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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

Trailnet Champion: Erika Enstrom

Meet Erika Enstrom, our first Trailnet Champion of 2020! Erika has been close to the Trailnet community for a long time and recently joined our board.  She’s passionate about improving active transportation in St. Louis for the benefits it provides to the environment and for the physical health of everyone in the region. We’re excited about her community-driven approach to advocating for safer streets for all!

Erika said she believes Trailnet’s Connecting St. Louis Plan will encourage people to more deeply connect to their communities and enable more walking and bicycling in the region. Her passion for safer, more comfortable streets is bolstered by her joy of walking. She prefers exploring the city on foot, she said, because she can easily put her daughter in the stroller and enjoy all the region has to offer.

“One of the biggest barriers to advancing walking and biking in St. Louis is that the city is so spread out and it seems daunting to think that there is the option to walk or bike from where you live to work or to sporting events or other community events,” Erika said. “That’s what makes the Connecting St. Louis plan so great.  It helps bridge the gap between your everyday community and other communities and really demonstrates that biking throughout the city really is possible.”

Erika is ready to push for a paradigm that values the importance, convenience, and benefits of walking and biking. She said that while connecting such a spread-out city is a challenge, another barrier is in changing the mentality of people in our communities.

“People’s immediate thought is to hop into their cars to move from point A to point B,” Erika said. “By adding infrastructure in the communities and making sure that we have advocates in each of those communities to help push the movement, we can help change that mentality.”

When Erika isn’t advocating for better streets for all, she works in public accounting. She spends her spare time running, biking, enjoying good weather, and playing the cello.

“I am super excited about the trajectory that Trailnet is going in and look forward to helping move the organization along in the future,” Erika said.

We’re so happy she’s on our team!

Support Two Acts For Better Walking and Biking

We’d like you to help us ring in the new year by urging our local representatives to support more biking and walking projects. In just two minutes, you can start off 2020 as an advocate!

Trailnet CEO Cindy Mense sent letters to congress last week urging representatives to support and cosponsor two acts. The Complete Streets Act would set aside federal transportation funds for safe street projects and require states and local governments to create design standards that incorporate the needs of all road users when developing infrastructure projects. The Transportation Alternatives Enhancement Act would increase the share of federal funds used on biking and walking networks and allow states and communities to use that money for local bikeways and sidewalk improvements.

We need your help to get broad support for these proposals!
Click here to support the Complete Streets Act.
Click here to support the Transportation Alternatives Enhancement Act.

Moving Toward Better Biking in 2020

We kicked off the new year with a panel discussion led by Trailnet CEO Cindy Mense in conversation with leaders who understand the keys to creating a transportation network that’s fit for all. More than 40 advocates joined us to talk about what a more active transportation system will look like.

Mike Weiss, owner of Big Shark Bicycle Company and Big Shark Events, talked about how safety on the streets impacts bike shops, the people who ride bikes, and how he’s getting kids on bikes. Scott Ogilvie, Transportation Policy Planner with the City of St. Louis, shared what St. Louis is doing to improve safety for people on bikes, including policy updates and the latest on new infrastructure. Ann Falker, BJC, Clinical Nurse Specialist, expert cyclist and daily bike commuter, discussed her experience riding on the streets of St. Louis. Trailnet’s Director of Policy Taylor March talked about the most effective methods for building safer streets and the barriers to funding them.

Safety was the theme of the night, but panelists made clear that with safe streets, come better communities. Ann Falker helped attendees understand that Complete Streets (streets meant for all users) are connected to the overall health of our community. She said Complete Streets keeps families in our cities by giving them places to “walk, hop, skip, and bike” in their neighborhoods.

Scott Ogilvie spoke about the barriers to improving St. Louis streets for all users, noting that while there is a lot more willingness across the region to make streets safer, there are two main hindrances: government fragmentation and the ability to pay for projects.

“The limitation to change is no longer the desire of city departments, it’s funding,” Ogilvie said. “We’re headed in in the right direction.”

Trainet Policy Director Taylor March also spoke about funding for safer streets, noting transportation funding does little to support those who walk and bike. “Only one percent of U.S. Transportation funding goes toward walking and biking,” March said. “But those users experience significant levels of injuries and fatalities.”

Panelists also discussed the divisive Slay Balls that have appeared at city intersections over the past few years. Despite the controversy, studies have shown these barriers have caused a decrease in crashes.

Another controversial subject of the night was red light cameras. On the topic of why cities employ the use of red light cameras, Ogilvie said, “They are ideally used to reduce injuries and fatalities for all users… after red light cameras were overturned by the Missouri Supreme Court, pedestrian fatalities doubled in St Louis.”

Driving laws also came up during the discussion. Panelists agreed Missouri needs laws to prohibit texting and driving. Currently, Missouri is one of only two states that allow texting while driving.

Panelists also talked about how investing in safer streets is an important part of fighting global climate change. Mike Weiss touched on how, outside of catering to those who walk, use mobility devices, or bike, updated infrastructure supports Ebikes and scooters, both of which are increasing in popularity and don’t require the use of a car.

Cindy Mense outlined three key takeaways after moderating the event:

  • St. Louis has momentum and we have potential when we work together to meet the needs of all users
  • We are making progress in streets designs, traffic control measures and attitudes are changing
  • There is legislation at every level that needs your voice- join us and demand safer streets for all

Meet Trailnet’s New Rides Manager, Matt Hartman

Matt has been heavily involved in expanding St. Louis’ bicycle culture for years and we’re so happy he’s the newest member of our team. He has organized rides all over St. Louis that have drawn people from all over the country. He’s also worked at a number of bike shops, even starting his own in the heart of Gravois Park. His attitude toward bicycling and its potential for building community will bring a new energy to our rides and events.

Here’s what Matt has to say about his new role:

I’m thrilled to take the helm as Trailnet’s new Rides Manager. I have a lot of experience producing events on a local and national level. My hope is to get Trailnet’s events on riders’ “bucket lists” across the country. Bicycling in this region is rewarding because of the dynamic neighborhoods and unique buildings. St. Louis is an old city with unparalleled architecture and so many of the fine details of our 100-plus-year-old buildings are better appreciated while riding a bicycle.

I think we can continue to elevate our current events and create new, exciting, experiences that will have national pull. St. Louis is primed to be a city that bicyclists love. I’m ready to draw people from all over to see why this is an awesome place to ride your bike.

I’m excited to advance the St. Louis bicycling community that I’ve helped nurture over the years. When I moved back to St. Louis after graduate school, I didn’t know anyone who rode regularly like I did, so I would literally chase down other bicyclists in the street and introduce myself. I wanted to know more about biking in the city. Thus, SpokedSTL was born. This organization was used as a brand to organize rides within the city. SpokedSTL later morphed into a competitive team racing group at the Penrose Park Velodrome. We were also very active in the early fundraising efforts for resurfacing Penrose.

Around this time, I began working in local bike shops, starting at South Side Cyclery, then Big Shark Bicycle Company. I later opened my own Bike shop on Cherokee Street: Spoked Bikes and Stuff. With Spoked Bikes came Spoked Adventures, which focused on programming multi-day trips including bike-packing, camping, canoeing and climbing. Following the closing of Spoked Bikes, I managed The Cyclery’s service depart in Shiloh, IL.

I was drawn to Trailnet because I believe it’s making a lot of progress for biking and walking in St. Louis. Cycling is such a multi-faceted experience. It benefits the individual by serving as an affordable mode of transportation and a recreational experience that improves health and fitness. It also services the planet by decreasing the number of cars on the road and reduction carbon emissions. I’m excited to help usher in the next era of bicycling in St. Louis.

Stay tuned for our upcoming rides calendar!

Cheers,

Matt