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Trailnet Recommends MoDOT Implement Federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law in a Way That Prioritizes Vulnerable Road Users

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Trailnet and our partners under the Missourians For Responsible Transportation—including Local Motion, BikeWalkKC, and Ozark Greenways—signed onto a letter on July 7, 2022 that was sent to members of MoDOT leadership. The joint letter recommends that MoDOT implement the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) as a means of protecting Vulnerable Road Users (VRUs) in Missouri and committing to MoDOT’s stated goal of zero traffic deaths.


With Missouri ranking as the 17th most dangerous state in the nation for pedestrians,
and MoDOT’s stated commitment to move towards zero traffic deaths, this new federal
transportation law offers Missouri the funding and opportunity to demonstrate its commitment by
making the safety of Vulnerable Road Users (VRUs), people outside of cars – walking, bicycling,
pushing strollers, using wheelchairs, its top transportation priority.”

— MRT Joint Letter to MoDOT Leadership

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) lays out several steps for states, Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs), and cities to take to better support the needs of people who walk, roll, bike, and use public transit.

In this joint letter, MRT, its leadership, and leaders from the health and accessibility sectors across the Show-Me State asked for details on how MoDOT plans to support these vulnerable road users through their implementation of the BIL. You can read the full letter below:


Trailnet Hires New Policy Catalyst Charles Bryson

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Former Director of The City of St. Louis Civil Rights Enforcement Agency joins our growing team!

Trailnet Policy Catalyst Charles Bryson

As Policy Catalyst, Charles will lead Trailnet’s strategic policy and advocacy agenda through coalition-building, community outreach and government relations.

Charles began his career in non-profits, working in services for the unhoused in Baltimore, Maryland. After two years with Catholic Charities in Baltimore, he moved to work with the Illinois Department of Public Aid, where he oversaw federal and state grants for services for the unhoused. Eventually, he moved back to his home state of Missouri, where he worked for the Missouri Housing Development Commission as a proponent for low-income housing tax credit development for six years.

When Mayor Francis Slay was elected in 2001, he called on Charles to work as an advisor in his administration, where he was responsible for developing and implementing the overall neighborhood, ethnic and religious outreach plan for the City. During his time in City Hall, Charles worked with three mayors—as special advisor, Director of Public Safety, and for the last eight years, as the Director of the Civil Rights Enforcement Agency (CREA), enforcing federal, state and local fair housing, equal employment opportunity and public accommodation laws, rules and regulations, “a job I truly loved,” said Charles.

Charles will start with Trailnet in late June. As our new Policy Catalyst, he has one overarching goal:

“Listen. Listen to what the community is saying. Look at how our policies, procedures and practices can impact the needs of those various communities. Whether it’s black folks feeling underserved by public transit; Whether it’s the LGBTQIA+ community feeling afraid to walk in certain areas at night; Whether signage in our region adequately serves folks who speak English as a second language. The one thing I want to be able to accomplish is to listen to folks and address their needs.”

Charles currently lives downtown, a short walk from the Trailnet offices.

“I live downtown, in part, because I wanted access to public transit. Public transportation is a big deal for me, so I’m excited to see how my passion for transit can factor into this work.”

He also enjoys hiking, and he says he’s getting into biking.

“I’m in walking shape—I walk about 6.7 miles every couple of days through Forest Park—but that doesn’t mean I’m in biking shape. So I’m working on that,” he said with a smile.

We’re excited to have someone with Charles’s passion and experience join our team. Welcome!

Calhoun County, IL Passes New Bicycle Ordinance

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Trailnet Calhoun County Classic on July 31, 2021
Cyclists on a scenic Illinois road during Trailnet’s 2021 Calhoun County Classic

The Calhoun County, Illinois Board of Commissioners passed a new Bicycle Ordinance in April 2022.

Trailnet has been mapping beautiful bike routes through Calhoun County for 16 years. Calhoun is the third-least-populous county in the state of Illinois—a peninsula nestled between the Mississippi and Illinois rivers just North of St. Charles County, where scenic country roads wind through local peach orchards, past small towns, and along the river. In other words, Calhoun County is a cyclist’s dream.

Unfortunately, our most recent ride through the area—the 2021 Ride The Rivers Century last October—brought to light some of the county’s long-time struggles accomodating large events. When nearly 500 people on bicycles (equal to over 1/10 of the county’s population) rode off of a small ferry and onto county roads, some residents were overwhelmed.

When Trailnet caught wind of county residents’ grievances, we immediately reached out to representatives from the Calhoun County Board of Commissioners to open a dialog and try to make things right. 

Trailnet Rides Director Matt Hartman attended an initial council meeting on February 25, 2022. Since then, Trailnet staff have remained engaged in conversations with Calhoun County to make sure that cyclists and residents can operate safely and in a manner that is mutually beneficial for years to come. 

“Prior to our meetings, Calhoun County didn’t have any established event permitting or application processes. The County Board knew this was something they were lacking so we [Trailnet and Mike Weiss from Big Shark] offered to help define and establish some guidelines to assist them in creating one of their own,” said Hartman 

When we plan our rides, we work with cities and municipalities across the region to make sure we acquire necessary permits, collaborate with police and fire districts on our routes, create full safety plans, and track riders from start to finish via our TraQ Central app. Rides through Calhoun County should be no different. But with a small Sheriff’s department and a fully volunteer-based emergency medical staff, they do not have the capacity to provide the resources some other counties can. 

Additionally, in order to ride through this picturesque area, we have to send our riders down narrow roads with no markings, and as local constituents pointed out, we are often riding during their harvest—the busiest time of year in farming communities. Together we discussed how to keep our riders safe in these unique conditions.


Calhoun County Board of Commissioners and Trailnet Staff
Trailnet Rides Director Matt Hartman and Communications Coordinator Justin Seaton at the May 2022 Calhoun County Board of Commissioners meeting.

“The point of this ordinance is not to try to push riders away,” said Keisha Morris from the State’s Attorney’s Office. “It is intended to foster these relationships, improve communication, and make sure the community is well-prepared when large rides come through.”

Below you’ll find the most recent copy of the Bicycle Ordinance of Calhoun County, Illinois. Though we contributed our expertise to the drafting process, this final ordinance was written and ultimately passed by the Calhoun County Board of Commissioners in partnership with the State’s Attorney’s office.

“The new ordinance and permit process fulfill the requests of Calhoun County community leaders and allow more seamless communication between themselves and outside event organizers,” said Hartman.

With this partnership and these guidelines now in place, we look forward to more scenic rides through this gem of the St. Louis region!



For information or questions regarding the Calhoun County Bicycle Ordinance, contact Keisha Morris at the IL State’s Attorney’s office. keisha.morris@calhouncountyil.net or 618-576-9013


Distracted Driving is Dangerous Driving

You’ve seen it: people driving while texting, watching a video or reading on their phones or tablets. You know how dangerous it is. 

But did you know that Missouri is one of only two states that allow adults to interact with their phone screens while driving a vehicle?

Together, we are fighting to curb distracted driving across the Show Me State. We will not stop until our streets are truly safe for all. 

Trailnet is helping to lead efforts to ban distracted driving through a statewide coalition called Hands-Free Missouri. This coalition is made up of diverse members that share a commitment to safer roads, including victims of distracted driving and their families, Missouri State Highway Patrol, other bike/ped advocacy groups like LocalMotion and BikeWalk KC, and insurance companies like AAA.

For the last two years, Trailnet has been working with state legislators to draft and introduce legislation to ban distracted driving.

Trailnet Spring Membership Drive graphic

This year, we finally saw bi-partisan support, with two bills introduced. In early March, Trailnet traveled to Jefferson City yet again to testify on behalf of these bills and to meet with legislators to gain support. 


(This video contains dashcam footage from immediately before and after the crash, as well as emotional testimony and may not be appropriate for all viewers)

We supported victims of distracted driving and encouraged them to tell their stories in hearings in both the Missouri House and Senate.

Stories like Randall’s highlight the tragic toll that distracted driving has on individuals and families across the state.

As a result of our advocacy efforts, the Missouri Senate’s Transportation, Infrastructure and Public Safety Committee finally voted to advance a bill that would limit phone use while driving in March 2022. It was the first time a distracted driving bill had been approved by a Missouri legislative committee since 2018.

Unfortunately, the legislative session ended last week, and the bill was not brought up for a vote. But we are proud of the progress we have made together. We are hearing more and more support from legislators and individuals across the state. We are optimistic that the culture around distracted driving is changing, and that a bill can be passed in the next legislative session.

But we cannot do this work alone. We need your help. Please join us. As a member, you directly support our advocacy work. Together, we will make our streets truly safe for all. 


P.S.: If you want to do more to help, you can share some of these resources with family, friends and your elected officials:

Parklets and Placemaking

The corner of Laclede Avenue and South Vandeventer Avenue will see exciting improvements in pedestrian safety and social engagement–part of a multi-faceted approach planning we like to call placemaking.

Trailnet was awarded funding from AARP this year to establish a parklet kit to be initially placed at the intersection. The parklet kit will also be used in Trailnet’s Traffic Calming Lending Library

In 2019, Trailnet has met with business owners (Kaldi’s, Narwhal’s Crafted, BLK MKT Eats, Regions Bank, Alpha One, and Capstone Development) on the corner of Laclede and Vandeventer to discuss material specifics and recommendations for the parklet’s implementation. Trailnet CEO Cindy Mense presented for the West Pine-Laclede Neighborhood Association and the Central West End Southeast Special Business District. Mense discussed the benefits of parklets and shared conceptual designs of how the parklet space would be utilized.

Along with implementing a parklet, Trailnet has advocated for continental striping and a Leading Pedestrian Interval at the intersection, both crucial bike/pedestrian safety enhancements. With funding assistance from Alderman Joe Roddy, the CWE SE Special Business District, and Saint Louis University, four new continental crosswalks were installed at the intersection of Laclede & Vandeventer in December 2019.

In 2020, Trailnet received $12,000 in funding from the CWE Southeast Special Business District to install this permanent parklet, and will be looking at late summer 2020 as a completion date for this brand new public space.

 

Spring Programming Update

Due to COVID-19, Trailnet is shifting some of our spring and summer programming to new dates and new platforms.  Since we can’t meet in person or hop on our bikes for a group ride, we’ve been coming up with some ways to stay engaged with our community while maintaining physical separation.  Read below for more information on how we are adjusting to the situation.  We’ll update this page as time goes on, so be sure to check back!

 

Trailnet Scavenger Hunts (NEW!) – Get out, get active, and stay healthy: Join Trailnet on their first ever scavenger hunt series!  Our first event will be taking place April 15-19 followed by two May events in honor of National Bike Month.  Check out our event page for more info on how you can participate.

Digital Dust Off (NEW!) – It’s getting warmer, plants are budding, and your bike’s got a flat tire.  It always takes a little effort to get back in the saddle after a cold winter and even more so when you’re doing it alone, but Trailnet’s here to help!  We’ll be hosting some online hangouts to cover a variety of topics from cleaning, to maintenance, to dealing with unpredictable weather and pandemics.  We’ll also cover some of the basics like smart cycling and safe driving practices.  Have any topics in mind?  Email joe@trailnet.org to submit a request. Click here to head over to the event page.

Zwift Group Rides (NEW!): An indoor cycling group ride experience for you to do on your home trainer. Make the most of your quarantine by linking up with friends for a virtual cycling experience. We will be doing two events during National Bike Month, May 7th and May 21st.

Breakfast for Bikers (POSTPONED):  April is here and so is that good biking weather we’ve all been waiting for!  It’s also that time of year when local bike commuters might notice Trailnet’s Breakfast for Bikers program.  Out of necessity, we are postponing our favorite bicycle encouragement program that gives out free coffee and pastries the third Friday of each month to safeguard the health and well-being of commuters and our partners who help make it happen.  But don’t be dismayed – Trailnet is working on other ways to encourage biking! Stay posted for future events that aim to excite and inspire your bike life. You’ll have to bring your own coffee, though. 

Bike Month & National Bike to Work Day (POSTPONED):  Following national and local health guidelines, Trailnet will be postponing our normal programming for Bike Month and National BTWD until Tuesday, September 22.  We will be following the new schedule as announced by the League of American Bicyclists.   As the league states, May is still national Bike Month which means  that Trailnet will be working hard to bring you things to do, on and off your bike.

If you were a participating DIY refueling station or bike home happy hour host in previous years, we invite you to continue your support of National Bike to Work Day.  Click here to learn more about how your business or organization can take part!

Stay Safe, Rediscover, and Reconnect

 

We are excited to see so many people out riding, walking and safely using public spaces. However, fighting the spread of COVID-19 and caring for our neighbors and family is the immediate priority.

As the scope of our day-to-day shrinks and our perspectives shift more tightly in on the immediate community, our individual homes, and families, we’ve seen the need for core transportation increase.

Walking, biking and the use of public green space have become more popular during the pandemic as we saw in all of the State and County parks prior to their closing.

Our biggest hope to see a lasting and positive change after this crisis.

None of this outweighs the enormous impact and tragedy of COVID-19.

In this scary, uncertain time, we hope everyone can:

Stay safe, stay informed and take every step to stay healthy.

Rediscover our streets, sidewalks, and trails as places of refuge and shared value.

Reconnect (virtually) with loved ones, neighbors, and your community.

Thank you to the people working on the front lines of this crisis, our healthcare workers, grocery store and restaurant workers, delivery workers, transit workers, first responders, and everyone continuing to keep our community and nation running.

Please do whatever is within your means to support these and all people affected by this virus.

Most of all, stay safe.

Tucker Boulevard Improvements Roll Forward

Tucker Boulevard between Chouteau Ave. and Washington Ave. is one step closer to seeing improvements recommended by Trailnet’s Connecting St. Louis Plan. This is thanks to the generous support of members and supporters like you, partners including The City of St. Louis, Downtown STL, People for Bikes, Alderman Jack Coatar, and a number of family foundations who are making this effort possible.

Creating a more people-centered Tucker is a primary recommendation of the Connecting St. Louis Plan. The plan recommends transforming the corridor to provide better downtown access for people on bikes and on foot. It also seeks to add bus stop improvements for the five bus routes on this corridor.

Trailnet funded a preliminary engineering study to bring this project closer to construction. It includes curb protected bike lanes on the West side of the street with floating bus islands, pedestrian refuge islands, crosswalk signal upgrades, and high-visibility crosswalks along the near-mile long section of Tucker.

This will make Tucker a more safe and pleasant place for those not in an automobile. It will also provide a safe and protected way for people on bikes to get over the rail yards to the south. The rail yards have been identified as a stressful and dangerous barrier to people getting into and out of downtown by numerous studies including the Downtown Multi-Modal Plan and Trailnet’s Connecting St. Louis plan. There is More to come, but this corridor is close to being transformed into a safer and more pleasant place for everyone. The next step is fundraising for the 20 percent match construction funds required for the City of St. Louis to apply for Federal Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) funds if they become available later this year. Stay tuned!

Trailnet Champion: Jeff Powell

Jeff Powell has been teaching kids about active transportation for 31 years. Jeff supports Walk/Bike to School days at Fairway Elementary School. Trailnet introduced the Walking School Bus to Fairway Elementary more than 10 years ago and worked with Jeff to help hundreds of kids walk and bike to school, teeing them up for a lifetime of active transportation. Alongside being a P.E. Teacher, Jeff also teaches mountain biking summer camps. Keep reading for a Q & A with Jeff about all his awesome work!

“Being an elementary PE teacher is my passion. Teaching kids to ride is just another avenue to share this passion.”

How did you become connected with Trailnet? 

It was way back in 2004 when our school, Fairway Elementary, had just opened. I met Mandy Brady from Trailnet and learned about the program. Since Fairway Elementary was built in the middle of several neighborhoods, it was the perfect opportunity to teach the kids and families safe routes to school. I talked one of the PTO reps into being the school’s parent/teacher liaison for the event.  Her name is Rebecca Timm and she worked wonders helping get other parents involved. Conveniently, Rebecca is also my sister. She had two kids of her own attending Fairway at the time, easy pickings. Trailnet was able to provide many suggestions, guidelines for the Walking School Bus Champions, and gave us connections to get our school moving forward safely. On October 7, 2005 we held the first Walk/Bike to School Day at Fairway. It still exists through our PTO. The first three years had unexpected attendance, 82%, 89%, and 92%! We still average about 90% each year.

What work have you done, or are currently doing, to advance walking and biking in St. Louis?

As a teacher, I support our PTO by promoting the school’s Walk/Bike to School Day each year in all of our PE classes.  Along with this day, we teach street/neighborhood safety as part of our school’s Health curriculum. This includes walking and biking on the sidewalks, traveling in groups, obeying all traffic signs, stranger safety, and using your senses to be aware of your surroundings.  To encourage the kids to ride and walk to school, I too frequently ride my bike to school since I lived in the same neighborhood. They get a kick of how I push a button, the doors open, and I ride down the hall right to the gym office.

Here in St. Louis I am a member of GORC, Gateway Off-Road Cyclists.  Through them I found the chance to support their trail work as they “contribute a great deal of experience in designing safe, sustainable, multi-use trails.”

Can you tell us about your involvement in Bike Camps?

The first mountain club I sponsored was in 1991 at Parkway West High School.  It was called the Parkway Wheels West mountain bike club as we were supported by the Wheels West bicycle shop. We would do rides together and it enabled the high schoolers a chance to try cross country mountain bike racing. In 1995, we took our first guys trip to Crested Butte Colorado.  I’m still friends with several of them to this day. I have been teaching kids to mountain bike for well over 11 years starting with the district’s Community Education program. Being an elementary PE teacher is my passion. Teaching kids to ride is just another avenue to share this passion. The interest in this type of class has grown immensely over the years beyond that one annual summer camp.  What started with three elementary kids and one PE teacher has become Wheels UP, LLC.  Now with Cody Jones, we have instructed hundreds of young riders to discover the pure joy of mountain biking. Over the past 2 years this has come to include adults of all ages too. Our Youth camps are tailored out of the foundation of BICP based skills and lessons. We specifically cater our lessons to be safe while pushing skill progressions to help each rider achieve the soundest fundamental riding base. We offer different level rides to accommodate from a 1st time off-road rider to an experienced advanced skill clinics. We ride bikes, have a blast, learn bike-handling skills, and most importantly learn to be safe on a bike. You can find out more at WheelsUpmtb.com or follow us on Facebook.

Can you tell us about the Walking School Bus and the PTO at your school?

We call it “Walk/Bike to School Day.”  Each year, our PTO sets this up as an all school function.  It normally occurs on or near the International Walk to School date.  As the flyer reads, “The idea is for students, parents, and friends to walk to school together with a purpose – to promote health, safety, physical activity and concern for the environment!”  We also organize a BikeTrain to show how to safely ride bicycles to school. We PE teachers meet the kids and parents to lead them in a really long Bike Train of 30-60 participants.

What do you see as some of St. Louis’ biggest barriers to safer walking and biking?

Having a safe space to ride our bikes without interfering with others or having them risk our safety.  We can work past these barriers by educating local communities on safety from both the cyclist’s and driver’s perspectives.

Do you have a preferred form of active transportation (biking, walking, transit, etc)?

I ride my bike to school most days.  Mainly because it energizes me in a positive direction each day.

What keeps you at it?

Easy, my students.  On the way to school I ride past five bus stops which gives us a chance to smile, say hi, and sometimes ride together.

In your opinion, what makes a city or region thrive?

The ability to find a common thread in the community.  Find that common factor, finance it, build it, and they will come out to enjoy it.  Kind of like that saying, if you build it, they will come.

What do you do for fun?

For fun? Easy answer, ride my bikes and teach kids.  Mainly I stick to mountain biking here in Wildwood all year round.  When we have a snow day at school it’s a play day for me and my Fat Bike.  I really like going on bike trips to Colorado each summer with my buddies and more recently monthly trips to Northwest Arkansas.  When the trails are wet riding the roads of Wildwood and hiking are the go to alternatives. When the weather gets warmer, I like to share the fun by leading weekly rides with kids through Wheels UP.

What do you do for work?

I teach Physical Education and Health in the Rockwood School District.  This is my 27th year in the Rockwood School District, and 31st year in Education.

Any final thoughts or words?

Finding ways to get our kids outside and moving is critical to helping them become healthy, successful adults.  The habits they develop now can and will lead them in a direction conducive to a happy life. Play Hard, Play Often, Be Happy.

Distracted Driving Laws are a Must-Have for Missouri

“It’s completely preventable.”

That’s a quote from MODOT’s Jon Nelson, talking about distracted driving deaths. Nelson was featured in a Post Dispatch story from last January about lawmakers’ efforts to pass a distracted driving ban.

Most traffic deaths are preventable, but deaths from distracted driving are preventable. That’s why passing a strong distracted driving law is vital.

Last year, 118 people were killed while walking by people driving in Missouri—the highest in 10 years. Despite a reduction in traffic deaths, distracted driving is a leading cause in crashes, and Missouri is one of only two states without meaningful distracted driving legislation.

This is a public health crisis. If 118 Missourians were killed by a new contagious illness it would be headline news, and authorities would act. Instead, those deaths are simply the cost of using our phones while driving.

While different state legislation has been introduced, varying in scope and detail, it is vital that Missouri lawmakers pass meaningful distracted driving legislation.

Trailnet supports banning drivers from using a smartphone or similar device while driving, including talking and texting, but still allowing voice-only or hands-free use; GPS navigation; calling 911 or roadside assistance. We also support the reasonable use of these devices for emergency personnel.

Convenience should never override safety. Until meaningful distracted driving legislation is passed in Missouri, it is still legal for people to drive down the highway or by a local school while staring at their phones.

-Cindy Mense, Trailnet CEO