With over 22 miles of off-street trails and 40 miles of on-street bike lanes, Missoula is a great place to ride. A recent study found that over 50% of people in Missoula have ridden a bike in the last 30 days and the League of American Bicyclists has designated the city a Gold level Bicycle Friendly Community.
Relatively flat and warm, much of Missoula is laid out in a grid system. Special bridges and underpasses allow people on foot and on bike to cross the Clark Fork River and many of our busiest streets. Visitors to town have even said that they can just point their bike in the direction of their destination and start pedaling. Still, most people want to know the best route to get where they are going.
We also have free paper copies in the office. Swing by to pick one up, or get in touch and we can mail one to you.
If you are new to biking and/or new to town, we encourage you to download the free MyCityBikes Missoula app for your phone.
Riding a bike for transportation is a great way to get some exercise, save money on gas and parking, and reduce congestion and parking pressure. Most of all, it is fun. If you have suggestions on ways to make it better to bike in Missoula, please let us know.
Bike Master Plan
As Missoula's population grows, we need to find more ways to move people around town in an efficient and safe manner and within a limited amount of space. Making it easier for everyone to bike and walk is the most affordable and environmentally friendly way to accomplish this. However, we have learned that although people are riding bikes more than ever, most people don't feel comfortable enough to ride bikes for the majority of their commutes or errands. The diagram below from the Federal Highway Administration shows the 4 types of cyclists that have been repeatedly identified around the country.
For over 20 years, various City departments and agencies have been building trails and bike lanes as opportunities have arisen. As a result, we have done a good job attracting the "strong & fearless" and "enthusiastic & confident" riders. Now, our goal is to get that other 60% of people that are "interested but concerned" out riding more. To do so, we need a combination of safe, comfortable facilities that connect the whole city, and education and outreach campaigns that let folks know exactly how easy it is to ride a bike in Missoula. Now, for the first time ever, we are creating a plan that will establish clear goals for a cohesive and connected bike network and create a priority project list to achieve them. This process, led by the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), is happening concurrently with the Long Range Transportation Plan update. More information about upcoming meetings and other ways to participate can be found at activatemissoula.com.
Missoula's bicycle network is made up of several types of facilities: shared use paths, protected bike lanes, neighborhood greenways (coming soon), bike lanes, and shared roadways. These facility types themselves can be further separated by utility, comfort level, and riding accommodations. For example, a shared use path may be a paved commuter trail that crosses town or a natural surface path that provides a neighborhood connection. Here are descriptions and examples of Missoula's bike facilities:
Shared Use Paths are completely separated from traffic and often feel the most comfortable for people to bike on. Shared use paths are typically employed along very high speed roads, or along other corridors like railroad tracks and rivers. In Missoula, the main E/W corridor is the Riverfront Trail and the main N/S corridor is the Bitterroot Branch Trail. These main commuter trails are paved while neighborhood connections are often natural surface. With the grand opening of the Missoula to Lolo Trail in July 2016, you will be able to ride a bike, away from cars, all the way from Missoula to Hamilton.
Protected bike lane on Higgins Ave.
California St. Bridge
Milwaukee Trail east of Reserve St
Riverfront Trail west of Orange St
A Protected Bike Lane is an exclusive bike facility that is physically separated from the road and distinct from the sidewalk. Typically, protected bike lanes are installed along high volume, high speed roads, or in high visibility areas. Missoula has one-way protected bike lanes on Higgins Ave from Broadway to the XXXX and a two-way protected bike lane on Maurice Ave. from 5th St to Connell Ave on the UM campus. Plans for Russell St. between Broadway and 3rd include protected bike lanes. Construction on that project should begin in 2017.
A Bike Lane is a 5' to 6'5" space for people biking, designated with a white stripe and a bike symbol, often found on major roadways. Painted bike lanes can be one way or bi-directional. Bike lanes provide dedicated space for people to ride bikes and do a good job of separating bicycle traffic from car traffic. However, many people in the interested but concerned category do not feel comfortable riding in bike lanes on busy roads.
Van Buren St. in the Rattlesnake
Wyoming St. near Osprey Stadium
S. 5th St. W
6th St. on UM campus
Sharrows are painted on Signed Shared Roadways, most often along busy streets without bike lanes. They indicate that people on bikes may use the FULL travel lane. Sharrows have been shown to improve safety by encouraging people on bikes to ride outside the door zone of parked cars. It has also been found that people in cars pass cyclists with more room to spare on streets with sharrows. This treatment is most effective on roads with at least 2 travel lanes in each direction.
Neighborhood Greenways are residential streets, close to main roads, with relatively low vehicle volumes and speeds, that help increase the comfort and safety for people who bike and walk. In an effort to build upon existing opportunities for biking and walking and “close the gaps” in the commuter trail, neighborhood sidewalk, and on-street bike systems, the City of Missoula has been exploring the creation of a network of neighborhood greenways. Many Missoulians already ride bikes along preferred routes that include residential streets. However, there are currently no "neighborhood greenways" formalized by paint or wayfinding signs. Through a health impact assessment, we have identified that constructing a network of neighborhood greenways could bring substantial health benefits to the community. We also have developed a tool to assess the streets so that we may create the best possible network. We are looking forward to completion of the bike master plan, which will include further recommendations about implementing the network of neighborhood greenways.