Missoula Measures - Bicycling
Why this topic?
Regular physical activity is crucial to quality of life, regardless of your age. Buying a health club membership, or setting aside "exercise" time can be challenging. However, bicycling to work, or to do errands is a great form of physical activity that can be productive as well. While purchasing a bicycle may be a significant initial expenditure, it can provide countless hours of physical activity for very little annual outlay, and can also reduce gasoline consumption and air pollution.
Missoula is a bicycle town. We have a higher per capita rate of bicycling to work than other counties in the state, and other northern counties in the nation. This may be due to our high University student population, or the overall progressive attitude of the community. Even on snowy, cold winter days, you will see people riding bicycles to work or school.
Challenges to bicycling in Missoula:
- Our climate, which can dish out several months of frigid temperatures or icy roads.
- Main arterials with heavy, high speed (45-55 mph) traffic that feel unsafe or unpleasant to bicycle along, or to cross.
On the other hand:
- We have many trails and sidewalks that link neighborhoods and shopping areas.
- Missoula has almost 25 miles of walking/bicycling trails within the city limits.
- On nearby National Forest Land, there are a total of 140 miles of trails which provide varied opportunities for recreational bicycling: Rattlesnake National Recreation Area - 73 miles, Pattee Canyon - 26 miles, Blue Mountain - 41 miles.
- We have an annual Bike, Walk, Bus week that promotes alternative forms of transportation to work. Missoula in Motion.
- We have 3 community bicycling groups and 1 local sustainable transportation group.
University of Montana:
- During 2 cold, rainy days in April of 2003, a total of 7,738 bicyclists and 16,764 pedestrians entered the campus. (Total student body - about 13,000.)
- The University also has a group of Bicycle Ambassadors who interacted with 473 bicyclists on campus during a month in the fall of 2006. Their goal is to reduce conflicts between bicyclists and pedestrians.
The majority of workers, 70% - 80%, still drive alone to work.
US Census Bureau - 2008-2012, 5-year estimates
In 2010, the top 10 metropolitan areas for commuting by bicycle were Corvallis and Eugene, Oregon; Fort Collins and Boulder, Colorado; Missoula, Montana (5%); Santa Barbara, Chico and Maria-Goleta, California; Gainsville, Florida; Logan, Utah; and Bellingham, Washington. Their rates ranged from 3-10%.
Bicycle helmets are 85% effective in protecting your head and brain in the event of a crash. AAA Traffic Safety Adults are good role models for encouraging helmet use by kids.
The Youth Risk Behavior Survey, conducted by the Dept. of Health and Human Services reports:
Costs of transportation
- In 2012, the cost of operating a car for one year (and driving about 15,000 miles per year) was approximately $6,058 (AAA).
- The cost of operating a bicycle for a year is only $120 (League of American Bicyclists).
- The average family has to work for more than 6 weeks to pay a year’s car expenses.
- The average family only has to work less than one day to pay for a year’s bicycle expenses. (based on U.S. Census, 1998 median family income figures)
Missoula bicycle laws summarized
- Bicyclists must follow the same rules of the road as other vehicles, including signal turns (with arm signals), and display a white light to the front, and a red light to the rear at night. They must ride on the right side of the road, in the same direction as motor vehicles.
- Bicyclists must display reflectors front and rear, and on the pedals.
- For good visibility, bicyclists are encouraged to display a florescent orange flag at least 6 feet above the roadway.
Community designs that encourage bicycling
- Trails connecting neighborhoods
- Stores and parks near houses
- Inter-connected back streets with low traffic volume where bicyclists feel safer
- A safe place to secure a bike at stores and businesses
Healthy People 2010 Target (Guidelines for 2020 have not yet been developed.)
- 2% of adults bicycle to do errands if the distance is less than 5 miles
- 5% of children bike to school if the distance is less than 2 miles
Active Kids - information on physical activity and healthy eating, for your own health, and regarding the health of Missoula.
University Of Montana - Transportation