Trailnet Champion: Cycle St. Louis
This month’s Trailnet Champion is Cycle St. Louis. This group is committed to building an inclusive cycling community in the St. Louis region by creating cycling opportunities for people with disabilities, and where everyone (all ages and abilities) ca n ride together. Read on for a Q&A about how Cycle St. Louis and Trailnet are working together to make bicycling more fun and accessible for everyone.
How have Cycle St. Louis and Trailnet worked together in the past? How did your relationship begin?
At one of our Cycle St. Louis meetings in late 2017, the partner organizations discussed the key stakeholders we needed to engage in order to be more effective in creating cycling opportunities for people with disabilities. Trailnet was at the top of the list because they’re key to making cycling a way of life in the St. Louis area and they host an amazing portfolio of community rides. In early 2018 we started a conversation with Trailnet and immediately we both realized our mission of developing solutions for people of all ages and abilities aligned perfectly. After discussion, we did a test ride at the 2018 Bridge Birthday Bash Ride by inviting people with disabilities to participate. It was a huge success and showed both organizations what was possible by partnering together.
What excites Cycle St. Louis about our collaboration as we explore new opportunities in 2019 and 2020?
We’re very excited Trailnet has made all their rides “inclusive” for people with disabilities. That means a short route where cyclists can turn around at any point and head back to the start. For some people with disabilities, a mile or two is a long ride. In addition, Trailnet has very generously made their rides free for Cycle St. Louis participants.
Cycle St. Louis is now part of Trailnet’s Ride Committee and we’re thrilled to be at the table with the cycling community at large because we believe people of all ages and abilities should be riding together, whether it’s commuting on the streets of St. Louis or at a community ride for recreation. Given that 15 to 20 percent of our community has a disability, this inclusion is important.
What are your thoughts on our Connecting St. Louis plan?
We’re very pleased the plan includes “all ages and abilities” and we are committed to working with Trailnet and others to help make that a reality. People with disabilities face some unique challenges to cycling and mobility, and need access to cultural centers, neighborhoods and business districts, so having a voice in planning efforts is vitally important.
Trailnet’s mission includes accommodating people of all ages and abilities. What feedback are you getting from your partners and the people you serve?
Our partners are elated about Trailnet’s inclusive mission and this partnership. The alignment couldn’t be better. Also, Trailnet has an amazing network and influence that can help Cycle St. Louis achieve its vision and mission. We believe that integration is important, that we’re all one community and the needs of all of us need to be considered. We all ride the same road!
What are St. Louis’ biggest barriers to safer walking and biking and how can we work to overcome them?
The current focus of Cycle St. Louis is access to cycles, training, and cycling opportunities for people with disabilities. We fully realize that safety for walkers and cyclists is important for everyone. There are unique access and safety considerations for people with disabilities, such as wider cycling lanes and trails needed for adapted cycles. Addressing these considerations would also enhance safety for the general population. Other infrastructure challenges need to be addressed in planning new projects as the example below highlights.
-During a walk to a park last year with blind and visually impaired children, we encountered a light pole in the middle of a sidewalk, and occasionally no sidewalk at all, among other obstacles.
Why are you and your partners so passionate about transportation related work?
Our partners work with people with disabilities every day and realize they make up a significant part of our community. We believe people with disabilities should have the opportunity to realize the amazing benefits that cycling provides, including a sense of freedom and independence, fitness, opportunities for socialization, and an important mode of transportation, which connects people to services, social opportunities and communities to each other. And, cycling is simply fun – how many of us remember the thrill of our first bike ride and still get a thrill when cycling? Many people with disabilities simply don’t have the opportunities to even get on a cycle.
I’ve been volunteering with the Delta Gamma Center for 12 years, tandem cycling with blind and visually impaired children. I know first-hand how magical it is to share the joy of cycling, especially with people that don’t typically have the opportunity. Recreation and transportation/mobility work needs to be inclusive of this large community. The attitudes of others have the greatest impact on access to sports for people with disabilities. For too many years, “she has no business doing that” was an all too common refrain. We need to embrace inclusion, paving the way for others to do so as well.
In your opinion what makes a city thrive?
There are so many important ingredients that make cities thrive. I’ve traveled all over the world for business and have seen ancient cities (compared to US cities) that have been reengineered for active and public transportation. These cities are thriving economically, are culturally vibrant and the people seem happier and healthier. I believe active and public transportation is the right long-term investment, but we need to be inclusive in our policies and how we execute solutions.
Any other final thoughts or words?
Cycle St. Louis is grateful for our partnership with Trailnet and very excited about what we can accomplish together. We feel we’re just scratching the surface and through awareness building, communications and joint programs, we’ll have a huge impact on the entire community in the near future.