By BEN WEISS
There is no doubt that Missoula residents like riding bikes.
In fact, depending on which census, survey, poll, or national list you look at, we consistently rate among the top 10 cities in the country for percentage of people using bicycles for transportation.
There is also no doubt that Missoulians enjoy celebrating. (I read today that Caras Park alone sees over half a million people each year.) So, as it nears the time when many residents put away their bikes for the winter, I would like to celebrate all of the ways Missoula made it better for bicycling this year (or at least as many of them as I can remember).
- Most recently, Missoula Parks & Rec proudly announced the opening of two new stretches of trail: The Silver Park Trail connecting Ogren Park to the California Street Bridge, and the Milwaukee Trail from Russell to Reserve. Both of these trails add up to less than 1.5 miles of new construction. Still, these two sections connect the eastern and western parts of town, which means everyone in Missoula – residents and visitors alike – can walk, bike, and skate from the University to Reserve Street using an off-street trail.
- Sunday Streets Missoula provided the community with a car-free downtown twice this summer, encouraging cyclists and pedestrians to walk and ride downtown to participate in fun, healthy activities, shop, eat, and mingle. These events allowed Missoulians to imagine multiple uses for public space that is usually just for cars. Planning is already underway for Sunday Streets 2012.
- The City Public Works department helped expand and extend Missoula’s on-street bike network this summer by applying epoxy paint – which lasts much longer than regular paint – to many of the city’s bike lanes and adding sharrows to roadways where bike lanes have yet to be installed.
- Bike/Walk/Bus Week celebrated its 20th anniversary this year, with dozens of businesses providing incentives for those choosing to get around by foot, bike, and bus. Walking tours of historic buildings and the future park at the confluence of the Blackfoot and Clark Fork Rivers were a lot of fun. And, as always, the cyclist beat the motorist in the annual Pedal vs. Metal scavenger hunt and race.
With 2011 almost in the bag, Missoula has again advanced biking for transportation by leaps and bounds. The days are getting shorter, the weather is getting colder, and snow is falling. Come back next week for handy tips and tricks for winter cycling.
Ride on, Missoula!
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Like this blog on biking? Read Ben’s other Bike It posts: The Dandies Ride Again!, It’s Cyclocross Season in Missoula, and Sharrow the Road: Missoula’s New Biking Road Symbols. If you’re looking for a good place to ride, check out our Mountain Biking Trail Guide.
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Ben Weiss has been biking around Missoula for the last decade, on his way to and from work, school, volunteer engagements, board meetings, pot lucks, concerts, and the bars. Previously serving as a Bicycling Ambassador for the City and as a current employee of Missoula In Motion, Ben has spent hundreds of hours talking with Missoulians about how and where they ride their bikes.