Did you know that the transportation sector is responsible for over 25% of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States? And more than half of those emissions come from passenger vehicles! That’s the bad news. Building a climate smart community has to include sustainable transportation that is affordable and accessible to everyone.
The good news is that the wheels are turning here in Missoula and there is healthy movement happening – quite literally! At our July monthly meet-up last night at Imagine Nation Brewing Company, we were joined by advocates of sustainable transportation, including Jim Sayer, CEO of Adventure Cycling, Lisa Dworak with Missoula in Motion, and Caitlin and Julia, Missoula’s Bike Ambassadors, who shared their insights and ideas about how to keep momentum going. Here are just a few of our takeaways from the conversation. We’d love to hear your thoughts!
Bicycle Boulevards and Barriers
Missoula has been praised for being a bike-friendly community; among other accolades, the Travel Channel recently ranked Missoula among the top ten cycling cities in the U.S.! But biking isn’t just a popular pastime - for many Missoulians, their bike is the primary way to get around town. According to one survey, about 6 percent of us are bike commuters, good enough to earn us a rank of 11 out of US cities over 65,000 people. And we’ve got great organizations like Freecycles, Women Bike Missoula and Bike Walk Alliance Missoula - BWAM getting more bikers out riding.
These are great accomplishments, but we can do even better! 70% of Missoulians still drive solo to work. Initiatives like Missoula In Motion’s Commuter Challenge prove it’s possible for more of us to bike, walk, bus, or carpool instead: during the most recent challenge, the number of people commuting by car every day dropped from 40% to 11%!
Bike Ambassadors Caitlin and Julia reminded us that perceptions about safety are often the biggest barriers preventing more people from hopping on a bike. Group rides like Bikeapalooza (Sunday July 17th – meet downtown at 12pm!) are a great way to build bikers’ confidence and learn more about city bike routes. And when people get on a bike, they are more likely to be a bike-aware driver when they get behind the wheel of their cars. You might say it’s a positive cycle of safety!
Transit: Smart Growth, Focus Inward
Biking is great, but it’s not for everyone. And in the middle of winter, even the most dedicated bikers (and walkers!) can be deterred by snow and slush. We’re thrilled that Mountain Line’s zero-fare bus service has been so popular, and the new 15-minute frequent service on lines 1 and 2 is super convenient. We’d love to see expanded hours and Sunday service – maybe someday! In the meantime, the Our Missoula Growth Plan’s focus inward is a great start to planning more centralized development and better integrating transit into our neighborhoods, which will help make sustainable transportation more accessible for everyone.
Join us in Being a Sustainable Transportation Advocate!
Here at Climate Smart Missoula, we try to walk the walk. We’re proud to have won Missoula In Motion’s Transportation Best Practices Award for our commitment as an organization to sustainable transportation!
Do you bike, walk, or take the bus? Do you wish it was even easier to do all three? Your voice matters to our community, and there are lots of ways to get involved!
I had a special relationship with the giant sycamore tree in my front yard growing up. I would climb into the upper branches, reveling in how different everything on the ground looked from my perch high in the air. Or I’d spend hours in the nearly perfect seat formed where the main trunk split into two, reading a book or studying the spotted bark and pointed leaves. Do you have a similar story? As we get older, we don't often stop to think about the trees that populate our neighborhoods, parks and open spaces. We all know trees are important. They beautify our city, they keep us cool, they give us clean air to breathe. How can we keep our trees happy and healthy?
On June 2nd, Climate Smart Missoula’s monthly meetup was all about trees. We were joined by Karen Sippy from the citizen advocacy group Trees for Missoula, Chris Carlson from the City of Missoula Parks and Recreation Dept, Juliet Slutzger from the National Wildlife Federation, and curious community members.
Here’s what we learned:
Wondering what you can do to help keep our urban forest in tip top shape?
On May 5th, Missoula community members gathered to learn and talk about local food and agriculture and climate change. Kim Gilchrist with the Community Food and Agriculture Coalition (CFAC) started us off with an overview of the food system, tracing the steps that get our food from farm to fork. She described the work that CFAC is doing to support farmers and farmland and improve access to local food for all members of our community, including the Double Snap Dollars program. Greg Price of Garden City Harvest described the climate change impacts he’s observed in his 15 years of experience as the manager of River Road Neighborhood Farm. Greg explained that climate change has brought tradeoffs between a longer growing season on one hand, and more extreme heat and less water for irrigation on the other. Caroline Stephens, produce manager at Foothill Farm, also shared about her graduate research interviewing Montana farmers about drought and climate change.
Missoula is known for its vibrant local food scene, with farmers’ markets buzzing on Saturday mornings, restaurants featuring local produce, and thriving community gardens. For many Missoulians, our local food culture is part of what makes Missoula a great place to live. But the abundance and diversity of local food and sustainable agriculture also increases our community’s resilience to climate change. When we produce more of our food nearby, we are less dependent on global and national supply chains that are vulnerable to climate impacts, and we strengthen our local economy. Food hubs, such as the Western Montana Growers’ Co-op, aggregate produce from many farms and distribute it to grocery stores and institutions like schools and hospitals, and help connect small farmers with more diverse markets. And when local sustainable agriculture is combined with efforts to reduce food waste, we shrink the carbon footprint of our entire food system, making our community healthier and more sustainable in the long run.
Interested in learning more about how Climate Smart Missoula and community partners are working on this issue? Check out our Local Food and Agriculture bucket.