Free Cycles and MIST Property and Programs Vision: A Summary, 2018

Diagram of the two acre property on S. 1st St. W that Free Cycles and MIST purchased in 2016. Space in orange: current programs- primarily Build-A-Bike, Open Shop and BikeWell. Spaces in blue are filled by tenants- as funding becomes available, these spaces will transition to more community programs.


Introduction Free Cycles (est. 1996) was founded to reduce congestion and air pollution by providing community access to recycled and repurposed bicycles. Long term, the goal was to elevate community awareness about bicycling as a legitimate mode of transportation. By creating a better cycling atmosphere in the city, the result would be more facilities and thus more people bicycling for everyday transportation. The project aimed to perpetuate a positive feedback loop to create and release demand for biking.


MIST (Missoula Institute for Sustainable Transportation, est. 1997) formed as the umbrella for Free Cycles and to link bicycling with walking and public transit, as a system of community movement. The scope has broadened to address all forms of transportation, while also connecting with food, housing and energy systems.


Our Mission The mission of MIST is to create a system of movement that is safe, equitable and environmentally sound. Free Cycles provides bikes, parts, and help to the community. An overarching goal is to increase access and usage of walking, bicycling and public transit while enabling strong public involvement.


Our Vision Communities with active walking and cycling cultures; Excellent transit systems that run on clean energy; Bicycle station and car share options; Safe and fluid vehicle movement; Networks of greenway corridors that connect people and open space; A local and global awareness of transportation issues and impacts.


Some Results (1996 to 2018)

Free Cycles: 200,000 visits to Open Shop, 18,000 free bicycles earned and built, 5,000 attending BikeWell class, 600 tons of material diverted from scrap, 160 outreach events


MIST: Catalyst for numerous complete streets, safer intersections, and permeable pavements; 200 sustainable transportation presentations to civic groups; citizen representation for the Long Range Transportation Plan, the Active Transportation Plan, and the Missoula Growth Policy.


Recent Campaign Free Cycles and MIST purchased property in 2016 by raising $200,000 in donations and securing a private loan for 1 million dollars. This capitol campaign included bikathons, concerts, community potlucks and thousands of contributions from the citizens of Missoula. The organization is now the owner of two acres of land and 28,000 square feet of associated buildings in the heart of Missoula.


Located in the lovely Riverfront neighborhood at the union of two primary trails, the property is an ideal place to continue the work of healthy transportation and positive community development. Organizational ownership honors Missoula’s heritage- beautiful wood framed buildings saved from demolition- and creates pathways to a livable future.


Property Details: Built in the 1940’s by the Hightower family, the structures have served many purposes over the decades, primarily focused on the steel business. Free Cycles currently occupies half the space for programs while tenants rent the other half.


The buildings that occupy 732 S. 1st W. are sturdy, consisting of large diameter timber framing, solid wood floors and walls, metal siding, and a combination of metal and rubber roofing. These buildings should last for many more decades.


Transportation to and from the property is very accessible. Walk and bike trails run adjacent, bus stops are three blocks away, complete streets in the area are improving, a rail spur is twenty feet to the west, Interstate-90 access is one mile north, and intercity bus service is available two miles away. While passenger rail serving Missoula ceased in 1979, a goal of MIST is to help restore this service, which could eventually serve the property.


Geographically, the property is in the center of Missoula. This is convenient to citizens and also improves the possibility of establishing a network of neighborhood-based, community bicycle shops throughout the Missoula valley.


The Opportunity Free Cycles and MIST, as new owners of a two acre property, can now transition towards property improvements, strengthening core program and growing new programs. Property improvements include being carbon neutral, using minimal fossil fuels, utilizing renewable energy and embracing healthy materials.


Strengthening Core Programs

Open Shop: Ten public work stands are often full with people learning and fixing bikes, forty hours a week. Staff, volunteers, interns and shop users all work together. At ‘Open Shop’ the bicycle is a medium to raise the collective community spirit and realize self-worth.

Build a Bike: After completing a BikeWell class and four hours of service, participants can build a free bike. This includes parts and help to make the bike safe and enjoyable.

BikeWell: This class imparts safety, laws, shop expectations, maintenance tips and a StreetWell section on city design. Dedicated classrooms and workshop spaces are needed, including hands-on bike building demonstrations and street modeling.


New Programs Ready to Launch

Beyond Bicycles: Free Cycles has produced a diversity of 3-wheelers, 4-wheelers, recumbents, trailers, parking racks, cargo bikes and adaptive cycles, all aimed at furthering the effectiveness and reach of pedal power. Unrepairable bicycles becomes the raw material for new creations.

Transportation Learning Center: A focus on bicycles, sustainable transportation and city design. Interns, students, and the community can learn skills for change. The need: classrooms, larger learning spaces, demonstration models, a library and gallery. Part of this learning center can include ‘Transportation Tracks’, a comprehensive research and monitoring program. Measures would include air, water and soil quality, impervious surface coverage, crash rates, and much more. This is one of the most exciting aspect of gaining the property and fits with the theme of learning and exploration, inquiry and solution, engagement and resolution.

Community Bike Share: Free Cycles has provided thousands of loaner bikes, searching for the most effective and accountable methods for meeting the community’s needs in borrowing a short-term bicycle. The answer is likely somewhere between the original free-roaming green bicycles placed on street corners by Free Cycles in 1996-1999, and the now commonplace high-tech checkout rental systems in many major cities around the world.


Programs on the Horizon Broadly under an umbrella of ‘Community Care’, gaining the property on S. 1st St. now allows many aspirations to come to fruition as capacity and need allows. Such as:

Bike Inn - Visitors touring on bicycle have limited options in finding a place to sleep. Our current structures plus new sustainable dwellings can meet this need.

Bike Cafe and General Store- Food and provisions are the fuels for walking and biking and brings people together for social gathering. Neighborhood scale development is also critical for fostering a more walkable and bikeable community.

City Design Center- The aim is to look at the community as a whole- transportation, food, shelter, energy- and forge positive relationships for all components. This can be combined with the Transportation Learning Center.

Pavement Testing Ground- MIST has helped the City of Missoula and Glacier National Park implement sustainable paving projects. Examples include clay and concrete pavers, pine resin, decomposed granite and psyllium. A variety of methods will be tested on the property while providing immediate practical benefit. The focus is streets, trails, plazas and parks.

Food Forest- The goal is to grow food on-site with a dynamic permaculture-based method of interspersed vegetables, fruits, trees, green spaces and wildlife habitat. The Food Forest will intertwine with a kid play area, a bike art sculpture park, traffic garden and bike riding space.

Expected Results of Broad Program Development Missoula, pop. 100,000, in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, is an ideal city for systemic change. By growing and implementing the programs in this Vision Summary, we expect several results:

Driving miles decreased by 50%. Current VMT (Vehicles Miles Traveled) totals an astounding 2 million miles per day in the Missoula Valley. Surveys indicate half this traffic can voluntarily shift- if alternatives are safe, accessible and enjoyable

Injury crashes decrease by 75%. In 2017, 700 people were injured in local traffic crashes (160 severely injured). A change in infrastructure, policy and attitude can reverse this trend.

Pollution decreased by 80%. Can be accomplished by reduced driving, alternative fuels, more efficient driving systems, permeable/sustainable paving and other methods.

Human powered mobility access at 100%. By providing adaptive cycles to those with mobility challenges, bike share for short term needs and a stronger community bike shop for repair.

Meeting needs of active transportation citizens. Places to sleep, eat, socialize and work together that cater to people biking, walking and using public transit will help meet basic needs.

The People behind MIST and Free Cycles Three staff and a 3-person Board of Directors lead the organization. Two to three more staff will be needed to help transition to the larger spaces and accompanying programs. An organizational structure is in place to take this next step.

Staff Biographies

Bob Giordano is the Executive Director and founder of Free Cycles and MIST. Beginning his higher education at North Carolina State University with a Business Management major and Environmental Ethics minor, Bob was "always intrigued by the West." After extensive travels, seeing firsthand the environmental and economic challenges of the United States and beyond, Bob settled in Missoula, receiving a Master's in Resource Conversation from the University of Montana in 2003.


Emily Jensen is intensely passionate about community and nature. She first immersed herself in an internship with Free Cycles and MIST during the Winter of 2015, focusing on climate change solutions and organizational development. She received her Bachelor's in Social Work from the University of Montana and now fulfills the role of Programs Director for MIST and Free Cycles.


Eric Leutzinger has been surrounded by bicycles ever since he began walking. His years of experience working in retail bike shops and collectives has provided him with a wealth of bicycle knowledge. Eric has a deep love for old mountain bikes and lengthy bike tours and is now a shop director with Free Cycles.


Volunteer Network Thousands of hours a year are donated at the community shop. The diversity is heartwarming- regulars, people doing work trades, students and classes; all of this volunteer help is being utilized to grow programs and improve the property and buildings.


Community Partners Free Cycles has been establishing connections with a diversity of organizations, agencies, and businesses for years. It is crucial to maintain these relationships for community involvement. Examples include: Pre-Release Center, Youth Homes, the Poverello, Endeavor Homeschool, The University of Montana, The International School, Missoula in Motion, Spirit at Play preschool, Winds of Change, the Share House, the Flagship programs, and many, many more.


Budget Free Cycles started with $2,500 in local business donations in 1996. The budget has steadily grown to $138,000 a year through donations, fees for services, small grants and events. This covers staff pay, a monthly mortgage, insurance, utilities and misc supplies.

Outside of major financial campaigns such as the ‘Cycles of Change’ campaign to purchase the property, we envision that the budget will steadily grow over the next several years. This can be achieved by enlarging the organization’s current channels of engagement and involvement.


What We Are Seeking

Build A Bike, Open Shop, and BikeWell: $20,000 per program to strengthen the core.

Beyond Bikes, Transportation Learning Center and Community Bike Share: Each of these programs needs $50,000 in seed money.

Future 'Community Care' programs: Bike Inn, Bike Cafe & General Store, City Design Center, Pavement Testing Ground, Food Forest. We seek $10,000 in seed money for each of these programs to develop work plans, budgets, goals, objectives and outreach methods.

Property mortgage: We need to pay off or refinance the $950,000 note by December 31st, 2021, as stipulated in the Contract for Deed.



Community plays a vital role in a changing world. Missoula, Montana is a leader in sustainable, healthy development. Free Cycles and MIST are integral to the health of Missoula and are poised for growth. Please contact us to learn more or be involved. Thank you.


Contact: Bob Giordano, Executive Director,, 406.830.7676