Commuters

   of missoula

Missoula In Motion has launched a story-telling series called Commuters of Missoula featuring every day Missoulians that have incorporated sustainable transportation into their lives. Commuters of Missoula features individuals who are frequent bikers, walkers, busers and carpoolers as well as those who just do it once and a while!  

 

Whether you're a winter biker or a once a month bus rider, we'd love to chat! Please consider nominating yourself or a friend

“I live in midtown, near the Southgate Mall and take the Milwaukee or Bitterroot trail just about everywhere. One of the reasons I probably ride my bike a lot is because my dad has always rode bikes. Him and I ride on the Bitterroot Trail quite a bit.I just bought my condo in the fall and I had my eyes specifically on that one. I‘d looked at other condos in other places and there are lots available out on Mullan Road. I specifically chose my place in large part because of its central location. But I totally get that finances come in to play and can really dictate where folks live. I looked for condos downtown and they were way too expensive. But there are still places around town that are near bike paths that are more affordable than directly downtown. I think midtown is going to continue to develop. I really value how easy it is to get to places like the new Bridge and Dram Shop.

BIKE/BUS WITH KRIS

I’ve been primarily sustainably commuting since 2006. The decision was based mostly out of convenience. Where I’ve lived and where I’ve worked, there’s usually an easy way for me to partially use a bike path, partially use a big wide sidewalk or partially use a broad shoulder. If I hadn’t had that, it would have been more difficult for me to bike for sure. I was trying to be active and I enjoy riding my bike. My advice to encourage others to bike and walk more, is to find paths and routes that lend themselves to fewer cars and less traffic. When I try going back to driving, it actually feels like more of an inconvenience.

During the winter, as soon as there’s ice, I choose to walk rather than ride my bike. I also started to ride the bus a lot, especially when zero fare started. My girlfriend and I worked together and she rode the bus so in the winter time, I was like “okay, I guess I’ll ride the bus too.” It’s really how we first got to know each other. It was an opportunity to be in the same place and connect and talk.Also, when I rode the bus from my old place, I met two older woman that I got to know. We always ended up on the same get on point and the same get off point. I hadn't ridden the bus for a while, in over a year probably, and when I did again, sure enough, I saw one of them again. I got to catch up with her and she said “Oh yea, Sharon asked about you, she was wondering if you sold your house. Biking and busing builds community I think. You have the choice of chatting with who’s sitting next to you or putting in your ear buds and just zoning out. Plus, my uncle Mark drives the bus I ride.” 

BIKE WITH PATRICK

“I live on the edge of Westside, over by Draught Works, and I work in the Florence Building. I’ve primarily biked or walked in Missoula since I’d say 2008. I’ve always just enjoyed biking- even when I’ve hated my job and had horrible days at work. Sometimes the best parts of my days have been biking to and from work. I don’t hate my job anymore but ya know, it’s just a good reset. Plus, it’s just a good town. You run into people you know on the street, you have good conversations with people".

"I think distance plays a big factor for a lot of people. It’s too far to walk and it seems too far to bike. I take hundreds of people on 300 mile bike trips and we often do a bike to work day on the ride. 

The premise is everyone wears work clothes and we go ride 75 miles. If you can ride 75 miles down the California coast in your work clothes, you can bike to work when you get home. At a certain point biking or walking or taking a different form of transportation just becomes what you do!

 

“So we have this bike- it was an impulse buy at a bike shop in Seattle. It’s a cycle truck cargo bike and has a lower center of gravity front wheel and then a platform and when you turn the handle bars the platform stays level. My wife and I ride with our dog on the front. Anytime I take that thing out, people just smile and they point and they laugh. Sometimes I feel like I’m on a parade and it’s kind of silly but it brings people joy. They love it and she loves it”! 

“She just kind of balances up there. When I take the bike out of the shed, she gets so excited. If I’m using it just to go get dog food or chicken food and I don’t bring her, she gives me the stink eye”. 

BUS WITH ROCKY

“I go by the nickname Rocky. I live in the Westside neighborhood and I serve as a foster grandparent at a pre-school on Stephens so it’s the number 2 or 11 bus to downtown and then the 7. I do not have a car. I gave up my car in 2008 principally because well, I had three fender benders that year, and then I drove out to Seattle to visit my daughter and burned out the transmission. I’ve only driven once since that time. I’ve taken the bus consistently for the past 11 years. I really believe that public transportation is important".


“When I was moving out here from the Twin Cities, I came out and drove around and looked at a couple of options and found a place and thought, ‘This is a really nice place.’ And, furthermore, on my way there, I actually had to move out of the way so the bus could get around me, and I thought, ‘Well, hey, that’s handy!’ I really didn’t get a license that was worth anything until I lived in Minnesota, even though I got one when I was in high school, but that was in Missouri. You had to pass a written test, but you didn’t have to take a driving test! It cost 50 cents for my first license.”

"There are whole bunch of people, especially my generation, who are just spooked about riding the bus. The senior van, I take advantage of that a lot. For instance the first Thursday of the month is when Albertsons has their senior citizen discount day, 10% off your full purchase. I also use the senior van occasionally when I go give blood over at the center on Reserve. I suggest getting to know your bus driver by name and introduce yourself. I try to do that too, especially with the new crop we’re getting in, we’re always getting new drivers"

“Most of the drivers are so good and so reasonable. I really enjoy them. Randy of course, I get such a kick out of him. He’s actually been to Santa Claus school. I kid you not. His wife actually made his costume because if you buy them new I guess they cost something like 30K. When Halloween is here I dress up as the Queen of Autumn and he was dressed in this wild shirt one time with the circles around it. I’m very fond of the bus drivers. He’s just a great old friend”

WALK WITH DANNY

"When we were looking for places to live, we just looked at neighborhoods that were walkable or bikeable, sort of subconsciously. We knew we didn’t want to deal with driving every day. It’s a big hassle and so we looked in neighborhoods that were closer in. For about 10-15 years, I’ve lived in cities, New York City, Washington D.C., where there’s great public transportation. I could never really fathom going to an existence where I’m driving back and forth every day and having to navigate traffic. I guess that sort of set the baseline for me- where life shouldn’t involve a morning commute and an afternoon commute. The decisions we’ve made since then have reflected that. My wife is from New York City so she’s not even that good at driving. I get stressed out when I’m in the passenger seat with her”.

Any advice for new sustainable commuters?


“Oh my gosh, yes! Spikes. Micro spikes [for your shoes]. Also, do it once, whether it’s planned or if it’s an emergency. For instance if your car breaks down or won’t start at the end of the day so you have to walk home or something like that. It’s kind of interesting because you realize that 2 miles, while it can seem like a lot because maybe you have to pass through two neighborhoods, is actually quite doable. And then you get home and you feel good because you’ve just walked two miles! Plus, there’s nothing more peaceful than listening to a podcast and walking”.

Has anything interesting happened during your commutes? 

“I was noticing today, whenever I commute with him by stroller, without fail, someone will stop me or someone will comment and say “oh you’re such a good dad”. And this doesn’t really have anything to do with commuting as much as it does about parenting but no one ever does that to my wife. I get congratulated all the time for just existing as a dad. One morning I was on the way to work, and there’s a McDonald’s at the bottom of the lower Rattlesnake and I stopped there because I wanted to get one of their breakfast sandwiches and one of their coffees. He was having a bad morning, blow out diaper, cranky, it was a little rough. I just wanted to get him out of the house and I was sitting there, he was probably asleep at this point and I was on my phone, with my coffee just like trying to stay sane and a guy came up to me and said “you are doing such a great job”. I was like I’m sitting here browsing twitter, sipping a McDonalds coffee, like drinking it over him, and I’m getting congratulated? My wife will be changing his diaper in the middle of a movie theater and no one will congratulate her. Just sitting here, before you arrived, I got congratulated by one guy for doing a good job. It’s unfair. That has nothing to do with commuting but it’s something I notice on my commute.”

 

What do you love about your commute?

 

“Honestly, you arrive to work a lot happier and you arrive back at home a lot happier. It makes me more productive and it makes me a better parent. I feel a difference walking with him in a stroller versus driving and arriving back home. I feel more ready to do stuff. More active."

CARPOOL WITH SHAREEN

"When I first moved to town I lived off of Stephens and I walked to work. And then I moved to Miller Creek and I was just driving to work. Then two things coalesced for me to try using a sustainable mode. One was the Commuter Challenge, ya know, just wanting to try it. I looked on your website and found lots of options of people to potentially carpool with but I also knew my neighbors directly across the street from me also worked at the University. So we tried it for the week and I said “is this working for you, can we keep doing this?” So we’ve been carpooling every day together, it’s so easy and convenient. Plus, being new in town, I learn a lot from them about Missoula

and things going on on campus. I also get to enjoy the drive so much more. I get to look out the window and see the beautiful mountains and the beautiful river. Plus, I don’t lose my car! I would seriously often forget where I had parked my car 8 hours earlier. The other thing is my son is taking a break from college so he’s been using my car. By carpooling with my neighbors, we have no need for a second car. It’s been helpful on many fronts.

But it is nice to know that if they’re plans chance or if they go out of town, I can go online and see other carpool options. I checked it out and was pleased to see there were quite a few folks willing to carpool in my neighborhood. It does require a little more planning because I can’t stop at the store or run an errand after work but for the most part it’s very convenient.”

WALKING & BIKING WITH SINI & HEIKKI

Sini: "We’ve just used walking or biking or running since we moved here at the end of September. When we came here we decided not to buy a car here. At the time, our son was 9 months old and he didn’t enjoy sitting in a car at all. So when we moved here we decided to live 9 months without car because Missoula was advertised as a bicycle friendly city. We bought bicycles from Missoula and we brought a stroller from Finland that can be converted into a bicycle trailer. Here in town we have not used a car at all but we have rented a car when we want to go on longer trips.”

Heikki: "The trail in Missoula is very good and that has made it possible to live here without a car. Getting to University I think is much faster by bicycle than by car. And because the trail goes along the river, it’s really beautiful and relaxing. What I like very much for example is the bridge over Reserve Street because one time I tried to cross Reserve Street in another spot and it didn’t work at all. Without that bridge we would be much more stuck. And you can actually get pretty far! I’ve run all the way to Lolo. Even though it goes along the highways it’s still very beautiful. And through the winter, I was really surprised how well the trail stayed clear. But when you cannot get to your destination along the trail, it is just a nightmare. The sidewalks are really bumpy and not often clear of snow in winter. And you cannot even imagine cycling on those bike lanes with a baby in the trailer, it's just too dangerous."

BIKING WITH HEATHER

“I live on the Westside, and I commute to work which is just across the California Street Bridge. So I get to cross that bridge every single day, multiple times a day. I originally started commuting because my son got his drivers permit in 2004 and he started using my car. I’d been to Amsterdam and I loved how they rode their bikes over there and I was like I’m just gunna start riding and see how it goes”!

“Now my only drives are when I’m taking the pets to the vet or doing a big Costco run. I’ve even done Costco on the bike. It’s actually good self-control for going to Costco! I think a lot of people think it’s faster to drive but personally, I haven’t found that. Our system is really wonderful. Even over the past few years, all the connections we’ve made. You really can get from one place to another without hitting major roads. I don’t know if everybody realizes that”!

“There are so many benefits. The peace I feel riding across California Street Bridge every day is one. I see the heron and all the little ducks and the eagles sometimes and it’s just so enjoyable and great for my mental health. I love biking in the winter actually because I have to focus on staying upright on my bicycle. I just focus and think about staying safe on my bike and everything else disappears. And I do have a stressful job so it helps me release all of my stress from the day”.

"I’ve been riding the bus on and off for the past 12 years. I use it 3 or 4 times a day maybe. I’ve actually never had a vehicle. The bus is my main form of transport. I actually prefer taking the bus- it's easier than walking around for some things. I think there’s a high part of the population in Missoula who can afford the gas and their vehicles so that’s why they drive but it seems to me that a lot of people ride the bus too. It’s usually pretty packed".

What are some benefits to riding the bus in Missoula?

“The social impact. That's huge. You get to meet and socialize with a lot of different people. The main thing I like about is it’s free and it gets you around.”

Any pointers for someone that’s never taken the bus?

“You just kind of gotta jump in head first, ya know?”

BUS WITH ALLEY CAT

“I live in the Rose Park neighborhood and commute to the River Trail. Before we had our son, I was biking 9 months out of the year and walking the other 3. On my commutes, I’ll listen to podcasts or talk to my friends or family. It really helps my sanity and I experience so many mental health benefits. Now that we have a son in day care 2 days a week, the car is coming out more often. We just started day care last week so we’re gunna see if there’s something we can do to bike him to day care or take the bus.

In general, we just don’t like having to drive. I find myself getting a little cranky when I do. When I’m on my bike or walking it’s just so much more pleasant. We are a two car family but one of them is 26 years old so we’re just gunna keep it as long as it lasts. My husband and I often carpool when getting out to trailheads. We’ll drive to the rattlesnake all together and my husband will go on a run and I’ll walk with our son and then we’ll switch off and I’ll run and he’ll walk.

BIKE/WALK WITH ALLISON

Missoula is just so beautifully walker and biker friendly. We chose to live where we live because we can get to a lot of places by walking or biking. We’re not far from Ace Hardware and we’ve made sure that our eye doctor and our dentist are within walking distance. When I’m walking and biking I’m always amazed at how polite and aware most drivers are of pedestrians and bikers. I really appreciate that.”

Right now, my struggle is sustainably traveling with a kid. The daycare we use is near the Good Food Store and it just feels like a little bit of a distance for a bus route or a bike trailer but maybe that’s my challenge. If I do it once maybe I’ll realize it actually works and how easy it is. Maybe we just need to stretch ourselves a little bit by taking the bus or using the bike trailer once a week. We’ll start there.”​

“I live on the south end of town so it’s about 3 miles, 6 miles round trip. Most of it is on the Bitterroot Branch trail which goes right by my house plus 4th street which is pretty quiet. I counted it one day, because you do then when you’re biking, and I cross 16 roads. So I cross a lot of streets but I’m not on a lot of streets sharing the road with cars. But ya know, I’ve been kind of astonished, it’s maybe 5% of drivers that don’t stop for bikers. I think that’s really great.

Around 1985, when I bought my bike, I bike commuted in Missoula all the time. And this was when the bike infrastructure was nothing like it is today. Then I moved away, out to Seattle and bike commuted there and then to D.C. 

BIKE WITH PAT

and bike commuted there. Same bike has been with me across the country. And then I came back to Missoula and life just kind of happened and I just wasn’t biking as much. And honestly I just got into a habit. Ya know I had a place to park and driving just became my habit. Now our parking pressure at work has increased exponentially so there’s a lot of incentive not to drive. And then there was the Commuter Challenge and we had someone in our office organizing our team and I was like “huh, why am I not on my bike?

I needed that little incentive. Missoula is a place with incredible athletes, ultra-marathoners, bike racers, Olympic athletes, people that are just incredibly dedicated to being active, but I think most of us go to work, go to school, take care of kids, take care of family members and run errands. So if a gift certificate to Five on Black or competition with another office will get you on your bike, I think that’s great. I know I need that nudge and I imagine other people do too. In years past actually when the Commuter Challenge would end, I would go back to driving! But this year, I was committed to continue biking. I’m trying to make biking my norm.

I was biking all through September and I looked at my dashboard one day and was so impressed by how many days I had biked! Offering a way to measure your trips and reward yourself-- it seems so simple but it was just enough to get me over the hump and keep motivated. To challenge myself. And I know how much better I feel. The other day I had been sitting at my desk all day and I was really looking forward to my bike ride home. I felt so much better.

The other thing I’ve noticed in the last few years is more people are using the bike paths. Whether they’re pushing a stroller or walking or just hanging out, I always pass other people. I like that on the Bitterroot Branch there is so much diversity, not just the hyper athletes but there are people of every silo in Missoula. It’s sort of a more accurate cross section of Missoula than what you get from the Missoula promo videos and ads. I appreciate seeing people just doing their thing. I saw a women the other day on an old one speed going about 1 mph and she was just chugging away and I thought that’s great, I’m so glad you have a safe place to do that. And I like seeing the same people you wave to each day.

There are definitely some cold, wet and windy days but when people say ‘you’re not going to bike today are you?’ That gives me even more motivation to do it. I almost enjoy it more the more inclement the weather is. Sure, there are some slight inconveniences. Like on days when I know I have to run a lot of errands. And then you have to factor in the helmet hair. Like ‘wait a minute, I have a meeting with a funder at 4pm, can I do 2 errands in between? By then I’ll have serious helmet hair…’ Sometimes my schedule or the weather just isn’t favorable to biking and that’s ok. I do it whenever I can!

The bike I’m using now, I bought in 1985. It was the first bike I ever bought and I’m still riding it. I was bike commuting back then here in Missoula. Back then, there was little bike infrastructure, you really had to be a defensive bike rider. So this bike is 34 years old. It’s older than many of my coworkers! It has the oval shaped sprocket that was supposed to be super-efficient. It was some crazy gimmick that turned out to be bogus but that bike has been vandalized in D.C., and gotten me up hills in Seattle. And it’s about 400lbs. It’s funny because I’ve gone biking with friends and they put all the bikes up on the roof and then they get to mine and they struggle because it’s so darn heavy! But it gives me a heck of a workout.

Biking felt like a way to sneak in some physical activity and get into shape. It’s a 6 mile ride to and back from work so it’s not like some epic mountain ride that I can brag on Facebook about but I thought just get on your bike, just try it. The other day I was just not feeling up for biking but I told myself “just get on your bike, just turn the pedal and let things happen”. And I start to notice and appreciate so much about my route. There are little single tracks off the bike path where I get my mountain biking in. I see deer in the morning and Hickory and 4th Street have the most gorgeous trees. I also do a lot of writing for my job so it’s my chance to work out stuff. It gives me that physical break from sitting in a chair, staring at my computer. You get new insights. It’s a nice coda after your work day and in between the rest of your day. Plus you just feel better, you feel stronger.”

BIKE WITH ELIZABETH

Elizabeth (Mom): “As a family, we mainly bus and bike. We’ve kind of scaled it back because of our lives right now but whenever we can, we get on the bus or ride our bikes. One benefit we experience is my mood. And my kids mood. If they’re outside and riding their bikes rather than being cooped up, they’re much happier. I remember when we were biking a lot, there were these little epiphanies that they would say. I remember Astrid being able to voice this thought of “I just love the smells you smell, the things you hear, the things you see.

Elizabeth: “In the past we were sustainably commuting 60-90 miles a week. The Artemis Camp is something I put on for my kids and their friends in the summers and we get transported 100% by human power or on the bus. Before kids, biking and adventuring is all I did. I’d be gone every weekend and come back to Missoula to rest from the weekend. The documentary I’m working on is called Mountain Mama and I hope it becomes a feature length film. I didn’t see a lot of women, let alone moms in some outdoor film festivals so I’d like it to be shown at some of those. I got my startup money from the Montana Film Office. I put in for this grant and was able to buy some of the equipment so I can film much of it on my own. My girls have helped me with interviews and audio and holding reflectors. I give them 5 bucks for it. It seems to work pretty well. But sometimes it becomes so overwhelming, I just kind of throw up my arms and say 'Let’s go outside. I like you guys better outside.' I try to do this whole balance thing; a creative job, being a mom, taking care of myself. Like this morning I was out hiking the mountains. I get up at 4:30 in the morning several times a week to take care of all the different segments that make me, me. That’s precisely what I’m trying to cover with these women. And then other times you have to ask yourself what’s most important in this very moment and the answer is always being a mom.”

A couple years ago we made a pact that we would see how many days in a row we could bike to school. After 40 days I got them a little prize and then after 60 days I got them t-shirts from Missoula In Motion and glasses that had a bike on it. Part of the reason we did that was selfish. I was training for an adventure race and needed to put some miles in. Instead of elevation, I was training with weight. I was hauling these guys around 60-90 miles a week. And I just wanted to bike every single place we went and just got into this routine of doing it. I’ve been in the habit of doing it since my first daughter was really little. I bought the bike trailer when she was a year old. So selfish reasons at first and then I just loved it. I felt so strong. My girls would cheer me on from the trailer like “you can make this hill mom”! And then they started biking on their own. We are quite a team. I tell my kids you have to give energy to get it back."

 

Astrid (daughter): “I bike to school almost every day. I love that you just feel free and that you can go anywhere. If the parking lot is full, you don’t have to worry about it"!

"I’ve been riding the bus on and off for the past 12 years. I use it 3 or 4 times a day maybe. I’ve actually never had a vehicle. The bus is my main form of transport. I actually prefer taking the bus- it's easier than walking around for some things. I think there’s a high part of the population in Missoula who can afford the gas and their vehicles so that’s why they drive but it seems to me that a lot of people ride the bus too. It’s usually pretty packed".

What are some benefits to riding the bus in Missoula?

“The social impact. That's huge. You get to meet and socialize with a lot of different people. The main thing I like about is it’s free and it gets you around.”

Any pointers for someone that’s never taken the bus?

“You just kind of gotta jump in head first, ya know?”

BUS WITH ALLEY CAT

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