It's fine if you want to own a car, but our built environment makes it a burden to get around without one.

My daughter was 9 years old when I took up bicycling, and she naturally bicycled for transportation as she gained independence. But going away to college, she discovered that Rolla is terribly difficult to get around without a car. She would like to visit her boyfriend (4 hours away), her cousins (2 hours), and her parents (1 and 1/2 hours). Reluctantly, she concluded she needs a motor vehicle.

She decided to get a motorcycle. Why? Because she likes to lean into the curves on her bicycle. She bought a motorcycle, got it repaired, and took the motorcycle class. To get affordable insurance, we learned that a parent would need to get a motorcycle license as well, so I signed up for the motorcycle class and passed it.

The process took so long that it's nearly too cold to ride already, and she won't be able to use her motorcycle much until spring. In the meantime, she's struggling to get to the doctor or the grocery store in Rolla. Surrounded by strangers, she can't go out of town to visit her loved ones.

So she unenthusiastically bought a car. We went from being a one-car, "car-lite" family to owning three motor vehicles, all purchased within a 3-month window (thanks to a collision with a deer).

Rolla is similar to Kirksville in many respects. They are of similar size and have similar university student populations. Kirksville has a 2-mile trail near the school; Rolla has 4 miles of trail connecting several parks. Highway 63 passes through Kirksville as Baltimore St. and through Rolla as Bishop St.

There are some differences. Rolla has I-44, which generates more traffic than Kirksville has. Rolla has less bike/ped infrastructure on its section of Hwy 63 than Kirksville does, but needs it more because of the greater traffic congestion. Rolla has plans for more bike/ped infrastructure. Additional pedestrian crossings and bike lanes will make it easier and safer to get around town without a car.

There aren't many options for traveling from one Missouri town to another if you don't own a car. Rental agencies require drivers to be at least 25 years old. (If my daughter could rent a car, she wouldn't need to own one. But having bought a car at age 18, she is unlikely to stop using it at age 25.) Amtrak has only 2 lines that pass through Missouri. There is a Greyhound bus from Rolla to Columbia, but not to other towns she wants to visit.

It's very difficult to be "car-lite" in small town Missouri. It's even harder to be car-free. But about 10% of Missourians can't drive for medical, financial, legal, or other reasons. In rural and small town Missouri, they must rely on the goodwill (or resentment and guilt) of friends and family members who drive. Pity the poor soul without that support network, and pray that person will never be you. Although my daughter is disgusted that she has to have a vehicle, at least she can afford the car and, on her parents' policy, the insurance is reasonable. Many Missourians are not that lucky and car-free is a heavy burden, not a freedom.

I would like to see car ownership be optional in Missouri. I would like to see enough bike/ped infrastructure so that people could get around towns of any size safely. I would like to see an investment in transit so that we could visit from one town to another.