Cool ideas for biking, and bike lanes that work for gals

bikepicThis was fun! Friday, a couple Missoula bike people presented some ideas from the bicycle symposium they attended in Seattle.

I wanted to share a little bit more from the brown bag session hosted by BWAM, the Bike Walk Alliance for Missoula. Jackie Corday, of Parks and Rec, and Ben Weiss, bicycle pedestrian coordinator, provided the update.

Below is a list of bullet points with some interesting tidbits that came up and didn’t make it into the story.

First, though, two things. Bob Wachtel, with the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Board, had a word of advice to teenagers debating whether to cruise the downtown drag in four wheels or two.

“If you’re cruising up and down the Hip Strip on your bike, it’s much easier to latch onto those chicks.”

Also, it sounds like presenters at the Seattle Bicycle Urbanism Symposium stressed the key to getting more people onto bikes is to make riding appealing to women. That means lanes that are separate from cars and feel safe, and it got me wondering if gender equity could be, should be, incorporated into transportation policy.

Alright, here’s more from the presentation, in order of my messy notebook:

— A 2012 study of 20,000 school kids showed that biking accelerates the mental development of children. In other words, it improves both physical and mental fitness.

— In the Netherlands, biking is so much a part of the culture that children in the third grade need to pass a bicycle safety test to advance. It’s as important as any math or reading test.

— The more cyclists that are out and about, the safer biking becomes. That’s because bikers become more visible and drivers get used to watching for them.

—  One way to promote biking is to make heroes out of people who bike. “Have you seen Jim Nugent?” asked Councilman Alex Taft. Nugent, the city attorney, can be seen in his yellow rain suit and a helmet with the American flag.

— To try to corral its growing number of walkers and bikers, one community is pouring an asphalt section of trail next to a concrete section of trail. The idea is walkers are used to concrete and will use that portion, and bikers typically ride on asphalt, so they’ll gravitate in that direction.

— Some large campuses have bike hubs where people can work on their bikes. Nancy Wilson, with the Associated Students of the University of Montana’s Office of Transportation, said one is pending for UM. If approved, it would be similar to the one Mountain Line operates downtown.

— The way to build support for bike infrastructure is to explain how it increases safety. Parents want their children to ride to school safely.

— When announcing meetings, meeting planners should remember to give directions for people who are traveling by bike or bus.

— Travel lanes can be just 10 feet wide and still move a lot of traffic. A street in … (Copenhagen? Portland? Seattle? I didn’t catch it) shows that to be the case.

— The Montana Department of Transportation doesn’t want lanes more narrow than 11 feet on Russell Street.

— Since the 1990s, the Missoula Redevelopment Agency has spent $8 million on trail acquisition, construction and improvements.

— Helmets are a tricky thing. They keep your noggin safe, but women don’t like the way they mess up their hair, and at least one study shows drivers give bikers without helmets a wider berth.

The city and county of Missoula and MDT put in a proposal for a $4.5 million TIGER grant to finish the bicycle path from Missoula to Lolo. The path already runs from Lolo to Hamilton.

— Every person on a bicycle gives car drivers more room on the road.

— Keila Szpaller

Photo credit: KS, ProCamera app, alien filter.

107 in Phoenix. Vanilla ice cream for Kricket.

krisI needed some perspective on this heat, so I just ate ice cream and looked up the high temperature in Phoenix, Ariz.

It’s supposed to be 107.

I also check on the high in Death Valley, Calif., just in case Missoula and Phoenix were too close for comfort.

There, the National Weather Service pulled up a temp in Furnace Creek, and the projected high is 112 degrees today.

In Missoula, the mercury will hit 96 degrees. kricketDoes that feel cool to you now?

It didn’t work for me.

On the other hand, the El Salvador coffee ice cream from the Big Dipper was refreshing. A couple other ice cream lovers were beating the heat there, too.

Kricket, the dog, is eating a vanilla ice cream cone, and his person, Kris Moon, of Ear Candy, is about to cool off with espresso heath. Moon estimates that Kricket takes roughly 10 seconds to polish off his doggie cone. Good boy, Kricket.

This from the Big Dipper’s Facebook page yesterday:

Come on down to Big Dipper around 2:30 pm today. There’s going to be a film crew here from Good Morning America!! They are shooting a segment on the best ice cream places in the country. Look for the segment to air this Thursday on ABC. More details to follow. Woo hoo! :^D

Yesterday, I talked with Mayor John Engen for a story, and as an aside, I asked him what his method was for keeping cool. He said if it’s a dry heat, and it cools off at night, he’s not going to gripe.

“I complain so much about February that I try not to complain about the heat at all,” Engen said.

Word. Let’s remember February.

Speaking of the heat, here’s a cool interactive map on our website showing wildfires across the west.

I found this historic look at temperatures on the website of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Worldwide, 2001-2010 was the warmest decade on record since thermometer-based observations began.

Do you think this decade will be hotter than the last one? Maybe it’s time for more ice cream.

— Keila Szpaller



Ideas for better biking are coming at you!

Reptilian mystery on Higgins Avenue: Crocodile? Or alligator?

Do you want to hear neat ideas for better biking in Missoula? I do.

Today, BWAM, the Bike Walk Alliance for Missoula, sent out a newsletter announcing a talk Friday, July 26, about cool biking ideas from other urban areas. Here’s the announcement:

If you’re interested in learning what other cities have done to improve biking and walking, and hearing some ideas that might work in Missoula, be sure to join us on Friday, July 26, 11:30-1:00.  Jackie Corday of Missoula Parks & Recreation, and City Bike-Ped Program Director Ben Weiss will share highlights from the Seattle Bicycle Urbanism Symposium they attended June 19-21.  The talk will be in the first floor conference room of the Garlington, Lohn, & Robinson building on Broadway & Ryman.   Bring a sack lunch and something to drink if you wish.

My idea for better biking is that everyone get an animal toy of sorts like the green one … I forget if it’s an alligator or crocodile … hold on … alligator pictured here from Higgins Avenue.

The Missoulian’s @TomKopacz filled me in, saying it has no teeth showing, so it’s a ‘gator:

TomKopaczJun 27, 1:06pm via Janetter

@KeilaSzpaller I’m from Florida, remember? We know large carnivorous lizards.

OK, back to reading a couple stories about municipal bonds. Woohooo!

— Keila Szpaller

P.S. Mike Hyde, who is running for mayor and is using a public relations firm that’s based in San Francisco, explained the reason he’s using a company that’s in another state: “UPG donates their services to us. However if you know someone local that would like to help, I wouldn’t be opposed to that.”

There you are. It’ll be great to look at the first round of campaign finance reports from all the candidates.

Mayoral candidate in Missoula would donate half his salary

Which candidate?

Mike Hyde. He proposes to spend $40,000 to start an indoor greenhouse owned by the community and a farmers market.

Hyde, known for his cannabis advocacy through the Cash Hyde Foundation, sent me a note reminding me of a film screening this week in Missoula.

Head to “American Drug War 2: Cannabis Destiny,” at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 25, at The Wilma Theatre. Tickets are $7.

If you clicked on the links, you’ll see the PRWeb dateline is San Francisco, and yes, I’ll ask about it.

— Keila Szpaller

Trivia from the Missoula mayor’s race!

I need a little break.

Lucky you.

Here’s my favorite thing from the campaign season so far. It’s apolitical, so I’m sharing it.

Peggy Cain’s grandfather worked for Ford, and he was an inventor who helped create the windshield wiper.

See what I mean?

Cain is a retired nurse who is running for mayor.

Happy Friday.

— Keila Szpaller

Bert Lindler does great work for Missoula

Bert Lindler, of Grant Creek, has been named Neighborhood Volunteer of the Year, and Monday at the Missoula City Council meeting, Mayor John Engen is going honor his “outstanding” contributions. Here’s an excerpt from a news release from City Hall:

“Bert is well known for his dedication to conservation and environmental stewardship. He has worked with the National Wildlife Federation and local landowners and has spent many days improving wildlife habitat in the North Hills. His work includes taking down miles of unneeded barbed wire, installing elk passages in ranch fences and working with North Hills landowners to abate weeds and restore the land.”

That’s a photo from the past winter, when photographer Tom Bauer and I talked with Lindler and Karen Sippy about the Grant Creek Trail. Congratulations, Bert!

— Keila Szpaller

I love the agenda summary for the Missoula City Council meetings


smallbuff bigbuff buffI was out the early part of this week, and I missed the Missoula City Council meeting. Sometimes, not much happens, but this week, a couple interesting items were on the agenda.

Nope, not buffalo. That comes later.

Do you know about this feature? You can always look at the “action summary” link next to the agenda of the city government meeting you’re interested in. It’ll tell you the outcomes and votes. Handy.

In this case, you can see the council unanimously approved the domestic partner registry. It also agreed to spend $145,000 in grant money on Missoula In Motion.

Councilman Adam Hertz voted against the latter, and in committee he argued that the demand in Missoula already exists for things like sidewalks and bike lanes, and the money would be better spent on the actual infrastructure instead.

What do buffalo have to do with this? Nothing really, except when it comes to spending money on infrastructure, my time away included a drive through Yellowstone National Park and along the Beartooth Highway.

The Beartooth Highway is breathtaking, but it made me want to know how much money it cost to build and costs to maintain and the amount of tourism it brings to the area.

Lucky for me, those are questions for another day.

— Keila Szpaller

Missoula County Democrats Endorse Council Candidates

I just saw the news on Facebook from Rep. @EllieHill. Here’s the post from the Missoula County Democrats, which links PDFs of the candidates’ answers to questionnaires:

The Central Committee found the following 6 candidates support the same values (and) goals of the Missoula County Democrats and endorses them all in the upcoming election:

Bryan von Lossberg – Ward 1
Patrick Maddison – Ward 1
Jordan Hess – Ward 2
Emily Bentley – Ward 3
Annelise Hedahl – Ward 5
Marilyn Marler – Ward 6

Extra props to Hess, who completed the questionnaire even though he’s running unopposed in Ward 2.

The party made no endorsements in Ward 4, but Councilman Jon Wilkins is the only candidate running there.

I just checked out the Missoula County GOP’s Facebook page, and they haven’t posted any endorsements. In past years, their support for candidates has been evident in campaign finance reports.

Also, just because a candidate is endorsed by the Dems here doesn’t mean she’s not appealing to a strong GOP’er. Councilman Dick Haines, a Republican, told me he’s endorsed Hedahl in Ward 5, his district. He likes David “Doc” Moore, her challenger and a state representative, but he said Moore had a good legislative seat.

“I’ve got half the Republican establishment mad at me. Tough cookies,” Haines said.

— Keila Szpaller

A bump for the Bolt: Mountain Line requests levy increase

boltSo this is interesting: Mountain Line is asking for a levy increase for the first time in 35 years.

It’s a pretty significant one, some $38 a year on a $200,000 home. It almost doubles the current public transportation levy.

Probably one of the most frequent complaints I’ve heard about the bus service is it doesn’t run late enough, and if approved, some of the additional $1.7 million a year would go toward later hours on four different routes.

One of the programs general manager Michael Tree stressed needs funds is the curb-to-curb pickups for people who are seniors or disabled. It’s at capacity, and while Mountain Line hasn’t had to deny anyone service yet, Tree predicts the situation could arise in a year.

One success for the buses has been the “Bolt!” service,  currently available on Route 1. Those buses run every 15 minutes, and the levy increase would add the Bolt to another route.

That’s a photo of Tree from quite a while ago with the Bolt logo ’cause I forgot to take a photo while I was on the bus today.

Since January, I’ve been riding the bus a lot more, and today for the first time, I used the bike rack on the front. It worked, and if you ask me, the drivers are one thing Mountain Line has going in its favor.

Today, a driver explained how the bike rack works. It’s not complicated, but I needed the quick lesson, and she was happy to oblige.

I can’t begin to count the number of times a driver has asked me if I need help with a connection. I think they can tell which people aren’t regular riders on their routes (or maybe just have a lost look?!), and they are proactive about helping out.

That’s been my experience, for the most part. If you have one, I’d love to hear it. As a reminder, please use your real first and last name to comment.

Thank you!

— Keila Szpaller

“Like” on Facebook: pLAND

If you’re interested in development and urban life, I recommend “liking” pLAND Land Use Consulting on Facebook.

President Elaine Hawk posts interesting stories there from all over. This from her latest post:

“Did you know enabling growth in the city center can save taxpayers money and even generate tax revenues?”

She links to this Puget Sound Business Journal story, and it’s interesting because it frames the debate about density in different terms.

All for now!

— Keila Szpaller