Dwayne James loves creating opportunities for people to challenge themselves and succeed at things they never thought they could accomplish. As a Ferguson City Council member, he worked closely with Trailnet’s Healthy Active and Vibrant Communities Initiative from 2008- 2013 to develop Live Well Ferguson, which organizes a variety of community events that bring people together for fun and exercise. Seven years ago, Live Well Ferguson organized the first Ferguson Twilight Run, an annual event that now draws up to two thousand participants.
“The first year we thought we might get 50 people to show up—we ended up with 900 people,” Dwayne said. “We get everyone from little kids, to seasoned runners, to those using a cane to walk the 5K. We’re telling people to show up however you are, as long as you do it. It’s not just good for the individuals or families, it’s good for the whole community because the community comes together and shines.”
Other annual events sponsored by Live Well Ferguson include the Twilight Ramble bicycle ride, and Sunday Parkways, an opportunity for residents to walk, bike and play on streets closed to car traffic.
Live Well Ferguson also promotes healthy food choices through Eat Well Ferguson, a program that provides nutritional information at participating local restaurants, and by offering garden plots at three community garden sites. Dwayne worked with several other residents to craft an ordinance creating the community gardens and conveyed his own excitement as a novice gardener.
“We wanted to do something positive with the empty lots that we had around town,” he said. “The great thing about community gardens is that people get out there to work and neighbors meet each other for the first time…they might live four doors apart but never knew each other. I grew my first cucumber – I was so excited! I just wanted to save it, but I had to eat it eventually.”
Another early goal of Live Well Ferguson was to craft Complete Streets legislation for Ferguson. Dwayne spearheaded this effort in 2008, making Ferguson one of the first communities in the region to pass Complete Streets.
“I am a civil engineer, so streets and infrastructure were things that I had in my back pocket,” Dwayne said. “We were already on a path to build a healthier, more active community, and I knew that designing streets that were safe for all users would be a great asset.”
Having served the maximum number of terms on the City Council, Dwayne is no longer a member, but is still an enthusiastic organizer of Live Well events and is also a Board Member of the Ferguson Youth Initiative.
FYI provides Ferguson teens with a welcoming space where they have access to activities, computers, and adult volunteers who provide tutoring. It also coordinates youth programs with other organizations, like the YMCA, Ferguson Parks and Recreation, and local schools and churches. Most importantly, FYI helped to create a Youth Advisory Board. This group of 10 teens provides a youth perspective on city issues, and gives young people a chance to participate in local government. Dwayne emphasizes the value of the Youth Board for the city as well as the teens who serve.
“It allows them to have a voice and empowers them to do things for themselves,” he said. “It also helps city officials understand what is important to our young people and ways that we can all work together to solve problems.”
Having lived in Ferguson for most of his life, Dwayne is familiar with its struggles, but positive about its future.
“We have people moving into the community, businesses that are growing, citizens stepping up to serve on the council,” Dwayne said. “Ferguson youth are doing amazing things. The schools are graduating some spectacular kids. If you don’t know the good and bad aspects of your community, then you’re not involved. I love Ferguson, I love North County, I love St. Louis. I know that there is lots of work to be done and it’s the entire community that makes things happen. There’s the person who steps up to volunteer, the person who comes out to an event and cheers the runners on, or even the resident who says ‘I’m ok with them shutting down my street to hold this event.’ I have faith in my community and know that working together we will continue to make great things happen.”
Mayor Slay Signs City Traffic Calming Ordinance
Trailnet’s work to show city officials and residents the look, feel, and benefits of traffic calming solutions has paid off! Now that Mayor Slay has signed the City of St. Louis Traffic Calming Policyinto law, there will be a growing number of slower, safer residential streets in St. Louis.
This diagram shows the process that will be followed by the City’s Aldermen, Street Department, and Board of Public Service (BPS) to request, evaluate and install traffic calming improvements to residential streets. Most traffic calming improvements involve speed humps (less abrupt than speed bumps) and narrowed streets that reduce the speed of motor-vehicle traffic and improve safety for people who walk and bike.
South County Connector Project: Truly Dead
The Post-Dispatch got it on record recently: the proposed $120 million “South County Connector” project, intended to link I-55 with I-44 and I-64, has been “permanently shelved” by St. Louis County. Over several years, Trailnet vigorously organized opposition to this project for environmental, economic, and historic preservation reasons.
We worked with many others in this battle, including elected officials like county councilman Pat Dolan, St. Louis alderman Scott Ogilvie, city leaders in Maplewood, Webster Groves, and Shrewsbury, as well as institutions like the Washington University School of Law and non-profits such as Missouri Coalition for the Environment, Sierra Club and the River DesPeres Watershed Coalition.
Although the County declared the project to be “on hold” in November 2014, we realized there was a chance it could resurface. Now, almost two years later, we can declare victory knowing that “permanently shelved” means the South County Connector is really, truly dead.
Trailnet Walk Bike Ambassadors Are Rocking It!
Trailnet’s 12 Walk Bike Ambassadors are located throughout the St. Louis region. They assist with Trailnet advocacy campaigns and events, and help address walking and biking issues in their own communities. For example, Don Orf, our Ambassador in the City’s St. Louis Hills neighborhood, has been working with Alderwoman Donna Baringer, the Streets Department, and the St. Louis Hills Neighborhood Association on Complete Streets improvements. These improvements involve street re-design, repaving, and restriping to reduce traffic lanes from four to two, add bike lanes, and create angle parking along beautiful Francis Park. Other improvements around Francis Park will provide easier pedestrian crossings and generally contribute to slower, safer traffic. Don has recently become the chair of the streets committee for his neighborhood association. He has also informed his neighbors about street improvements, his role as a Walk Bike Ambassador, and upcoming Trailnet activities through his neighborhood newsletter and the social media site for neighborhoods, NextDoor. (Don also took a few days in April to ride 210 miles of the Katy Trail – wow!)
Margie Oliver of Hazelwood is working with Trailnet and public officials in her community to bring a Complete Streets presentation before the City Council. Her goal is to see Hazelwood adopt a Complete Streets policy and become the 10th jurisdiction in the St. Louis region to do so. Margie also investigated an upcoming county road project in her area to determine how bicycle and pedestrian traffic would be accommodated. And for a bit of fun and Trailnet outreach before summer turns to fall, Margie has arranged for Trailnet to have a booth at the September 10th Harvest Festival in Hazelwood. She and her fellow Walk Bike Ambassadors will be there to tell festival-goers all the good things Trailnet is doing for better walking and biking, and encourage them to join us!
Walk Bike Ambassador success in Chesterfield
Trailnet’s 12 Walk Bike Ambassadors are located throughout the St. Louis region. Their activities include assisting with Trailnet advocacy campaigns and addressing walking and biking issues in their own communities. These advocates have already won infrastructure changes for their communities and are working for safer streets in the region.
Our Chesterfield Walk Bike Ambassador, Patty Szymkowicz, read in her local paper about an upcoming re-paving project on a county road she knew well. The project description mentioned nothing about bike lanes, which concerned Patty because she knew of important connections from this county road for people on bikes, including the Monarch Levee Trail. Patty also knew that the County has a Complete Streets policy and, therefore, the Transportation Department should have considered accommodating all road users on this road project. Patty located the county project manager and asked about whether bike lanes would be included in the planned road design, emphasizing the important connections for bikes. The good news is that, shortly after Patty began asking questions, the county did a traffic study and decided to install bike lanes on the road. Due to an alert Walk Bike Ambassador we can score one for people who bike in Chesterfield!
A Win for Controlling Traffic Speed in Neighborhoods
We’re excited to tell you about a major advocacy win as the St. Louis Board of Aldermen recently passed a traffic calming policy. We’re proud to have played a significant role in propelling this policy forward by training local leaders and members of the community on best-practice street design. Now those inspired folks are taking action!
For years, stop signs have been virtually the only tool used for slowing or calming traffic on neighborhood streets in St. Louis. In many areas of the City, it seems there’s a stop sign on every corner, and many people – bicyclists and motorists alike – grumble about that. With the passage of Board bill 88 by the Board of Aldermen on July 8, far more preferable traffic calming tools will be added to the City’s toolbox. The policy will ensure a process for addressing: 1) excessive speeding through neighborhood streets; 2) cut-through vehicular traffic; and 3) overall safety concerns for those who walk and bike. Mayor Slay should soon sign the bill into law.
From left to right: Alderman Shane Cohn, Community Liaison Wendy Campbell, City of St. Louis Traffic Commissioner Deanna Venker, community partner Matthew Green of Park Central Development, and Alderman Scott Ogilvie get ready for bike tour of Portland, Oregon calm streets.
We encouraged our local leaders to pursue such a policy by showcasing the benefits of calmer streets. In August 2015, we took City of St. Louis staff, elected officials, and partners to Portland, Oregon on a study trip. The trip was part of Trailnet’s Calm Streets project and was highly successful in giving City staff and elected officials a sense of what is possible in engineered traffic calming solutions on neighborhood streets. We also took key City of St. Louis staff and advocates to see examples of best practice street design in Kansas City. The trip built relationships among the group and inspired traffic calming demonstrations. The demonstrations showed residents, officials, and city staff how streets can be redesigned to reduce speeding and increase safety.
We recognize and thank City staff, Deanna Venker and John Kohler, for their significant contributions to Board Bill 88 and the development of the traffic calming policy and process. Thanks also to the Board of Aldermen for an overwhelming vote in support of Board Bill 88.
2016 Missouri legislative session recap
For advocates of better, safer walking and biking, no bills passed in Jefferson City this year that constituted big wins. As usual though, we stopped some really bad bills from passing! Missouri State Representative Jay Houghton dominated the bad bills sponsorship this session. His HB 2046, would have required a 15 foot “safety flag” (see above photo) to be attached to any bicycle on lettered county roads. His second, HB 2047, would have allowed certain users to ride motorized vehicles – ATVs and golf carts – on the tranquil Katy Trail. Both bills failed to pass in the House.
In the “better luck next year” category, bills to ban texting while driving for all ages failed to gain traction in either house this year, despite a large coalition in support. Missouri continues to be one of only four states in the nation that have not banned texting while driving for all ages.
In preparation for 2017 Trailnet and other advocates will be back at it, working to build support for and pass state legislation to ban texting while driving, and assuring that motorized vehicles will not be allowed on the Katy Trail.
City of St. Charles and Trailnet seek input on bicycle pedestrian plan
Since fall of 2015, the City of St. Charles has worked with Trailnet, a local nonprofit dedicated to improving walking and biking, to create a bicycle and pedestrian master plan. In order to illustrate street changes laid out in the plan, Trailnet and the city will hold a pop-up traffic calming demonstration from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, June 21.
The purpose of holding the demonstration is to depict how proposed street changes will affect the flow of traffic and improve safety for those who walk and bike. Through the demonstration, Trailnet and the City of St. Charles aim to give residents, policymakers, and businesses the chance to learn how traffic calming could improve quality of life. The traffic-calming demonstration will utilize proven methods of creating safer streets for people who walk or bicycle.
“This is a synergistic approach between Trailnet, St. Charles City Parks, and Public Works to improve our community,” said Kevin Corwin, city engineer with the City of St. Charles. “We foresee a cultural shift towards a multimodal lifestyle where people want to live in cities with an interconnected system of bikeways and pedestrian paths. Demonstrating how these changes will influence traffic movements is essential to the project’s success.”
Trailnet and the City of St. Charles encourage those interested to attend the demonstration to learn firsthand about the benefits of bicycle-friendly and pedestrian-friendly communities as well as offer input on the proposed changes.
All are invited to experience the demonstration to learn about proposed changes to Riverside Drive, such as improving the visibility of crosswalks to increase safety for those who walk. Trailnet will put on three demonstrations in the City of St. Charles at different locations on Riverside Drive—the intersection of Riverside and Jefferson Street, the intersection of Riverside and Tompkins Street, and in front of the Bike Stop Cafe on Riverside and Perry Street.
New St. Louis Pedestrian Safety Plan notes progress but lacks comprehensive strategy
Without a doubt we can make St. Louis one of the best regions for walking and biking in the country IF traffic safety is significantly improved. That’s why Trailnet—a frequent partner with the City of St. Louis—will also continue to push the City and other governments to do more to make our streets safer, particularly for those who walk and bike.
Last year, according to Missouri STARS reports, 21 people were hit and killed by vehicles while walking in St. Louis—more than five times the national average. An additional 134 people walking were seriously injured. Among those biking, one person was killed and 47 were seriously injured. The public should not be lulled into accepting these traffic fatalities and disabling injuries as an inevitable byproduct of transportation. Crashes are preventable.
A positive step in the right direction came last October, when Jamie Wilson, the first Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator for the City of St. Louis, started work.
Recently, Wilson produced a four-page document titled, “City of St. Louis Pedestrian Safety Action Plan (2015/16),” which was posted without fanfare on the City’s website at the end of April. The PSAP conveys some of Wilson’s progress to date and looks ahead to work anticipated through 2016, but it is not a comprehensive strategy with clear targets for reducing crash injuries and deaths. Read on for our thoughts—pro and con—on the plan contents.
The Positive Actions in Progress
Engineered improvements for pedestrian safety in high priority corridors and intersections are being implemented.
A crash database has been created for identifying hot spot areas needing to be addressed.
Policies and practices for planning and designing the City transportation network are being enhanced.
New communications outlets have been implemented for the public’s walking and biking concerns to be addressed.
New transportation improvements have been recommended in all twenty-eight wards.
A “Stop for Pedestrians” ordinance is being developed with the Board of Aldermen.
Potential Actions in the Future
Development of a Bicycle Safety Action Plan.
Development of a City-Wide Safety Education Campaign, contingent on grant funding, that will include education and enforcement for street safety, with focused efforts in high crash neighborhoods.
Development of school-based education, contingent on grant funding, on traffic safety best practices.
Frequent media communications about bike/ped safety updates.
A problem statement.
Clarity as to how this plan relates to others, specifically the more detailed 2013 St. Louis PSAP, which was never officially adopted by the City.
Comprehensive strategies, including enforcement, which identify detailed actions, timelines, responsible parties, and performance measures.
A sense of what guides the City beyond this calendar year when this 2015/16 PSAP expires.
Five months ago Trailnet asked the Mayor’s office to join 17 other US cities that are now using the growing best practice of Vision Zero. There’s evidence it’s working:
However, the Mayor’s office declined our recommendation because the City lacks funds for implementation. We said the city must have an action plan. The Mayor’s Office agreed, and this is what the City has now produced. It’s a step in the right direction, but ultimately not comprehensive enough.
Next Steps for Trailnet
Trailnet will keep pushing the City, and working with the City, to make our streets safer for all users. The new plan mentions several actions the City will take in the next six months. We will hold the City accountable to this timeline and work with them in whatever way possible to make sure this progress is made and reported.
Walk Bike Ambassador Activities
Trailnet’s 12 Walk Bike Ambassadors are located throughout the St. Louis region. Their activities include assisting with Trailnet advocacy campaigns and helping to address walking and biking issues in their own communities. For example, Michele Oesch of the Skinker De Baliviere neighborhood in St. Louis recently had several successes in improving accessibility and safety.
Michelle used the online Citizens’ Service Bureau system to get the direction of a grate changed on McPherson in the Skinker Debaliviere neighborhood. Seems like a small change, but less tires stuck in grates is good for safety.
“It was really empowering to see how I could work through the City’s processes for improvements in bicycle-safety in my neighborhood,” Michele said.
Deidre Brown of Florissant is not only a Trailnet Walk Bike Ambassador and a GirlTrek St. Louis Team Leader, but she has now been awarded a Walking College Fellowship by America Walks, a national advocacy organization that promotes walking and walkable communities. The Fellowship will enable Deidre and 24 other advocates from around the country to participate in a four-month training program designed to strengthen local efforts to make communities more walkable. Deidre will also get to participate in the international Pro Walk, Pro Bike, Pro Place conference in Vancouver, British Columbia in September.
“I’m excited to have another tool to bring about political and social change and be a role model for reclaiming neighborhood streets and reestablishing the tradition of walking and biking as an everyday activity,” Deidre said.