Friday, April 9, 2010

Friday Fun Day

Friday couldn't have come soon enough this week. But not because it was a bad week... how could it be a bad week when Missoula got ranked #4 city under 100,000 people for bicycle friendliness in America? Though however wrote the piece must have looked at wikipedia to get their info on Missoula.

No... this week was simply full of deadlines and copious amounts of sleep deprivation. I'll be taking a small break from blogging at this site over the next month while head into the hell that is the last month of classes. I'll also take the time to think about how to move forward with this blog. With my objective complete I would like to rework the focus and design of this blog but into to what I don't yet know.

Here is to another week on the bike and to the weekend ahead.

Now... for the fun part. Shit from the 80s is always good for a laugh.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

A Year Well Spent: One Year Spent Carfree

Its been a year of carfree living and I must say that I'm surprised at how fast the time went by and how relatively easy it was to get through the last year. There is no party or press release to send out, just a sense of accomplishment in knowing that I stuck to a goal I set for myself and in the knowledge that that I have grown as a person and learned many things about myself and the world us humans have built for ourselves.

I started this little project to see just how much of a difference one person could make on a bicycle and it seems that I have accomplished more than collecting stats. Ashley informed me that she feels my commitment had challenged her to think about getting around town in a different way and inspired her and her family to hop on a bike or walk more often. I even got her cousin Katie from Houston to ride a bike after more than three years of missing out on such joy. Katie let me know that, "you just don't ride a bike in Houston."

I also wanted to experiment with carfree living in a small city. Many of the online discussions encouraging mass transit or active transportation featured the same old argument that in many American cities it just isn't possible to live without a car and that such a lifestyle is only for those elitists from the coast. Well I did it in the middle of Montana in a town with limited bus service. After a year I'm convinced that most of the barrier to people getting out of their cars is in fact psychological in nature.

Of course Missoula certainly isn't the worst place to ride a bike as your main transportation and I would even challenge towns such as Boulder, CO and Davis, CA to try harder because Missoula is catching up on these bicycling paradises. Missoula's grid system of streets sure helps, allowing cyclists to skirt around heavy traffic if they wish, and the strong emphasis on outdoor activities doesn't hurt either. Hell, people around here have such a hard time waiting out the winter that the first day in the 50s brings out shorts and Chacos. There were barriers and adjustments that I had to make. I missed out on a lot of the great outdoors that Montana is famous for. I was certainly confined to the Missoula urban area much more than a would have been normal, but I made the most of it given the great culture that Missoula has to offer.

I didn't get through this year alone and have many people that helped out in different circumstances. Ashley, my fiance, turned around from her initial skepticism and supported me till the end; Troy, a friend, never stopped offering me car rides and was there when I truly needed them, and Free Cycles allowed me to learn how to maintain my lowly fleet.

So how much of a difference did I make? Over the course of the year I logged 2,932.92 miles on my bike running errands and commuting. All those miles add up to 226.8 gallons of gas saved, and @ $3.00/gallon that adds up to $680.56 saved. Add in $1800 saved from not needing car insurance and $360/month, for a total of $4320/year, from car payments I no longer had to make and I saved a total of $6800.56 over the course of the year. Thats $6800.56 that I'm certain I spent elsewhere supporting Missoula business. I also saved 1750.98 Ibs of CO2 from entering the atmosphere just by using a bicycle as my main form of transportation.

Where are the keys? ... I'm going for a drive. That last part is a joke.

Carfree Stats Update

Week 52

Miles Biked: 0
Gallons Saved: 0
CO2 Not Emitted: 0

Week 51

Miles Biked: 63.78
Gallons Saved: 3.986
CO2 Not Emitted: 25.04 Ibs

Week 50

Miles Biked: 48.39
Gallons Saved: 3.024
CO2 Not Emitted: 18.99 Ibs

Week 49

Miles Biked: 70.14
Gallons Saved: 4.38
CO2 Not Emitted: 27.53

Week 48

Miles Biked: 69.44
Gallons Saved: 4.34
CO2 Not Emitted: 27.255 Ibs

Week 47

Miles Biked: 56.36
Gallons Saved: 3.522
CO2 Not Emitted: 22.13 Ibs

Week 46

Miles Biked: 93.87
Gallons Saved: 5.867
CO2 Not Emitted: 36.84 Ibs

Week 45

Miles Biked: 74.90
Gallons Saved: 4.681
CO2 Not Emitted: 29.39 Ibs

Week 44

Miles Biked: 89.34
Gallons Saved: 5.584
CO2 Not Emitted: 35.07 Ibs

Thursday, April 1, 2010

I Just Drove A Car!

This being April 1st I thought this would make a good topic, though this is no April Fools Joke... anyway it wouldn't have been a very good one.

I've been in Portland for going on a week now and even though I've spent most of my days traveling from coffee shop to coffee shop in search of the best Americanos and free wifi I haven't mustered the resolve to sit down and address any of the issues swirling through my head. Honestly, this blog has come to feel like a chore more than something enjoyable or a way to get ideas out of my head, which are just a few of the reasons I started this damn thing in the first place.

No... it took me renting a car and getting out of Portland for an afternoon to actually sit down and write. So let me address the car, which I know seems unusual since this blog is about being carfree, doesn't renting a car and driving go against what I'm trying to do here? Ashley, the reason I'm out here in Portland for a week, is currently at a job interview in the burb of Sherwood, so rather than go the tortuous route of public transit (more than 90 minutes on a bus) we rented a car for a day and took a 25 minute drive south of the city to Sherwood. Ashley pointed out very correctly that me renting a car to whisk her to her interview and save her from transit hell while saying fuck it to my little carfree project is LOVE!

Sherwood sits on Highway 99, a four lane expressway, with the usual clusterfuck of strip development that eats away at any sense of place. Sitting in Starbucks (If it ain't Stumptown it ain't fucking coffee) having only seen this strip development I thought aloud to Ashley "Sherwood... I Sherwouldn't."

Luckily I explored a little off the Godless Corporate Strip and wandered into the old downtown... blink and you could easily miss it. I'm now sitting in a nice little local coffee shop right across from the train tracks. Obviously Sherwood was at one time dependent on the railroad, before the traffic engineers decided it would be a great place to plop a highway at the edge of town. Its a hidden gem in an otherwise unimaginative suburban setting.

I don't really know where any of this rambling is meant to lead... in circles maybe? I almost feel bad for losing interest in this blog, I feel like I've given up on a goal. Here I am in Portland having an 'almost carfree' vacation with only a week left to go in my year and I haven't even written anything profound about my year long experience nor summed up what I learned from this little project. I don't really see me having the time in the next few days either, the best I can promise is getting a little bit of writing done on the train ride back east.

As for right now... thanks for coming along on this journey with me... hope y'all found it as comical as I did.

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 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.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Little Over a Month Left

The sun is beginning to set on this little project with just over a month to go until I have experienced a year of carfree living. Its been a roller coaster, but I wouldn't change a thing.
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