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Trailnet Champions, Ann and Vance Crowe

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Ann Crowe took up bicycling while living in Washington, D.C., where an extensive network of cycling paths made commuting by bike a convenient way to incorporate exercise into her daily routine. Ann moved to St. Louis to be closer to family and to pursue work in engineering. After deciding to make a career change, Ann began volunteering at Trailnet rides and fundraising events while completing her Doctorate in Physical Therapy. Her volunteer activities allow her to “meet many new people and see different parts of the city and surrounding areas,” she says.

Ann’s volunteer experience introduced her to a “warm and welcoming community,” and she believes that a “shared love of biking provides common ground” for people that participate in Trailnet events. Ann’s husband Vance now joins her on many of the weekend rides, which she credits with giving him “the same confidence and passion for cycling and health” that is so important to her.

As a physical therapist, Ann understands the critical importance of regular exercise for maintaining health and recovering from injury. She notes the abundance of research supporting the positive impact of exercise on mood and overall health, and sees evidence of these effects at Trailnet events. “It only takes a morning at a Trailnet ride to see this come to life in the laughter, support and friendships created through group exercise,” she says.

Even with many years of experience as a bike commuter and recreational cyclist, Ann is aware that for many people concerns about safety may mean that they don’t bike or walk if no specific infrastructure exists. She is committed to building a community where more people have access to the benefits of active transportation. “Having a network of safe and connected bikeways and sidewalks will make biking and walking easier and available to more people,” she says. She also predicts that “as more people use the bikeways and sidewalks, they will feel personally invested in supporting the growth of this network.”

In addition to volunteering time to Trailnet, Ann and Vance are Trailnet Peloton members, providing financial support for the protected bikeway vision. They strongly believe in “dedicating personal efforts and resources to build infrastructure that empowers communities.”

Ann and Vance also feel that positive change will come to St. Louis only if individuals take the initiative. “Whatever challenges we face, the best way to identify problems and solutions is to get personally involved, seeing the community by biking on the roads and paths, meeting our neighbors, visiting and supporting local businesses. Trailnet gives us the opportunity to come together as individuals and make our city healthier and more interesting, with access and opportunity for everyone to enjoy a more active lifestyle.”

 

Celebrating Bike to Work Day

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BTWD1Despite a drizzly morning, nearly 500 bicyclists visited refueling stations located throughout the St. Louis area on Bike to Work Day. Trailnet staffed stations at four locations, including HandleBar, Kaldi’s on Demun, Missouri Botanical Garden, and the Missouri History Museum. Private businesses set up twelve additional stations across the St. Louis area and in Illinois to provide refreshments to bike commuters. Fresh coffee and bagels were provided by Saint Louis Bread Company.  

BTWD2Bike to Work Day, the highlight of National Bike Month, was founded in 1956 by the League of American Bicyclists. Every year, the League assesses each of the 50 states in terms of facilities that encourage bicycle commuting. Missouri is currently ranked 34th in the nation.

BTWD3“We want to make St. Louis one of the best cities for walking and biking in the country by 2030,” says Trailnet Executive Director Ralph Pfremmer. “The assets of our community will most certainly attract and retain talented young people and entrepreneurs, adding to the vitality and economic prosperity of our region.”

The number of bicyclists is growing rapidly from coast to coast. The National Household Travel Survey showed that the number of trips made by bicycle in the US more than doubled from 1.7 billion in 2001 to 4 billion in 2009.

Trailnet works to make a more bike friendly and walkable St. Louis.

“We have a lot of facilities in place: greenways and infrastructure on the streets, and we have a lot of riders that commute to work. We are doing well but we can do better, and that’s what Trailnet works for,” says Pfremmer.

Many thanks to the Great Rivers Greenway District for providing funding for Bike to Work Day, to all of the businesses who hosted refueling stations, and to the bike commuters who made it all happen!

Driver’s Guide to Active Transportation

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St. Louis now has more than 200 miles of bike lanes and trails, and the goal of the  Gateway Bike Plan is to nearly double that number in the next two years. The number of bicyclists taking advantage of these facilities has also increased. Between 1990 and 2013, the number of people commuting by bicycle in St. Louis nearly tripled, and the number of people taking to the roads and trails for fun and recreation has increased dramatically.

Although these improvements are a great start, bike lanes can only increase the safety of bicyclists if both motorists and cyclists understand how to negotiate these facilities safely and responsibly. When statistics on pedestrian deaths are considered, this makes the need for responsible driving habits even more urgent. Twenty-one pedestrians were killed in St. Louis City last year, the highest number in thirty years.

Trailnet partnered with Great Rivers Greenway, Alta Planning and Design and the Missouri Bicycle and Pedestrian Federation to create a Driver’s Guide explaining proper operation of a motor vehicle on roads with bike lanes and other features designed to protect pedestrians and bicyclists. If you would like to learn more about types of bike lanes, signals, road markings, and how to operate your two- or four-wheeled (or two-footed) vehicle safely, give our Driver’s Guide a look.

Have a new or soon-to-be driver at home? Please make sure and share this important information with them.

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Trailnet Champion Harold Karabell

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For ten years, Harold Karabell has led bicycle tours that highlight St. Louis’ unique neighborhoods and interesting inhabitants, both living and deceased. Riders on his tours have pedaled their way through Calvary and Bellefontaine cemeteries, LaSalle Park and Soulard, Old North and “North of Old North” (Hyde Park, College Hill, and O’Fallon Park), exploring the history and architecture of these fascinating parts of St. Louis. He recently led Trailnet’s Literary Tour, winding through the Central West End, Academy, and Fountain Park neighborhoods, regaling riders with the life stories of local writers such as Tennessee Williams, T.S. Eliot, and Kate Chopin while reading selections from their works. Of all of the tours that he leads, Harold lists the cemetery and literary tours as the most popular, though he himself plays no favorites.

“People seem truly fascinated by well-known authors and tombstones,” Harold says.

Harold is also a dedicated bike commuter, using his bicycle as his principal mode of transportation, a lifestyle that he concedes is a relatively new phenomenon.

“Forty-five years ago, I didn’t know a single adult bicycle commuter,” Harold says. “You would see children on bikes using them for fun and recreation, but seeing an adult bike commuter was even more unusual than dining with a vegan. My wife and I used our bikes much of the time when we became parents and were able to serve as a model of alternative transportation for the next generation. Now bikes are accepted as a legitimate and even preferred form of transportation for increasing numbers of people. We’re not marginal any longer, we’re almost mainstream.”

Harold believes that this shift came about in part because of people’s concerns about our energy dependence and related environmental issues, such as global warming.

“It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by some of the big environmental problems that we face. Riding a bicycle is the single most important thing that an individual can do to make a real contribution and feel good about yourself.”

A long-time resident of the Central West End, Harold feels fortunate to live in a “self-sufficient and sustainable neighborhood.” He describes St. Louis City as “a bike commuter’s paradise – it’s very easy for an educated cyclist to get anywhere they need to go in the city.”

Harold also sees Trailnet as an important agent for change in transportation habits.

“As the pre-eminent bicycle enthusiasm organization in the region, Trailnet builds a constituency of bicyclists and pedestrians and helps move alternative forms of transportation from the margins to the mainstream,” he says.

Going forward, Harold believes Trailnet’s most important focus should be education.

“One can learn, as I have, to ride safely and successfully anywhere in the absence of separate infrastructure, simply by taking one’s place on the road as part of the normal flow of traffic,” Harold said. “Nonetheless, we’re seeing more and better infrastructure each year. The best local example is the City’s protected bike lane on Chestnut Street, a considerable step forward compared to St. Louis’ older door-zone bike lanes. But even the best-designed infrastructure contains not-so-obvious dangers and won’t automatically prevent conflicts between bicyclists and other users of the road. Cyclists need to educate ourselves not to run red lights, not to ride in the door zone, not to be victims of the ‘right hook’ at an intersection, not to be nighttime ninjas, and not to ignore the risks inherent in riding even in state-of-the-art separate facilities.” 

Whether commuters or recreational riders, people have many reasons for riding a bike – they might do so to lose weight, to save money at the gas pump, or to do their part for the environment. Harold agrees with his long-time friend Paul McFarlane from the former St. Louis Regional Bicycle Federation (which became part of Trailnet in 2011), who sums it up this way: “The bicycle is the answer to every question.”

For Harold, the most important motivation for riding a bicycle is that it’s simply the most pleasurable way to travel.

“If it weren’t just joyful to get on a bike, most of us wouldn’t do it in the first place,” he says. “Being on a bike opens up the sights and sounds of the city in a way that no other vehicle can. Not being confined inside a car allows you to see your neighborhood in a new and exciting way, to hear the birds, to discover that very large part of the world that remains unknown and unknowable when speeding along in a car.”

In that spirit, Harold says, “Nothing makes me happier than to be on my bike heading toward a dinner date with a good veggie burger. Forty-five years ago, who would have imagined that such a thing would be possible for so many of us on an everyday basis?”

 

Take the February Challenge!

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SYCGrayRedKeep those wheels rolling through the cold! Bike, walk, or take transit to work and log your miles on shiftyourcommute.com. The program will keep track of your car-free trips, calories burned, and carbon emissions saved. Commuters who log the most car-free miles during the month of February will be entered to win some rad Trailnet gear. 

This year also brings the Winter Limbo competition. Those who log biking commutes on the coldest day(s) of the winter will be entered to win a long sleeve jersey from Retro Image Apparel.

Tell your friends and colleagues and help us build a community around active lifestyles!

February’s Shift Your Commute Challenge is sponsored by BMO Harris Bank.

Taking active transportation to the next level

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Like many local professionals, Adrian Stillman makes frequent trips to other cities in the Midwest. Unlike most business travelers, Adrian makes these visits without getting into a car or walking through an airport. His modes of transportation include his bicycle, Metro bus, MetroLink and Amtrak.

In order to get in better shape and to save money, Adrian sold his car five years ago, bought a used bicycle, and began commuting to his office by bike—a twelve-mile round trip. Never a bicyclist before this, he soon decided to extend his car-free travels beyond St. Louis.

AdrianBusRackAdrian’s most recent trip took him to Milwaukee in early November. Loaded with a change of clothes and his laptop, he left his house at 4:30 a.m., biked a few blocks to catch an express bus to the Brentwood MetroLink station, rolled his bike onto the Metro and arrived at the Amtrak station in plenty of time for his train’s 6:40 a.m. departure. Adrian estimated door-to-door travel time for his trip to Milwaukee at ten hours. A nonstop flight to Milwaukee from St. Louis takes just over an hour. This begs the obvious question: why does he do it?

“I love being able to explore and appreciate the world as I travel,” Adrian said. “Using my bike and transit, I can relax and enjoy the scenery, look at the interesting architecture and hear the music – I can explore the new city in a way that you just can’t in a car.”

Most importantly, Adrian values the way that his travels allow him to “connect with other people by sharing physical and social space with them.”

Adrian541a.m.Trailnet staff member Ginny McDonald accompanied Stillman on the St. Louis leg of his journey and observed Adrian connecting and conversing with everyone from the bus driver, to other early-morning commuters, to the person who sold him his first cup of coffee at the Amtrak station. Other transit commuters shared the value of time spent together rather than being isolated in a car. Two co-workers who knitted during their bus ride described their commute as “much more relaxing than driving and a lot cheaper than therapy.”

Would Stillman recommend this mode of travel to others?

“It’s very empowering to travel like this, especially to new places,” he said. “We are all good at throwing obstacles in front of ourselves that prevent us from doing new things. It is up to us to overcome those obstacles.”

AdrianAmtrakStationOne of the barriers that Adrian encountered on this trip was having to dismantle and box his bike for the train from Chicago to Milwaukee. Amtrak baggage staff helped him with the transfer.

“Those guys were great,” Adrian said. “Any connection is so valuable, even when you have to ask for help and show that you are a little vulnerable. That’s life.”

Adrian also appreciates the importance of Trailnet’s efforts in helping to break down barriers to biking and using transit in our region.

“They are doing some awesome things for our community,” He said. “Don’t keep it a secret – tell a friend!”  

2015 Walk and Bike Count Data

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The data from our 2015 walk and bike counts is in. Thanks to the 76 volunteers who donated  152 hours of their time to count cyclists and pedestrians throughout the St. Louis Metro region in September. Collecting such extensive data can be a real challenge, and it would not have been possible without them. You’ve helped make Trailnet a resource for advising the city and other organizations on transportation-related decisions. We have summited the data to the National Bicycle and Pedestrian Documentation Project, which compiles data for use by planners, governments, and bicycle and pedestrian professionals. We also submit the data to local planning agencies and nonprofits to inform plans for better biking and walking.

2015 Bike Counts Infographic (2)

 

Host a DIY Bike to Work Day Station

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Host a DIY Bike to Work Day Station at your workplace on National Bike to Work Day, Friday, May 15. Join Trailnet in counting 500 cyclists throughout the STL area. We will help promote your station and your business!

How it works:

  1. Recruit co-workers to run the station with you.
  2. Decide what breakfast items you will provide. If your workplace’s budget allows, these items may be purchased, or donated by partner businesses.
  3. Once you have an idea of who will run the station and what breakfast items will be provided, fill out the DIY Station form, found here. Trailnet will follow up with you to arrange for educational materials to be displayed at your station.
  4. Make a plan to promote Bike to Work Day through your workplace’s employee newsletter, email, flyers in the breakroom, and social media (don’t forget, Trailnet will be promoting your station too, so someone from outside your workplace might stop by).
  5. If your workplace doesn’t have one already, create a team on ShiftYourCommute.com. Co-workers can join your company’s team and log their car-free miles. On Bike to Work Day, everyone who logs their car-free commute is eligible to win prizes!
  6. Provide support and encouragement for your co-workers leading up to Bike to Work Day. Some ideas include:
    • Route mapping – Provide links or maps in your company-wide newsletter or break room featuring bike-friendly routes. If you are a regular bike commuter, list your favorite streets, shortcuts, and parks to ride through.
    • Bike mentors – Pair novice cyclists with experienced bike commuters who can accompany them on their first ride to work.
    • Bike trains – Identify a handful of meeting locations to “pick up” fellow bike commuters on the way to work. Designate an experienced commuter to lead the group from each spot, ending at your workplace’s Bike to Work Day station.
  7. On Bike to Work Day, make sure to track the number of people who visit your station (don’t forget to count yourself and any colleagues who help run the station), and send your final tally to molly@trailnet.org by Monday, May 18.
  8. Thank your volunteers, pat yourselves on the back, and start thinking of ideas for next year. Share your successes through your company’s social media, employee newsletter, and partners. Share the experience with Trailnet and send any photos or quotes to molly@trailnet.org.