Thursday, September 18, 2014

Missoula Institute of Sustainable Transportation Field Trip

Missoula Institute of Sustainable Transportation Field Trip
Reflection By Michael Banning, Photographs by Matthew Freeman

On Friday September 12th our Wilderness and Civilization class went out on bikes and rode around Missoula with Bob Giordano, the pioneer behind the Free Cycles Community Bike Shop and MIST (Missoula Institute for Sustainable Transportation). Our goal was to look at the idea of sustainable transportation and how that fits in with the city of Missoula. We started our day with a presentation from Bob Giordano on the bicycle culture in Missoula. He pointed out that over the past fifteen years the city has started to become more of a bike friendly town. They have done this by putting in more bike lanes and paths, creating safer intersections with roundabouts, and adding safer pedestrian crossings over the Clark Fork River. After his presentation we all grabbed our bikes and rode around town looking at examples of the changes.

Our first stop was at the Free Cycles shop. We were given a tour of the warehouse full of donated bike parts that are used to help build bikes to sell or give out. At Free Cycles they offer a place for you to take your bike and fix it for free. They also have a program that allows you to build a free bike, all you need to do is take one of their BikeWell classes and do 4 hours of service at the shop then you can use their parts and build your own bike. All of their services are free but donations are always accepted and a great help to keep the program running.

While riding, we stopped at the roundabout at Beckwith and Higgins Avenue, an intersection that used to be very dangerous. Luckily though, through the support of everyday people and promoters of the bike culture, in 2009 a roundabout was put in. Since the addition of the roundabout there have only been two minor fender benders and no injuries. There are many benefits of having roundabouts, one is that they slow down the traffic making it a safer intersection but at the same time keep traffic moving. We looked at many different roundabouts in town that day, each having the same greater goal of safety but representing it in a different way. This is only the start to the changes that Girodano would like to see in Missoula. In the future he is hoping to see more roundabouts at major intersections, such as Higgins Ave and South 4th Street, making travel safer for bikes, cars, and pedestrians.

Coming from a city in Indiana that is going through many of the same changes with travel safety as Missoula, I have seen the benefits of roundabouts in a community and how they help. Also as an avid bicyclist it is nice to see changes that allow for safer travel on roadways.
During our lunch break at Circle Square in downtown Missoula, Giordano shared with us his dream of using a section of road in the downtown area as a city common area where only bike and foot traffic were allowed. A place that people can sit and relax as well as meet with others and enjoy downtown. This is only one of Girodano’s many ideas that he has for the city. Another one of the big projects that he is promoted through MIST is an idea to redesign the layout of the Higgins Bridge. As of right now it is a 4-lane bridge with a small bike lane and even smaller sidewalk. The hope is that they can get it redesigned to accommodate 2 lanes of car travel with 9-foot bike lanes and sidewalks making a more practical and protected area for pedestrians.
As our field trip came to a close we all felt very inspired to help with the cause of making the city of Missoula a safer and more enjoyable place to ride. Visit to learn more about the Free Cycles community shop or MIST and all of their road projects.

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