More than half of all Missoulians surveyed in 2000 say they would consider using a non-motorized alternative to driving an automobile—say, walking or riding a bicycle—for their routine trips around town. Fifty percent of all non-driving seniors say they cannot walk to a local bus stop or grocery store. Nationally, nearly one in ten households do not own a car, including one in five low-income families.
It’s numbers like these that have city planners and non-motorized transportation advocates moving ahead on a plan to better incorporate non-motorized travel into Missoula’s long-term vision. The 2001 Non-Motorized Transportation Plan, in the works for nearly two years, has been undergoing extensive public review for the last month and just completed six public meetings around town.
The 2001 plan represents a significant step forward from 1994, the last time the city outlined its goals for non-motorized travel, says Kelley Segars, transportation planner with the Missoula Office of Planning and Grants (OPG). Its broader scope is readily apparent, as seen in its focus on increasing non-motorized commutes to school, work, shopping and other routine travel around town. In contrast, the 1996 plan focused primarily on recreational travel.
The plan also places a greater emphasis on non-motorized travel as a vehicle for promoting safe, healthy and economically prosperous communities. As the plan notes, cities that invest more money and planning in trails, sidewalks, greenbelts and bike routes tend to thrive economically, retain and increase property values and rank higher on most quality of life measures. They also tend to have healthier, more active populations, suffer less pollution and spend less on automobile-related expenses, such as new parking lots and road expansions.
The 2001 plan is far more inclusive than its predecessor on recreational options as well, and includes plans for linking Missoula’s trail network with public lands for fishing, rafting, kayaking and other water activities.
Segars says that for anyone who didn’t make it to the public meetings, about 10,000 surveys were distributed last week through the public schools for people to use to make comments.
“What we’re trying to do is make sure that this is a plan that actually happens and doesn’t just sit on the shelf,” says Segars.
OPG is accepting public comments on the 2001 plan until Friday, Feb. 16. A revised version of the plan (available at www.ci.missoula.mt.us) incorporating those comments is expected out March 28.