Archive for July 25th, 2007

by Jay Stevens

I admit I don’t read my Missoula City Council listserv discussions as often as I should. It’s a great idea, to start a correspondence between City Council members and the public on issues pertaining to the city. (Just a reminder: none of the correspondence is official business and should not be construed as such.)

In the most recent correspondence, bike lanes on 5th and 6th streets were discussed – two major one-way, two-lane arterials that stretch east-west across the city from Russell to the University. Sixth street is much broader than 5th.

Council member, Bob Jaffe:

In Public Works we saw the plan to re-stripe 5th and 6th streets. A while back the public works department proposed raising the speed limit on those streets to bring the posted limit in line with what people actually drive.

The neighbors didn’t like that idea so we asked the department to come up with ways to bring people’s driving speed more in line with what was posted.

The least expensive approach is to re-stripe the road with more narrow lanes. There will be a bike lane on 5th but there is not enough room on 6th.

John Wolverton responded with an accurate description of biking 6th – which goes towards the city center, towards Higgins. Included was a brilliant suggestion for accommodating bike traffic:

Bicycle-commuting on 6th Street is like a slalom; trying to hug the curb for safety sake, but constantly having to veer left around the numerous and deep stormwater drain-sumps. It really needs a bike lane…

This is especially true of 6th street between Orange and Higgins, where the traffic is the heaviest and the street the narrowest and sketchiest…

I’ve rarely seen more than 4 or 5 motor-vehicles qued up at 6th Street stoplights; so if space is an issue perhaps a single motor-vehicle travel lane is in order. That would also allow for right turn lanes at the stoplights which could alleviate some of the queuing.

If you believe that 6th Street is an important avenue for moving motor vehicles; properly striped, it could be just as important for bicycle commuters.

Brilliant! John is absolutely correct about the traffic. In fact, 6th street between Russell and Orange is hardly used. (Don’t tell all the folks plowing east-west on Broadway, though.) One lane would easily accommodate motor traffic along those blocks. Between Orange and Higgins is another matter; the stretch from Higgins to the university should probably remain two lanes, but it’s wide and already has a decent bike lane. (Repaint it?)

Jordan Hess, chair of the ASUM board of transportation, responded with a more specific suggestion:

I checked all the traffic counts for 5th/6th streets and we could realistically have one vehicle lane with a bi-directional bike lane for the entire length of both streets.To satisfy the university and the state DOT, these streets could revert to 2 travel lanes during the half dozen events on campus that require that much capacity.

In a 40 foot street, the following would be a good use of space:
— Curb and Gutter
— 6 feet of bike lanes in each direction for a total of 12 feet
— 10 foot vehicle travel lane
— 18 feet for angled parking
— Curb and Gutter

The angled parking would keep cyclists safe by keeping parking cars from traveling through the bike lanes. It would also allow for the same amount of parking as is currently available. This would provide another safe route for bicycles traveling to and from the university. Considering the high mode share of bikers to and from campus, this is a great way to safely accommodate everyone.

(It was later clarified in the correspondence that the angled parking should be between the traffic and the bike lanes as a buffer.)

I don’t know if we need 12 feet of bicycle lane. In Europe, they fit two bike lanes in about three feet. But now we’re talking! This would be a biker’s dream!

Council President Ed Childers adds this warning:

One item of concern of which we’ve been apprised: when a lane is wide enough for cars & trucks, cars & trucks will use it.

It’s possible that traffic volumes can easily be accommodated by the single-lane approach. If so, how should that (motor vehicles in the bike lane) be addressed?

…reminding me of trying to bike in downtown San Francisco where FedEx and UPS trucks used the bike lanes as their personal delivery spaces.

Jordan recommended using bollards, steel poles used a barrier, but removable for special events.

All fine and good, excellent suggestions, wonderful discussion, we’ll see it implemented when pigs fly. Why? Cost. Also, consider that the 5th and 6th street corridors are some of our best biking corridors now available. Should creating a biker’s paradise on streets that are half decent take precedence over improving disasterous roads? On the whole, our north-south arterials need help, fast! Orange street? Nightmare. Russell? Death road. Reserve’s pretty good if you breathe exaust and can actually turn onto the street. Higgins north of Hellgate High is pinched, crowded, and has poor sight lines. (Tho’ south of that intersection is a dream!)

On the other hand, if we create a “model” road that’s safe and fast and accommodates bikers and traffic, maybe we could build interest for like projects, and slowly build excellent infrastructure for bikers…

For a last bit to mull over, Bob Giordano of Free Cycles chips in with an observation about city planning:

It’s frustrating to have officials always say we need to design the roads for exact predicted motor vehicle traffic volumes in the future, but when it comes to having excess capacity, there is reluctance to make that space available for non-motorized transport. It’s a double standard that discriminates against cyclists…


by Pete Talbot

A few updates on the local political scene:

First, kudos to Ross Best for requesting that the public be allowed to comment on Republican Commissioner Barbara Evans’ replacement. Just a few seconds before a vote on Monday to appoint Larry Anderson to the commission, Best, who was in the audience, suggested three days wasn’t adequate time to select a county commissioner. Ms. Evans was not happy at delaying the vote for her handpicked replacement, but Commissioner Bill Carey went along with Best’s request and Commissioner Jean Curtis voted with Carey to postpone the vote for a week. The three Republican candidates for the position are Anderson, Dave Mihalic and Jeff Patterson. But before Best put the skids on the process, Anderson got the nod from Curtis and it looked like he had the votes from the other two commissioners.

(Public comment will take place Wednesday, July 25, at 1:30 pm in Room 201 of the Missoula County Courthouse. Anderson, by the way, was a former staffer for Montana Senator Conrad Burns.)

Missoula Democrats may not endorse city council candidates after all. Local party leaders, Ron Erickson of the Montana House for one, have raised some concerns. So, the Missoula Democratic Central Committee’s Executive Board is revisiting endorsements. The board could choose to endorse, just make recommendations, or not endorse at all. Whatever the board’s decision, I do hope that the Democrats hold a forum for the candidates, as they had previously planned. Stay tuned.

There has been a flurry of emails on a city government website (set up by Ward 3’s Bob Jaffe, I believe) about turning 5th and 6th streets into major bicycle arterials. These one-way streets, if I understand it correctly, would change to one lane for cars and trucks, and one lane for bicycles. They would still remain one-way streets, though, with 5th going west and 6th going east. There are terms being bandied about, sharrows and bollards for example, that are foreign to me. Maybe some of the bike/ped folk can clue me in. It should be an interesting debate. Again, stay tuned.

(The website is if you want to be involved in this, and future city government conversations. Just email a request to be placed on the list.)

I’m sure there are more city/county issues to write about but my muse has left me for cooler climes.

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