Janice Branham, Trailnet Champion
Growing up in Springfield, Massachusetts, Janice Branham moved to the St. Louis region when she was in high school with her family and hasn’t left since. Now living in Manchester, she describes her street as quiet with a high population of young families living in this hilly neighborhood filled with lots of open space. Having this much open space is perfect for Janice since she enjoys spending most of her time outside, especially anything that involves a saddle or a paddle. Raising a family in the St. Louis region was great for the Branham family since they love having the ability to drive a few short minutes out from St. Louis to enter an environment that is perfect for camping, hiking, and biking.
Janice has biked since she was a kid, but her deep dive into the biking world came along after she met her husband, Barry. She slowly started by doing weekend rides and then began commuting by bike to and from her job at Oasis where Janice is the Communications Director. Oasis is a national organization based in St. Louis whose mission is to promote healthy aging through lifelong learning, active lifestyles, and volunteer opportunities around the St. Louis community. “Engaging our minds and our bodies makes us happier and healthier, and people are eager to use the wisdom and experience they have gathered throughout life in meaningful ways,” Janice expresses when asked what makes her want to wake up for work everyday. “I’m planning to retire from full-time work in the next year. While, I’m excited about having the freedom to wander around on my bicycle and [spend] more time with my grandchildren, I know that I’ll want to continue to use the skills I’ve developed along the way through volunteering or part-time work around the community.”
When Janice isn’t working or volunteering, she tries her best at being an active grandmother and wife. Three years ago, she and her husband rode the central California coast on CA-1 from Bodega Bay to Carpinteria, just south of Santa Barbara and they plan on riding Route 66 fromSt. Louis to Santa Monica next. Janice explains how she loves the independence of self-contained travel because, “You can decide where and how far to go depending on what each day presents.” When asked about the biking scene in St. Louis, Janice says there are many beautiful places to see and you get to know them a lot better on a bike seat. She also loves how biking is a natural intergenerational activity that she can enjoy along side her grandchildren. “My grandchildren have graduated from training wheels and I love seeing them push their boundaries and discover the freedom of exploring their neighborhood in a new way.”
Finding fun and beautiful places for Janice to bike with her family are important, but the most important issue to Janice is safety first. “We have to make our streets safer for walking and biking. Traffic-calming tools and protected lanes willallow more people to enjoy the health benefits and happiness of traveling by bike or on foot. And more bicycle-friendly environment will make St. Louis a more appealing place to live and work, which is good for the region,” states Janice. “We also need more public education on strategies to ride safely anywhere. Being visible and predictable, knowing when to take the lane and how to communicate with drivers – these are essential survival skills. Pulling over to let the cars pass now and then when you can do it safely helps too. I think it shows an understanding that “share the road” is a two-way street.”
As she plans to retire this year, spending more time volunteering, being a grandmother, and bicycling around our neighborhood – we hope to make Janice and other riders like her have the ability to see the vibrant neighborhoods, parks and trails, cultural and educational institutions throughout St. Louis. Janice believes just like us that, “Putting people first and making it safer for people to explore and enjoy all these resources will help us be more connected and make St. Louis a better place to live.”