You might not think of Montana as a place where much commuting gets done. Aren’t commuters those people creeping down the clogged highways of major cities every weekday morning and night?
But there are commuters here, some of them putting in some fairly serious mileage. During the Billings Commuter Challenge in May 2015, the three top prize-winning commuters were Brian McHugh, who biked 341 miles, Lora Mattox, who traveled 243 miles by bus, and Jodi Lightner, who walked 171 miles.
In all, 250 people signed up for the Commuter Challenge last year, of whom 175 actually logged at least one trip on foot, by bus or aboard a bicycle.
During a kickoff party on Monday for the 2016 version of the Billings Commuter Challenge, Elyse Monat said the goal this year was to sign up 350 people through the month of May. Monat is an AmeriCorps VISTA worker assigned to Billings TrailNet, the nonprofit organization working to create a community-wide trail system.
The kickoff party, sponsored by TrailNet, MET Transit, the city of Billings, Yellowstone Valley Citizens Council and the Spoke Shop, was held at the Pub Station, 2502 First Ave. N., and featured live music by Grant Jones, parking-lot games and demonstrations of flat-tire repairs from Spoke Shop workers.
The month-long Billings event is part of the larger Montana Commuter Challenge, and you can sign up for the challenge on that organization’s website. That site also has details on how the competition is organized and how commutes are calculated.
The Billings TrailNet website has additional details, plus a complete list of last year’s winners.
Basically, you can sign up as an individual or as a member of a team aligned with a business, family or organization. Participants log their trips online and will have the chance to win prizes throughout the month of May.
Sponsors of the challenge are also offering incentives. For instance, Big Dipper Ice Cream will offer participants a free single scoop of ice cream every Tuesday in May, and Carter’s Brewery offers them a free pint every Wednesday.
And keep in mind that a “commute” can be riding, biking or busing both ways to work, one way or even part of one way, and errands run during the day (post office, restaurant, etc.) are also counted as commutes.
We asked Monat, the volunteer coordinating the challenge, whether she’d be riding her bike to work every day.
“Pretty much,” she said. “I don’t have a car.”