New Bolt Missoula Post: Reflections of a Missoula Bike Commuter

Sunrise Over Missoula

It was one of those early April mornings where the northern Rockies tease you with spring only to take it away again the next day.  I was biking down the river trail as the most beautiful sunrise was coming up over Mount Sentinel.  I stopped for a moment to admire the view and snapped a couple pictures on my phone.  I thought it was a great picture to share with all of our followers so I uploaded it to Mountain Line’s Facebook and Twitter accounts and continued on my way.

I was heading to the University of Montana for a meeting, but I stopped en-route at the Buttercup Market to grab a coffee and one of their little breakfast sandwiches.  Of course this being Missoula, I saw a couple people I knew and we got to share a few minutes chatting and catching up on life. I went back outside with my coffee and walked my bike across the street to campus and ate while enjoying the morning sun.  I strolled across the oval watching all of the students walking, biking and riding their long boards to class until I reached the University Center and headed into my meeting feeling happy and focused.

I think I speak for many of us when I say that it’s not every day I go into the world looking forward to dealing with the challenges of work and life.  However, the positive experience of my commute made a huge difference in my attitude for the rest of the day.  When we spend our entire journey to work getting stressed out over people sharing the road with us or what deadlines we have that day, it sets us up for misery.  This is something the staff at Mountain Line is very conscious of and prioritizes stress free commuting and accommodations for cyclists as much as possible.  We do this by fostering modes of transportation that reduce traffic congestion and improve community health.

The League of American Bicyclists ranks Missoula as a Gold level city because of our trails and bike lanes.  At Mountain Line, we have been working very hard to help encourage Missoula’s growing bike culture. Studies show that public transit riders get more healthy physical activity per day than drivers, and we want to accommodate those who cycle to the bus stop as well as those who walk.  We are well equipped to handle bicycle commuting by providing bike racks on the front of all of our buses and two bike station facilities where folks can tune their bikes.  These types of amenities enhance the experience of bicycle commuting making it a better option for even more commuters.  We are also excited to be opening another two stations this year.  The first is at the Library in downtown Missoula where our ribbon cutting will be later this week on May 15th at 12:30.  The second will be at Southgate Mall and is opening later this summer.  We are also hosting Bikes on Buses on May 28th with the Missoula Bike Pedestrian office at the Transfer Center downtown to show folks how to put their bikes on the bus.  These types of investments in our community helps employees get to work and students get to campus.  Ensuring citizens have access to our community is a huge benefit to our public health, and local economy.

On the morning I biked to work for example, I not only stopped at a local coffee shop but later that day I got a snack while biking through downtown.  These small purchases were made because I biked and when combined, can make up a large amount of economic revenue.  Studies have shown that cyclists are more likely to stop and buy something at a local business while commuting.  A report issued by the American League of Bicyclists and the Alliance of Biking and Walking has shown that relatively low cost investments in infrastructure like trails and other bike facilities have paid off big time in Colorado.  Generating $1 billion in economic revenue and providing more than 1,200 jobs, the bicycling industry is booming in the Centennial State.  In fact 40% of the out of state summertime tourists polled said that they would have considered going somewhere other than Colorado if cycling was not available.

I have not always been someone who bikes to work, and I still don’t every day.  I use other transportation options such as the Mountain Line or UDASH bus systems, as well as driving.  However I have made a shift in my life, choosing to bike or ride the bus when possible because it makes me start my day off positively, healthfully, and I know I am making my community a better place. I am proud to live in a city where we have access to bike infrastructure and leaders who are excited to improve upon it.