Trailnet Champion: Cara Spencer
Cara Spencer has been a long-time advocate for advancing multi-modal transportation access and increasing transportation safety. As Alderman of the 20th Ward in St. Louis, she’s worked closely with Trailnet to push forward policies that prioritize bicycle and pedestrian safety, advocated for better street designs through traffic calming demonstrations, and helped us out with community safety workshops. This year, we’re excited to continue collaborating with Cara as the region’s first Calm Street breaks ground in her district.
Read on to learn more about what Cara is doing to make St. Louis better for those who walk and bike.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
How have you, the city, and Trailnet worked together in the past?
I’ve worked with Trailnet since the time I became an Alderman. I was lucky enough to participate in a three-day trip to Portland with several Aldermen, the Board of Public Service and Trailnet in 2015 to observe best practices in street design. Since that time, I’ve worked with Trailnet to lay the groundwork for the region’s first Calm Street: the Louisiana Project which will break ground later this year. Trailnet has been a great partner with the community at Froebel Elementary and I’ve worked with several Trailnet staff members to host workshops for students as well as implementation of recommended traffic calming measures to help students get to school safer.
What work have you done, or are currently doing, to advance walking and biking in St. Louis?
I’m pushing for a Vision Zero policy – I would love to see our City get serious about adequately funding a Streets Department that comprehensively reviews our streets and sidewalks for safety.
Why are you passionate about transportation-related work?
I use all modes of transportation to get around this city including walking, biking, and even scootering. Many of the residents I represent do the same, and some out of necessity. Many our families don’t have access to a car in their household and I strongly believe that getting serious about multi-modal transportation is an issue of social justice.
What are some of St. Louis’ biggest barriers to safer walking and biking? How can we work past them?
Two of the biggest barriers are a lack of funding and a lack of planning. With these two critical components, we cannot design streets that are safe for all. We need a dedicated funding stream and a commitment to safety as a priority.
Are you a bicyclist? If so, what keeps you pedaling?
Yes, I’m an avid cyclist—both on roads and on paths. This past weekend I biked from my home in South City to the riverfront trail, along the trail to the Chain of Rocks Bridge and back home—a 37-mile loop. Sometimes I bike alone and sometimes I haul my son Cy who still likes to join me in a trailer and sometimes we bike together. We love cycling – it’s a great way to see a neighborhood and/or nature, up close and while getting exercise.
What are some other initiatives you’re working on that you’re excited about?
Being a place people not just have to live, but want to live is what makes a city thrive. And that means at every stage of life. We’ve got to family friendly amenities, quality education for all and a robust economy for adults of all backgrounds to be able contribute and thrive. We need safe and accessible housing and a way for all residents, including those with mobility challenges, to be able to get around easily and safely.
What do you do for fun?
Fun! I love biking! I try to bike somewhere at least once a week, but I also run 3-5 times a week and spend a lot of time in my garden in the summer.