Missoula Measures - Sidewalks and Trails
Why this topic?
Cars are a significant source of air pollution — a major concern in our inversion-prone valley. Heavy car use creates other community challenges including traffic congestion and parking problems. Automobile-dependent urban design all by itself can contribute greatly to the these challenges. In Missoula, travel by bike, bus, and foot are all viable alternatives to the car; the more people are inclined to use these alternatives, the better for all of us. Also, people on foot or bike tend to see and talk to their neighbors and notice the features of their neighborhoods and nature. Other significant urban "trails" are bike lanes and the good old-fashioned sidewalk.
How are we doing?
Missoula has always had a healthy share of people traveling by bicycle or foot, due at least in part to the population of UM students. In recent years, we have made it easier for bicyclists. Trail mileage throughout Missoula (separate from the road and sidewalk systems) continues to increase. Walkways in parks and subdivisions link schools, work, shopping, and recreation, and enhance major trail routes. In addition to the urban trail system, there are dozens of miles of hiking and walking trails just outside the city limits in Pattee Canyon, the Rattlesnake National Recreation Area, and the Blue Mountain Area, as well as the popular "M" trail (which is owned and managed by the University and so not counted as city trail miles).
Source: Missoula City Parks and Recreation
Note: No distinction is made between bike paths and pedestrian paths. In most cases, off-street paths are designed for both uses.
Bicycling Magazine has several times ranked Missoula among the top ten in the country for bikes. In the spring of 1998 Missoula added 16.6 miles of bike lanes and routes on city streets, with an additional five miles constructed as part of major road rebuilding projects. Also included was the first phase of the Missoula Bicycle Commuter Network, an 8.5-mile multipurpose pathway system mostly away from roadways, with paths radiating from McCormick Park to Mullan Road, South Reserve Street, and Bonner Junction.
A 1994 Parks & Recreation survey of 200 Missoula households showed that among the top five activities for outdoor recreation, walking for pleasure ranked first (72%) and bicycling ranked fourth (52%). Respondents most often mentioned bicycle paths as their preferred kind of outdoor recreation area (16.5%). The number of respondents or a family member who owned a bicycle was 62%. Of those, 58% used their bikes for recreation, and 38% used it for both recreation and transportation. (No newer data is available.)
In a winter 1997 survey, 24% of Missoulians cited walking as their leading physical activity in the past month, the highest ranking. Second out of the 29 activities mentioned was aerobics classes with 5%. Missoula BRFSS 1997
In the 1994 Montana Trail Inventory, 10 of the 13 Parks & Recreation Departments included in the study reported that they manage trails. Of the 28 total trails managed around the state, seven (25%) are in Helena, five (18%) are in Missoula, four (14%) are in Bozeman, and three (11%) are in Butte. Looking at trail management by miles, there are a total of 60 miles of managed trails. Of those, 12 miles (20%) are managed by Missoula Parks & Rec, Bozeman manages 10 miles (17%), and the remaining eight departments manage less than 10 miles each. Institute for Tourism & Recreation Research (No newer data is available.)