructure projects to be halted.

This is causing many strains, including on state governments which are faced with losing approximately $150 million per day in federal reimbursement payments. At a time when many states are already on the edge of financial insolvency this is just one more headache to deal with. This is even trickling down to local Public Works type agencies that were relying upon federal funding and cost sharing for projects.

This shouldn't be much of a surprise since the Federal Government's continued failing to pass a new transportation bill has had a similar effect and has forced states and municipalities to make hard choices about what projects to try to fund (in stark contrast to the effect of the Stimulus where many projects went ahead with little oversight).

Missoula makes great use of the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program (CMAQ) which is part of Federal transportation funding. CMAQ funding helps pay for pedestrian and bicycle facilities as well as the purchase of buses for both Mountain Line and ASUM Transportation, the student funded bus service to the UM campus. Lack of CMAQ funding has meant that ASUM Transportation cant replace marginally safe buses that are over 20 years old rather than being able to purchase new buses that meet the strictest federal safety regulations. Because of the Federal Government's flaccid ability to actually get anything done ASUM Transportation is facing a hard choice between continuing to run old buses that pollute heavily (compared to a new bus) and breakdown constantly, or cut the budget by about 15%, consequently eliminating 4 or 5 student positions, to be able to attempt to purchase new buses using only ASUM funds.

Some people will undoubtedly rejoice in the gridlock in Washington, but when people and local governments have no idea what direction the Federal Government will take... it makes it just a little hard to plan for the long term or to invest in equipment or infrastructure.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Little Over a Month Left

The sun is beginning to set on this little project with just over a month to go until I have experienced a year of carfree living. Its been a roller coaster, but I wouldn't change a thing.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Some Haiku Therapy

Thanks to a co-worker for this suggestion.

Pedal, pedal, skid
Eating exhaust at the light
Swallowed by metal.

Out the door, crisp, clean
Sunrise lighting Lolo peak
Great start to the day.

No oncoming traffic
Honk from behind to move over
Receive finger, rude!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Finally Some Friday Humor...

Monday, February 22, 2010

I am Jack's Utter Lack of Surprise

Me: Describe incident to police officer
Officer: "There aren't cameras out there to get a license unless you went through a bank drive- through or Target parking lot. Next time call immediately."
Me: disappointment
Officer: "Do you ride a lot around here?"
Me: "Yes"
Officer: "Don't expect this to be the last indecent like this."


Sunday, February 21, 2010

I was Almost Killed Last Night Because of a Bunch of Redneck Fucks

If your a cyclist then you've had your run in with cars in some sort of situation. But has anyone out there every been chased down by a large pickup full of drunk rednecks? Well thats how my night ended... getting chased by a bunch of rednecks in a large pickup for the hell of it and almost getting killed in the process. As I sit here this morning my hands are still shaking.

It was late, almost 3 am and I'm pretty sure that I could make it home from a friends house up the Rattlesnake without running into any traffic. I was well lit with a headlamp and numerous blinking lights so I was easy to spot on my fixie. Heading west through downtown I turned off of Spruce onto Alder because its a quite street right along the train tracks. As I pass an intersection I turned my head to see a truck still about 20 feet from the stop sign, my headlamp pointed me out nicely.

"Get him!" "Woof... Woof!" "Where you goin' boy?"

All of a sudden the engine revs and the tires sequel and the hunt is on. I didn't have time to think of what to do, the adrenaline just kicked in and I was off pedaling as fast as I could. I rode through the cobblestone street where the Farmers Market is held in the summer and hopped up onto the sidewalk as if that extra 4 inches of cement would be an adequate buffer between me and the lifted truck.

"Woof, Woof, Woof!" "Run 'em down!"

I pass the old train depot and they are right on my tail by then, having blown through a stop sign. They're yelling, I'm going balls to the wall and I'm facing a choke point and I know if I continue into the street ahead of me I'm fucked. I quickly turn in the side parking lot of the depot, they shoot past, and I double back onto Higgins thinking maybe they'll continue on... but they don't.

As I turn I hear "Want a beer!" screamed out the window and an empty beer can hits me on the leg. I speed off and gain some space on them as they try to turn around. The gap doesn't last long and I turn onto Pine before their grill almost makes contact with my back tire. The sound of the V-8 is deafening. They were going fast enough that the truck goes wide on the turn and I hop back up on the sidewalk because I can keep a few cars in between them and me.

Turn right... another right into the alley, their not far behind. My only advantage is my agility and I'm trying to use that as much to my advantage as possible.

"Knock 'em down!" "Yeahhhhhh!" "Get em!" "How you like your bike now!"

Again they come within inches of me, this time pulling up beside me and trying to push me into the dumpsters at the end of the alley. Their timing was just a little late as I clear the alley, sharp right this time staying on the sidewalk.

"You fucking almost had him!"

They express their disappointment by hurling more beer cans. Another right back down Pine. I pedal as fast as I can to create a gap and cross in front of them and the truck revs and lurches forward in pursuit but misses. I make it down Ryman next to the court house were the street has been confined to one lane. This is my chance... they turn down Ryman. I make it half way down the block, skid, and make it on to the sidewalk and double back and take off. They're trapped... no room to turn around.

Left, right, left onto Spruce across Orange... another right, left. No sign of them, I can't hear an engine. I finally look around having kept my eyes looking straight ahead through the chase.

With the adrenaline subsiding a can feel my heart pounding, I can feel it in my ears. I'm still paranoid so I'm taking a drunkard's path home making lots of turns. I do this for maybe ten minutes before I finally make it home.

Getting home the adrenaline high is no more, I collapse, shaking, not believing what just happened.

I felt like I had just been hunted for sport. Like I'd been persecuted and violated just because I was on a bike. I'd never felt these feelings before. Maybe they had just been fucking with me, but in the moment it sure felt like they were trying to kill me. WTF? This is Missoula, its a liberal college town, not Laramie Wyoming.


I realize that I am at least partially responsible for the events that happened. I made a bad decision to be out on my bike when I ultimately shouldn't have been. I placed myself in that situation which, had I made better choices, wouldn't have happened.

After having a day to reflection everything and having actually gotten some sleep I would like to add some thoughts. I now feel that they most likely weren't trying to kill me, but probably just trying to knock me off my bike so they could kick the shit out of me. Something similar happened to a friend's boyfriend a few years back in Missoula when some drunks in a pickup chased him and his friends down, knocked two cyclists off their bikes and proceeded to send them to the hospital.

In the moment it was all just so intense, but if they had really wanted to run me over I think they would have. They probably had lots of fun... I'm still shaky. I've gone to the police, see here for results.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Unusual Traffic

I've had some unusually high traffic counts on this site the last several days and looking at the stats Blogger provides the reason for it is.... that damn picture of the Amtrak train.

People must really love trains because I've had upwards of 200 hits just from google image searches. From now on... every post will be started with a picture of a train.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Ecotopia... Random Bicycle Crap Fridays

I recently started reading the classic environmental polemic Ecotopia written by Ernest Callenbach. Its got a lot of amazing ideas and innovative design techniques for urban centers. I'll get into those in longer posts later, but for now I'll just give a teaser related to bicycles.

"Ecotopians setting out to go more than a block or two usually pick up one of the sturdy white-painted bicycles that lie about the streets by the hundreds and are available free to all. Dispersed by the movements of citizens during the day and evening..."

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Let Your Voice be Heard... Support Additional Rail Lines

An online version of the Restore the North Coast Hiawatha petition created by students at The University of Montana is now available on MontPIRG’s website. The petition was started in support of Amtrak’s passenger rail study and Senator Jon Tester’s push for reinstatement of the line. The original petition garnered over 1200 signatures in a matter of only a few weeks of gathering in Missoula. The first set of petitions will shortly be delivered to Senator Tester in Washington D.C.

It is the purpose of the online version to garner wider support for the rail line outside of Montana and to let our United States Senators know that the people demand more transportation options. The line connects many important cities in the region including Seattle, Spokane, Sandpoint, Missoula, Helena, Bozeman, Billings, Bismarck, Forgo, and many more. The restored line would be an important step in reducing green house gas emissions, providing transportation options, and offering vital economic infrastructure.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

No TIGER Money for Missoula

The US Department of Transportation just released the winners of the TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) grants and Missoula was not on the list. For a look at the full document and listing of all the winners click here.

Montana didn't completely lose out on the funding however, as two projects in Western Montana are getting the go ahead. The projects in Whitefish and Lake County are recieving a combined $15.5 million in federal grant dollars.

Accord to @T4America there were a total of 1400 applications and $60 billion in funding requests. Missoula had applied to use the money mainly for investment in sidewalk, river trail, non-motorized road crossings, and intersection safety infrastructure improvements that would have taken care of several years worth of improvement projects.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Run in with the Cops

When I say "Run in," I mean that I was almost run over by a Missoula city police officer.

Turning north onto Higgins to cross the bridge at 8:30 this evening I had the road all to myself... that is all but the police cruiser sitting in the middle of the right most (my right) southbound lane. He was just there, unmoving, doing what... I didn't know. Unmoving until he quickly flipped a u-turn into my path, hit the lights, and stopped only feet in front of me.

Now it wasn't too close of a call, but I still had to perform some serious braking in order to not hit the police cruiser... which would have been a bad move since I had no idea what was going on.

As soon as the cruiser flipped around and came at me my heart leaped and my mind immediately went to, "am I well enough lit?" I was well lit (blinking white in the front and two blinking red in the back) and riding additionally in a bright area. Unfortunately my buddy Mikey had recently informed me of the lighting related laws for bicycles in Montana which include solid light in front, pedal reflectors, wheel reflectors, etc.

I was thinking that this officer not only almost hit me, but was also going to stop me and ticket me for my lighting issues.

Luckily that didn't happen... as the officer hopped out of the cruiser quickly apologized and proceeded to tell me to "get out of here." For he was on his way to talk to an apparent drunk on the side of the road that I had failed to see. He meant business too... dismissing me, removing his flashlight, and very sternly yelling for the man to take his hands out of his pockets.

After all that in only a matter of a few seconds I was just happy to be on my way and glad I hadn't been run over by a cop.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The view from Portland

My feet hurt... thank you Portland. Four days of a carfree mini vacation using a walking/transit combo put a lot of miles on the feet. Still tired from traveling today and then immediately diving into work back in Missoula so this post will be short and quick... for some great thought provoking writing check out @Urbanophile's arguement for fare-free transit, which would be perfect for Portland, and this article that shows that being sighted close to transit is saving homes from entering foreclosure.

Enjoy the pictures... I'll write more on Portland later... especially the Hipster economy.

Plane from Seattle --> Portland. A little greenwashing? I think so

You know your entering a different world when there is bicycle parking at the airport terminal.

My ride from the airport awaits.

On-street Bicycle parking at Powell's Books

Portland does a great job of using public (park) space to accentuate the utility and connectivity of the various rail lines.

Only in Portland

Another innovative urban design... this time add green infrastructure and reduce rain water runoff.

Building with both wind turbines and solar on the roof.

Making it that much easier not to own a car.

And finally the beer... my god the beer. A little nitro never hurt anyone... and anyway can't get this shit in the stores. Don't worry Kettlehouse, your still the beer I hold dear... though I think I'll miss Amnesia.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

I'm Busting... Busting I Tell You

I'll be making a pilgrimage to the liberal/bike mecca of Portland, OR. Actually I'll be visiting my fiance, Ashley, in Portland where she is doing her last clinical internship for physical therapy school.

Unfortunately I will be flying. I originally said said I would only fly for a family emergency. Well... this kinda is, since we haven't seen each other in a month and a half. I wanted to take a combo of bus and rail, but given the fact that we only have a weekend together, I'm flying instead. At least I can feel a little less guilty because I'm not producing as much CO2 as if I were driving to Portland.

I highly doubt I will be posting anything for the next several days, but expect something come Monday on my experience/thoughts on Portland.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Missoula Residents Show Up to Support Active Transportation

Missoula has started the long and arduous bureaucratic process of updating one of its many long term plans. And this time its an update to the non-motorized transportation plan and recently Missoula's Office of Planning and Grants (OPG) held a community workshop to get input from Missoula citizens. And the general message from the good people of Missoula was for the city to finish the trail/sidewalk/bike lane system.

Missoula's planning apparatus (and I use that term half jokingly because we are a small community that gets a lot of planning done on limited resources) has in recent years really integrated collaborative planning into the process and this time is no different. Collaborative planning aims to be as open and inclusive of different interests and community groups as possible to allow a wide variety of input to be included in the planning process.

And from the parts of the process I have been involved in... there is a lot of input coming in. Transportation is one of those topics in Missoula that really brings out a lot of people and groups. The advisory committee alone has close to thirty people (from various city/county departments, nonprofits, community groups, and business organizations) in attendance guiding the process.

The community workshop was pretty interesting to watch play out. The night it was held was cold and snowy, yet about 2/3 of people biked and most of the rest walked. With perhaps upwards of 60 or 70 people in attendance, everyone worked through a series of group oriented activities. Of course everyone's favorite involved drawing on a map of Missoula.

And once the individual groups had finished their discussion and mapping each shared their results with the entire workshop.

Out of this event came a lot different input but the general themes included:
- improved connectivity
- finish the trail/sidewalk/bike lane network
- reduce posted speed limits, at most 35 mph
- improve street lighting
- implement our complete streets policy
- focus transportation more on safety than traffic flow

Friday, February 5, 2010

Hit n Run by Txt Message... Random Bicycle Crap Fridays

I came across this text on the Texts From Last Night Blog where a person self incriminated a hate crime against a cyclist using their vehicle:

"running late. just ran over a dude on a bike"

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Winter Bicycle Maintenance FAIL

Today was finally the day I got around to doing a little winter maintenance on my fleet of bikes. I don't have enough space to allow for a dedicated "bike garage" area for a bike stand and such, so I had been putting off working on my bikes for various reasons... bad/cold weather, bad lighting, too late, too tired, yada yada yada. Really these were all just excuses to put off something necessary.

Finally, today my day ended early enough, the sun was shinning, and I was in a good enough mood that I felt like tackling the rust and crud that had built up over the last three months of winter riding. I had not completely neglected my obligation to my stable, as I had prepped all three bikes for winter weather conditions.

But apparently that didn't matter for the poor bike pictured above. That sad chain is on the used mountain bike I purchased this summer. After taking it out on the trails a few times over the summer I had put it away in its stable (by that I mean the back yard) for most of the fall. It was only when the weather turned really bad and the roads extremely icy that I once again graced its saddle. For about two weeks during this winter's worst conditions I made good use of it, but as soon as the weather turned and the ice melted I once again ignored the poor thing. Sitting unnoticed in the corner of the backyard ever since, it wasn't until last week that I found the copious amounts of rust on the chain.

And so today was the lucky day that my bikes got cleaned up in the hopes of continued good weather and being able to show off their shinny parts in the morning glint off the sunrise. With copious amounts of beer, chain cleaner/grease, sweat, and music I got down to the work. And lets just say that the levels of rust seen on the chain above requires a lot of chain cleaner to get rid of (hide from view). I'll also mention that the liberal application of industrial cleaners and beer make for an interesting buzz.

Of course all these concerns about keeping my bikes clean and in good operating condition could be addressed if I had a convenient space to perform maintenance. I don't think I could ever reach the perfection of Doug from Minnesota that has been cleaning his bike every day after his commute home, but at least I wouldn't be embarrassed by riding a dirty bike everyday.

Or I could just be like the guy that took the photo below... and I could simply start bringing my bikes inside and sleeping in the same bed. But that would become complicated trying to figure out a rotation a la Big Love to share equal time with three bikes so as not to make one jealous.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Stupid Inflammatory Comment of the Day

This quote comes from Sgt. Tom O'Brien up in Ontario Canada in a recent op-ed.

...bicycles in London should generally disappear after the first few days of snow and not reappear until the drains are filling with melt water... I am amazed why anyone would jeopardize their lives by riding on icy, slippery roads where any miscue could lead to a nasty fall or worse."

Thanks for the concern officer, I just hope you don't start enforcing that opinion like officers have started enforcing imaginary laws in Texas to get cyclists off the street.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Week Stats

Calculate your carbon footprint here.

Week 43 Stats

Miles Biked: 65.59
Gallons Saved: 4.09
CO2 Not Emitted: 25.74 Ibs

Thursday, January 28, 2010

I Don't Usually Reference Hitler, But... Random Bicycle Crap Fridays

Hitler has finally weighed in on the "bicycles as traffic debate." Of course I don't mean the real Hitler, but the fairly random "Hitler rants about..." clips floating around the internet. There are some pretty funny ones, with topics ranging from Brett Farve, Healthcare Reform, Obama, Xbox Live, and WoW. But now someone has finally given Hitler an opinion on bycling.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

"Riding a Bicycle on a Roadway" Now Illegal (in Texas)

For days I have been enthralled by the slowly unraveling story of fellow cyclist and carfree blogger ChipSeal who has been arrested - more than once - for driving his bike on a public roadway (in Texas) in the last week. Each day he reveals more details or more of his inner thoughts on the utter stupidity of the situation.

I won't cover the whole story, since ChipSeal does it so well with very well timed wit, for the real thing go to his blog, or visit Commute Orlando for a great commentary largely inspired by ChipSeal's ordeal and the ordeals of other cyclist's in similar situations.

Essentially he is being harassed by law enforcement at the behest of whinny motorists for obstructing their right to go fast without any impediments to their forward progress. In his last post ChipSeal prods bicycle advocates to give a shit and show it by doing something other than lobbying for laws and infrastructure and get down to something that will be real and solid in protecting/enforcing cyclist rights in Texas.

I might be a long way from Texas... but it sounds like small town Texas could be infused with some of the enthusiasm for theme rides that the cyclists of Portland are infected with. Seems to me that a "Solidarity Ride" needs to be organized to bring cyclists from all over Texas (or the nation) to ride through these small towns that are trying to restrict cyclist's rights, or harassing the few cyclists present on the road, as a show of solidarity and numbers.

But what do I know about Texas from my perch in the snowy mountains of Montana.

And I was going to do a short post on the little parking ticket I received on campus yesterday... though I still managed to slip it in there.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Winter Clean Up

Spring is fast approaching, or it could even be here already considering the warm weather we have been having here in Missoula, and with the coming of spring it means that my year of car-free existence is coming to an end. Come April my year will be over, but that doesn't mean that I will suddenly end my commitment to alternative transportation and turn into a car-crazed American.

And just because my car-free year is coming to an end doesn't mean that this blog's purpose will suddenly vanish. As many readers might have noticed, much of the content I have been writing isn't actually about my car-free experience, but rather about alternative transportation and urban design issues. This will not change.

And with that said... it is time to perform a little clean up and catch up with my car-free stats for the last two months.

Week 35

Miles Biked: 57.62
Gallons Saved: 3.60
CO2 Not Emitted: 22.62 Ibs

Week 36

Miles Biked: 8. 21
Gallons Saved: .513
CO2 Not Emitted: 3.223 Ibs

Month 9

Miles Biked: 123.14
Gallons Saved: 7.69
CO2 Not Emitted: 193.33 Ibs

Week 37

Miles Biked: 12.69
Gallons Saved: .793
CO2 Not Emitted: 4.98 Ibs

Week 38

Miles Biked: 9.23
Gallons Saved: .577
CO2 Not Emitted: 3.63 Ibs

Week 39

Miles Biked: 0.00
Gallons Saved: 0.00
CO2 Not Emitted: 0.00

Week 40

Miles Biked: 27.42
Gallons Saved: 1.72
CO2 Not Emitted: 10.76 Ibs

Month 10

Miles Biked: 49.34
Gallons Saved: 3.08
CO2 Not Emitted: 19.37 Ibs

Week 41

Miles Biked: 53.84
Gallons Saved: 3.37
CO2 Not Emitted: 21.13 Ibs

Week 42

Miles Biked: 62.76
Gallons Saved: 5.23
CO2 Not Emitted: 24.63 Ibs

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

An Interesting Repercusion from Missoula's New Title 20 Zoning

Missoula's new Title 20 zoning ordinance hasn't been been in place for very long, but already it is starting to stir up some controversy and play havoc on some people's building plans.

You see, the updated ordinance prohibits garages that extend past the front of a house's facade, such as the one in the photo below. This move essentially limits the type of housing that has been prevalent in America's suburbs since the 1970's. The reason for the new ordinance is an attempt to shape the aesthetics of new construction to fit with Missoula's more historic neighborhoods where a garage is usually in the back facing a alley or non-existent.

Essentially the uproar has come from a builder that was planning a small development. His argument is that the ordinance raises the cost of construction because it is so difficult to find stock architectural plans where the garage doesn't dominate the front of a home that he will be forced to pay an architect to design homes that fit in with the newly updated ordinance and could even force several future projects to fail because of additional costs.

This news came from the city council listserve that our Councilman Bob Jaffe maintains. From the sound of it, no one at that level of local gov't knew of this ordinance and there is already talk of revising the language to make it less restrictive.

Part of the idea behind the zoning update was to make the language simplified and easier to understand, but at the same time to make it easier for more traditional, mixed use and compact development to take place to fit in with the Missoula community's vision of growth and Downtown Master Plan. A component of this vision is our recent passage of a complete streets ordinance.

In my opinion, a house dominated in the front by a garage doesn't add anything to the character of a neighborhood or to the streetscape. And complete streets is about more than just how the roadway is configured, but should also consider the buildings along the street and how they come to make an "outdoor room" and how those buildings interact with the public space (road) out front. A large garage in the front of a house sends a poor signal, both aesthetically and architecturally, while confining the since of public space more so and limiting the interactivity of elements along the streetscape.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Winter Riding Update

Temperatures have risen to a balmy 40 F the last two days. It actually been a fairly warm week in general with temps hovering just above freezing most days. And to give you an idea of just how bad the ice was the last couple of weeks... there is still ice in places on the road after a week of melting. Now that temperatures are back up I'm no longer the lone cyclists out there and even with rain today there are a number of people out on their bikes.

I really felt unsafe in many situations over the course of the worst road conditions here in Montana. My usual routes along neighborhood side streets were often completely un-ridable from the thick coating of undulating ice. Which forced me onto many main streets where the roads were clear but the traffic was heavy. I never had a close call, but it was still very unsettling to to be forced onto busy roads that had become constricted because of plowed snow piling up on the roadway. Just from a personal perspective, the perception that an auto is safer in such conditions really does make them much more utilitarian than a bike.

As for the score so far this winter... Ice - 2, Me - 0. And yes, to all those family reading this... I had a helmet on both times I took a spill on the ice.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Walkscore: Something seems a little off

What do I do with my free time? Play around with Missoula's Walk Score of course... and find that it is broken.

For those who have never been to the Walk Score website, the purpose is to calculate the friendliness of different neighborhoods based on the proximity of amenities such as services, restaurants, etc. According to the Walk Score website, the algorithm used assigns the maximum number of points for amenities that are within a 1/4 mile of the location entered. While this is a good measure of walkability, I would argue that factors such as street design, traffic volume, speed limits, and neighborhood character would make the model Walk Score uses much more accurate and relevant.

To illustrate my point you can see below the streetscape of Phillips, the street on which I live. My address received a 69, meaning that only 27% of locations had higher walkscores than my house.

Now contrast my neighborhood's Walk Score with the one received by the location seen below. I randomly typed in an address along Brooks, a four lane arterial with speeds ranging from 35-45 with lots of traffic, congestion, business activity, and almost no cyclists or pedestrians.

This section of Brooks received a Walk Score of 83, 14 points higher or about 20% more "walkable" than where I live. I think its pretty intuitive just from the pictures of the two different locations which one would be more friendly to active transportation... and its not the one Walk Score recommends.

There is a lot more to getting people walking than just how close they live to given amenities or their job. Paramount is safety, or at least the perception of safety along design aesthetics. I would venture to guess most people would rather walk down a tree lined, quiet street with on street parking acting as a buffer, than a busy, loud arterial surrounded by parking lots and neon lights.

I think Walk Score might be broken.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Coeur d Alene: Safety Fail, No Saftey in Numbers for Bike/Peds

Over the weekend I was hit by a car, and it provides me with a good opportunity to talk about safety in numbers that cyclists and pedestrians create and how streetscapes and development patterns contribute to safety.

Let me setup what happened. I took the Greyhound from Missoula to Coeur d' Alene (CDA) Saturday morning to visit my folks. There is no physical transfer station in CDA, rather the bus drops you off at a gas station that sits at the corner of a large intersection (Ramesy and Appleway) where two four-lane arterials meet (total of 22 lanes at the intersection).

Anyway, the bus dropped me off at a different location than the Greyhound website gave for the (nonexistent) station. My father was coming to pick me up, but since he doesn't have a cell phone there was no way to get a hold of him, so I decided to walk north along the western side of Ramsey to find a good place to wave him down as he came to pick me up.

Two blocks later I was crossing the intersection below, which is an old picture as the intersection now has a four-way light, within the cross walk while a car was waiting for an opening to turn right-on-red. I walked out in front of his car, attempting to make eye contact because I could sense he was ready to hit the gas to make an opening, but he was looking the other direction. Needless to say he hit the gas and ran right into me. Luckily he immediately stopped and I wasn't hurt other than a small bruise on my leg.

This incident got me thinking how ridiculous the incident was. Living in Missoula, I have walked hundreds, perhaps even a thousand miles around town over the course of seven years. In that time I have never been hit by a car... I don't even remember having a close call. But here I am, back in the town I grew up in, and five minutes after stepping off the bus I am hit be a car.

The whole time I lived in CDA, I never once got around by walking or biking, rather the only real way to get around is by car. Seven years of walking in Missoula = no problem, five minutes of walking in CDA = getting hit by a car. Missoula and CDA are also fairly close in terms of population size.

Why is this? Because of not only the streetscape that dominates in CDA (suburban arterials with speeds above 35 mph) but also the development pattern that essentially forced those types of roadways to be built.

You can see these patterns at play in the photo of CDA below. I have highlighted all the four lane arterials (red corresponding to suburban arterial design and yellow representing four lane roads with an urban character). CDA is a maze of suburban subdivisions that are only connected to the wider community through the use of a lot of arterials. Only a small portion of CDA (which also includes the towns of Dalton Gardens, Hayden, and Hayden Lake) actually has a street network laid out in a grid. This pattern results in a very spread out population with very low densities (Dalton Gardens is zoned at 1 house/acre).

Because people have to drive everywhere and there are almost no pedestrians or cyclists, the motorists don't look out for these types of people. Those whom do walk or bike are mostly a working-poor underclass -except for the roadies - that most suburbanites don't spend any time thinking of between trips to Starbucks, work, and dropping the kids off at soccer practice.

Now contrast this with Missoula (a photo with the same types of streets highlighted can be seen below). The bulk of Missoula is based on a grid system and subdivisions with a suburban character only exist at the fringes of the town. Not only that, but the most of the four lane roads that Missoula does have exist within areas that are urban in character (higher densities, tree lined streets, sidewalks, smaller lot setbacks, and slower speeds). The four lane suburban arterials are located again mostly at the edges of Missoula and so cyclists and pedestrians can largely avoid these roads by choosing quieter streets.

Also consider the the geographic distance these two photos show. The photo of Missoula covers most of the town and most of the town's population. The photo is 3.5 miles x 3.5 miles while the photo of CDA shows an area 7.5 miles x 7.5 miles that leaves out a considerable amount of development to the north. Missoula's compact nature encourages alternative transportation simply through its shorter distances.

The higher densities, shorter distances, and more welcoming streetscape encourages people to walk and bike. In much of the central part of Missoula you can't go more than a couple of blocks without seeing another pedestrian or cyclist. Just the numbers of pedestrians and cyclists using Missoula streets makes motorists more aware of them and creates a situation where motorists must constantly be on the lookout. This creates a Safety in Numbers phenomenon whereby the more cyclists and pedestrians out on the roads, the less absolute fatalities and crash cars have with cyclists and pedestrians.

Describing what had happened, even my very conservative father understood the relationship between development patterns, streets, and mode of travel. In his opinion, and I have to agree with him, CDA is a town that will never see a lot of people walking, biking, or using transit simply because the towns infrastructure makes those options economically difficult and even dangerous.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Random Bicycle Crap Fridays: Sub-Zero Edition

I need one of these to get some traction on the three-inches of ice we have on some of our Missoula roads.

Completed my first sub-zero bicycle commute this morning with the temperature reading -8 when I left the house with windchill making it more like -15 or -20. I was actually never really cold along my three miles... but it sure was the most miserable bicycle commute I've experienced. Can't wait to do it again.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Thwarted by Ice

The last two days Missoula has seen some Hellish weather. Yesterday started out nicely enough with a light snow falling on my morning commute. The little bit of ice on the roadways forced me to go a bit slower than normal. By the time I made it to the campus however, the temperature had increased enough to turn the light snow into a wet mess of sleet in the air and slush on the road.

It then proceeded to snow and rain alternatively all day and by the time my day was over the roads were covered in a thick layer of slush and lots of puddles filling the low spots in the road. Without any fenders on my mountain bike my three mile commute felt almost like I was swimming through some very brackish water.

As soon as I was warmed up I made sure to put on a rear fender. Unfortunately it was a futile gesture to try and keep me comfortable since the weather conspired to keep me off of my bike today. Over night all the rain and wetness had frozen solid into a sheet of ice up to several inches thick in places. This included covering all of my bikes in a shinny layer of ice.

The brakes were completely frozen and useless... the cables, calipers, and triggers were all useless. Ice covered the seats of both my road and fixie, while even the wheels and hubs on my fixie were covered in a layer of ice. Rather than spend 20 minutes trying to unfreeze all the components and then worrying about putting too much stress on the metal being so cold.

So thanks to Ashley for being gracious enough to provide me with a ride this morning.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Second Thoughts on the Copenhagen Wheel

The last week of the Copenhagen Climate Conference saw a lot of buzz for something completely unrelated to climate change. While world leaders tried and failed to put together a sensible plan on climate change (who am I kidding, there is nothing sensible about anything related to politics) an announcement out of MIT's SENSEable City Lab basically stole the show for many in the bicycle community. The Copenhagen Wheel combines hybrid technology (think Prius), connectivity through the use of a smart phone, and the best, most reliable, and technologically simple form of transportation to yet exist... the bicycle.

This really is a great idea, for more information watch the video here, but after my initial WOW reaction to reading about this invention, I started to think about how I would find the Copenhagen Wheel practical to use in my everyday journey by bike and I came instead came away with two concerns.

First, the Wheel main means of generating energy to be stored is when a rider uses the coaster brake. This goes against the basic operation of a bicycle where a person attempts to conserve as much forward momentum as possible and braking makes up a very small portion of a person's time on a bike. In the attempt to conserve forward momentum cyclists blow through stop signs and even red lights (I'll admit to doing exactly that when there is no traffic to worry about).

It's highly doubtful that people would significantly change their behavior just to get a little charge. Unlike with a hybrid vehicle, whereby people changing their driving behavior to fit the dynamics of a hybrid and thus driving becomes more efficient, changing behavior to fit the mechanics of the Copenhagen Wheel would seem to make a ride less efficient.

However, Christine Outram, a research associate at the SENSEable City Lab informed me that the Copenhagen Wheel does take these facts into account having an additional "exercise" mode that can be switched on. In this mode, excess energy from pedaling is used to charge the batteries. Of course, this mode is meant for those who like to ride at a fast clip and so may not be of much utility to those cyclists whom prefer to take a leisurely ride.

The second concern is the distraction of operating everything through a smart phone. A large debate surfaced this summer surrounding the safety implications of texting and driving, and I see no difference here just because the bicycle is a few thousand pounds less. Texting or talking on a cell phone while biking is extremely distracting and dangerous, I can attest to this by witnessing plenty of people attempting such feats and thereby swerving all over the place, losing their balance, and generally becoming unaware of their surroundings.

While the Copenhagen Wheel smart phone interface is integrated into the handlebars of a bicycle, this system still requires that a ride look down and take one hand off the handlebars to operate; creating a distraction and making the bicyclist take their eyes off the road. Its not hard to imagine someone fiddling with their smart phone and wondering into a busy intersection.
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