Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Sustainable Transportation by Santee

Sustainable Transportation by Santee Ross

Sustainable transportation, now that’s a phrase that sounds like we should be driving hovercraft ships or maybe someone, has finally invented a teleportation device! Either way it’s not really what we’re talking about here with sustainable transportation.

What we’re really talking about is finding a way for people within a community to better commute without having to contribute to the smog levels. Back home in Wyoming this meant you would saddle up your horse for work instead of driving. Here in Missoula, not everyone owns a horse so obviously we have to come up with a different plan.

Bob Giordano is the man with a plan in zoo town. He is the executive director of MIST (Missoula Institute for Sustainable Transportation). Bob is also responsible for the free bicycle program at Free Cycles and his passion for what he does is really infectious.

I came from Wyoming about a year ago, with a “windshield perspective.” This concept of biking everywhere instead of using your gas guzzler was, honestly, a little too hippie for me at first. I couldn’t figure out why EVERYONE in Missoula rode bikes because apparently there was a bike revolution and I didn’t get the memo.

Then, the imaginary light bulb above my head suddenly flickered to life after I heard Bob talk so passionately about bikes. His love for biking and creating a bike friendly road system in town made sense. It’s a way for people to get around town in a way that would obviously be easier on their wallets but it’s also a step in leaving a smaller footprint on the environment.

Let me try and break down all the wonderful things that come with a bike friendly road system.

First, more bikes means less CO2 emissions. Need I elaborate on this one? CO2 equals ozone deterioration which equals climate change which equals bad.

Second, with a smart urban planning system in place, there would be less motor caused accidents and deaths. One word sums up this point and it’s Bob’s favorite thing in the whole world--Round-a-bouts. These nifty little circles in the road force drivers to slow down become mindful that they are sharing the road with non-vehicle people and they just look cool. Seriously, they are freaking cool looking and the research shows round-a-bouts can save lives but also keep people’s insurance from going up. Not too shabby eh?

Third, which is more of a changing how we think of the actual structure of our road systems but is still highly beneficial for a community. Asphalt is this nasty chemical goop we have come to accept as the only way to build a solid road right? Wrong! There’s this stuff called PolyPavement that naturally solidifies soil and dirt so that it’s hard packed and ready to drive on. Essentially it’s just this awesome, safe and affordable (cheaper than asphalt or concrete) alternative. I’d say this is definitely worth experimenting within a community, especially one that loves biking as much as Missoula does.

So if you're still with me we’ve established how awesome biking is compared to hitting downtown in your bulky hunk of metal. You might be saying to yourself, “What if I can’t ride a bike everywhere?” I totally hear you out and so does Bob. Realistically people have disabilities, families, odd schedules or just bags and bags of groceries to trek across town. So obviously there’s still a need for a different type of transportation for those who can’t pedal.

Bob is only one man and I am sadly a poor college student. There’s not a whole lot we can do individually. Although, since it is an election year, our Congress people and city council members are more likely to pay attention to a large group of people demanding an Amtrak system be put in place.

We could follow in the footsteps of the Europeans and travel long distances or even short distances as if we were traveling on the city bus. Whoa! The thought is kind of mind blowing. It would definitely make going home easier for me. I mean, I love my horse and everything but dang, that’s a lot of miles. Just kidding, my horse is back in Wyoming.

Economically speaking, an Amtrak is actually a perfect solution. The name alone tells you it’s got some good things coming with it. An Amtrak would bring about jobs, be a less environmental impact compared to cars and with an encouragement to travel, it could boost the economy. That sounds like a win-win to me.

And to think, a little ol’ bike could spur on that much awesomeness!

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