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 Carfree.us. 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.
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