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.
On May 18, a diverse group of bicyclists and pedestrians gathered on the steps of the Missouri History Museum for the Ride and Walk of Silence, a commemoration of individuals who have been killed or injured while walking or bicycling on our public roads.
In 2015, there were 21 pedestrians and one cyclist killed in crashes involving motor vehicles in the City of St. Louis. A reported 198 pedestrians and 85 cyclists were injured. In St. Louis County, 10 pedestrians were killed and 215 injured, while 95 cyclists also filed reports of injury.
“Even one death is too many,” said Trailnet Executive Director Ralph Pfremmer. “The rate of traffic violence in St. Louis is unacceptable.”
This year marks the thirteenth anniversary of the first Ride of Silence, which took place in Dallas, Texas. This initial event was organized by Chris Phelan, friend of endurance cyclist Larry Schwartz, who was killed after being struck by the mirror of a passing school bus. The Ride of Silence now takes place on the third Wednesday in May across the U.S. and internationally.
Four years ago, 23-year-old Amber Wood was killed while crossing the street in front of Broadway Oyster Bar near downtown St. Louis. The car that killed her was speeding so fast that she was thrown 80 feet and killed instantly. Wood’s mother, Georgie Busch, was on hand to talk about her personal loss and the importance of safe roads for everyone.
“My daughter Amber was enjoying an evening in downtown St. Louis,” Busch said. “She crossed a street thinking she was safe, but a reckless driver going over 70 mph took her life in an instant, and kept right on going.”
Pfremmer highlighted the work Trailnet does to prevent more crashes like this from happening.
“This is one of the reasons reducing traffic injuries and deaths remains one of Trailnet’s highest priorities,” said Pfremmer. “Crashes are preventable, not inevitable. Trailnet is advocating for traffic safety to be addressed as the public health problem that it is.”
Following the gathering at the History Museum, over 20 cyclists and 19 pedestrians bicycled or walked through city neighborhoods in silence in remembrance of those who have been lost.
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.
St. Louis now has more than 200 miles of bike lanes and trails, and the goal of the Gateway Bike Plan is to nearly double that number in the next two years. The number of bicyclists taking advantage of these facilities has also increased. Between 1990 and 2013, the number of people commuting by bicycle in St. Louis nearly tripled, and the number of people taking to the roads and trails for fun and recreation has increased dramatically.
Although these improvements are a great start, bike lanes can only increase the safety of bicyclists if both motorists and cyclists understand how to negotiate these facilities safely and responsibly. When statistics on pedestrian deaths are considered, this makes the need for responsible driving habits even more urgent. Twenty-one pedestrians were killed in St. Louis City last year, the highest number in thirty years.
Last year there were 21 pedestrian crash deaths on St. Louis streets – the highest total in 30 years of MoDOT records. Crashes also claimed the lives of one cyclist and 31 people in vehicles. In January, Trailnet’s executive director wrote to Mayor Slay about the City’s growing traffic violence and requested a meeting to discuss some solutions.
Last month the meeting at City Hall took place, though Mayor Slay did not attend. The Mayor’s Office declined Trailnet’s recommendation to implement a Vision Zero strategy, which more than 10 US cities have done in the past several years. The City said “no” to Vision Zero, suggesting it would be an empty promise to the public because it lacks the money for implementation. Trailnet responded by saying the City of St. Louis must have an action plan for preventing crash deaths and serious injuries, and progress should be clearly articulated to residents. The Mayor’s Office agreed to create an action plan, but we have no commitment as to when such a plan will be forthcoming.
So, we’re asking, “what’s the plan?” for addressing this public safety issue. Trailnet urges all concerned about the safety of those who walk, bike, and drive in St. Louis to ask City Hall this question. Tweet your concerns to @MayorSlay using #WhatsThePlan? or email email@example.com and copy Trailnet. Let the Slay administration know that traffic deaths are preventable, not inevitable, and it’s time to act.
Trailnet tracks proposed state legislation and looks for opportunities to engage you in creating important policy change. We have no active advocacy alerts at this time, but we will be in touch as soon as action is needed. Here’s a list of the legislation we support, oppose, and the issues we’re working to address.
State legislation we support
All ages ban on texting while driving – Expands the current ban on sending, reading or writing a text message to include ALL persons operating a motor vehicle in this state, not just those 21 years of age and younger.
Getting tougher on dangerous drivers – Increases fines and driver’s license suspension periods for drivers whose fail to yield or cause injures or deaths. Such drivers would also be required to pass a driver improvement program before driving privileges would be reinstated.
Allowing motorized traffic on the Katy Trail – Allows golf carts and ATVs on the Katy Trail for certain individuals. Users value the Katy Trail precisely because motorized vehicles aren’t allowed. In addition, a fiscal note estimates the costs involved in retrofitting the trail to accommodate motorized vehicles would run well over $40 million.
Transportation funding that meets the needs of all – Missouri spends only nine cents per capita on public transportation funding, which ranks 44th of the 50 states. Missouri also fails to provide any dedicated state transportation funds for walking or bicycling. Transportation options that meet the needs of all citizens are vital to a strong economy and public health. Our state legislators need to advance a comprehensive transportation funding proposal this year!
Missouri House committee to vote on bill that would allow motor vehicles on Katy Trail
Last week Trailnet, along with other organized bike, pedestrian, and trail advocates, urged members of the Missouri House Conservation Committee to vote “NO” on HB 2047, which would allow motorized traffic (ATVs and golf carts) on the Katy Trail. The committee will most likely vote on the bill this week.
We sent our comments to the committee Wednesday, February 10, outlining the reasons behind our opposition. To see our full comments, click here.
At this time we only want to make you aware of the bill’s existence. No action on your part is requested since the bill may die in committee. The bill will likely lose traction because of its recently estimated fiscal impact to implement: it would cost the state over $40 million to accommodate ATVs and golf carts. This news may change the minds of the bill’s supporters.
Still, if the bill moves forward in the legislative process, we’ll send an advocacy alert to mobilize public opposition to the bill.
Shortly after our opposition email was sent to the house committee, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch published a story about the bill, and much more opposition to the bill was generated. We hope this dialogue continues. The Katy Trail is meant to cater to those who wish to enjoy active lifestyles in a natural setting without the dangers of motor vehicle traffic. We’re ready to work to keep it that way for the many benefits it provides to people and our economy. Stay tuned to our social media sites for updates.
Trailnet’s initial group of 12 Walk Bike Ambassadors are now trained advocates! Their day-long training on January 23 featured a variety of activities and speakers, including St. Louis Alderman Christine Ingrassia and St. Louis County Councilor Pat Dolan, who provided their views on effective advocacy. Richard VonGlahn of Missouri Jobs With Justice presented a two-hour “empowerment training,” outlining key elements of organizing people and campaigns.
The Ambassadors are developing their plans for the year, which will focus on at least one of Trailnet’s priority campaign issues. They will work in their respective communities to build relationships with key leaders and organize residents who are supportive of Trailnet’s work.
As detailed in the Post-Dispatch, MODOT’s 2015 plan for re-paving and replacing some old signals on Gravois in the City of St. Louis also proposed several street closures; that last item was wildly unpopular. Now, nine months later, MODOT has unveiled a new plan for Gravois and the street closures are no longer part of it. The new Gravois plan will be presented to the public in an “open house” format on January 12th, from 4-7 pm at the Five Star Senior Center, 2832 Arsenal Street. Trailnet will submit comments to MODOT on whether this new plan goes far enough to improve walkability, bikeability, traffic safety and opportunities for economic development on Gravois. Come out to the January 12th meeting, take a look at the plans, talk to MODOT, talk to Trailnet (we’ll be there), and decide what you think!