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Doorstep Democracy

traffic time out

Taking a Traffic Time-out: Reassessing Community- 6/25/2008


Last Thursday a bicyclist was killed on Reserve Street while crossing a high-speed right turn lane near the railroad track overpass.  Most tragedies are disturbing to think about and we often carry on with our lives to avoid re-living all the pain we associate with the event. Some of us haven’t forgotten what happened just a week ago and are reminded every time we ride that we could be making a life or death decision.


Creating an aura of fear around bicycle-travel discourages people- people concerned about personal health, financial savings and environmental impact- from making the transportation choices that they see fit or believe in. This last fatality is not an isolated mishap; there has been a pattern of bicycle-motorist crashes (many unreported). The real challenge we face is that if we are committed to safe and accessible roadways within the greater Missoula area, then we likely need an overhaul of awareness, infrastructure and attitudes.  


The City says that this crash is “unacceptable” and that seems to be very accurate. If indeed this is unacceptable, then some recourse is necessary—a recourse or remedy that is something different than what we have been doing.  Mr. Robert Bremer is gone, yet we can try in every way possible to prevent more pain and we can refocus as a community.


What might be done, as to prevent more tragedies in the future?  First of all, we can take collective action and build awareness.  Awareness and action by each of us can go a long way towards creating a sustainable and harmonious community. 


The City has a role in facilitating dialogue and making infrastructure changes.  While well-designed and connected bike lanes can work well on most Missoula arterials, we may very likely need some changes on the large, fast arterials like Reserve Street.  There is room for a separate non-motorized trail or cycle track on both sides of Reserve St.  Intersections and driveways present challenges to trails, but designs exist that can solve these challenges.  Also, simply adding in beauty and green space has a great calming effect.


When cycling, we have a role to be responsible and very aware of both our surroundings and other people on the road.  Abrupt darting in and out of lanes or paths does not work.  When driving, we have an important responsibility to be extra aware, as the damage to life and property due to a mistake can be catastrophic.  Pedestrians, the most sustainable form of transportation, need diligence when crossing roads or when walking where sidewalks do not exist.


Completing Missoula’s road and trail infrastructure so everyone feels safe and free seems to be a priority in all of Missoula’s planning processes that are currently underway.  Translating these goals into on-the-ground solutions that join and not divide the community is the challenge ahead for each of us.


Dillon  Klepatar is founder of Bike Benefit, a new incentive program
Bob Giordano runs the Free Cycles Community Bicycle Program and the Missoula Institute for Sustainable Transportation

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