A family that rides together | 2019 Bridge Birthday Bash
Bikes are a great tool for bringing new people together, but bikes can also bring loved ones even closer.
On Sunday, Trailnet and the Bicycle Fun Club celebrated the 90th anniversary of the Chain of Rocks Bridge opening with the Bridge Birthday Bash ride. During the group ride, the Gervich family stood out with their matching “Team Gervich” T-shirts as they cruised into the finish. Among them brothers Kevin and Mike Gervich talked about what brought them out for the day on the road.
“Today was a fun ride, we usually go around our neighborhood and on the Katy Trail. I like the distances of these group events and it’s an easy way to get us out in new places,” Kevin Gervich said.
The Bridge Birthday Bash offered riders of all levels distances ranging from 7 to 100 miles on roads and Madison County Transit bike trails.
Kevin’s brother Mike got back into cycling last year and was looking for a way to get the rest of the family out too.
“I got back into riding for health and fitness reasons, I usually do these Trailnet events, and charity rides. It’s been fun so I started pressuring everyone into coming out,” Mike said.
“Yeah, Mike got the shirts and started getting us out and active. It’s been easy and great,” Kevin said.
Ann Crowe took up bicycling while living in Washington, D.C., where an extensive network of cycling paths made commuting by bike a convenient way to incorporate exercise into her daily routine. Ann moved to St. Louis to be closer to family and to pursue work in engineering. After deciding to make a career change, Ann began volunteering at Trailnet rides and fundraising events while completing her Doctorate in Physical Therapy. Her volunteer activities allow her to “meet many new people and see different parts of the city and surrounding areas,” she says.
Ann’s volunteer experience introduced her to a “warm and welcoming community,” and she believes that a “shared love of biking provides common ground” for people that participate in Trailnet events. Ann’s husband Vance now joins her on many of the weekend rides, which she credits with giving him “the same confidence and passion for cycling and health” that is so important to her.
As a physical therapist, Ann understands the critical importance of regular exercise for maintaining health and recovering from injury. She notes the abundance of research supporting the positive impact of exercise on mood and overall health, and sees evidence of these effects at Trailnet events. “It only takes a morning at a Trailnet ride to see this come to life in the laughter, support and friendships created through group exercise,” she says.
Even with many years of experience as a bike commuter and recreational cyclist, Ann is aware that for many people concerns about safety may mean that they don’t bike or walk if no specific infrastructure exists. She is committed to building a community where more people have access to the benefits of active transportation. “Having a network of safe and connected bikeways and sidewalks will make biking and walking easier and available to more people,” she says. She also predicts that “as more people use the bikeways and sidewalks, they will feel personally invested in supporting the growth of this network.”
In addition to volunteering time to Trailnet, Ann and Vance are Trailnet Peloton members, providing financial support for the protected bikeway vision. They strongly believe in “dedicating personal efforts and resources to build infrastructure that empowers communities.”
Ann and Vance also feel that positive change will come to St. Louis only if individuals take the initiative. “Whatever challenges we face, the best way to identify problems and solutions is to get personally involved, seeing the community by biking on the roads and paths, meeting our neighbors, visiting and supporting local businesses. Trailnet gives us the opportunity to come together as individuals and make our city healthier and more interesting, with access and opportunity for everyone to enjoy a more active lifestyle.”
If you’ve ever been on a Bicycle Fun Club ride, you have probably been a recipient of Andy Mayberry’s generosity. If you have ever had a beer at a Trailnet event, you have definitely been on the receiving end of this equation. At the annual chili party five years ago, Andy noticed that we were serving beer with a hand-pumped keg. At the time, he worked for Grey Eagle Distributing and pulled equipment out of his truck to pressurize our keg and install a tap. He has been a valued member of the Trailnet family ever since, helping out in numerous ways at rides and other events.
Andy has been an avid bicyclist ever since buying a used Schwinn Continental at Goodwill while in junior high. He first rode the length of the Katy Trail in 2005 and now rides with a group called the Landsharks, that includes local friends and cyclists that come from other states to enjoy the country’s longest continuous rail-trail. To date, he has ridden the Katy Trail twenty-one times, and has also ridden with the group in Nebraska, Illinois, and along the shores of Lake Superior. “It’s the journey, not the destination…the people you meet and the sights you see,” he says.
Andy also participates in numerous fundraising events, and initially joined Trailnet to train with the BFC for his long-distance charity rides. “You get into riding because you like to ride and then you find a higher purpose with the charities,” Andy explains.
One of Andy’s favorite causes is The Delta Gamma Center for Children with Visual Impairments. As a volunteer, Andy rides a tandem with a visually-impaired child so that they can experience the freedom and joy of bicycling. “They just want to be normal kids and get out on a bike, and that is something I can help with,” he says with a smile.
Andy has helped to raise money for a variety of health-related causes by participating in numerous fundraising rides, including the Tour de Cure and Bike MS. “I’m never going to be the fastest, the strongest, or biggest fundraiser,” he says, “but I can give of myself and my time.” He also encourages drivers to be courteous to cyclists who “may be out there training for a charity ride that will help someone that the driver knows.”
A ride that has particular significance for Andy is Pedal the Cause, which raises money for cancer research and support of individuals with cancer and their caregivers. Andy has beaten cancer twice himself and refers to people with cancer as “fighters, not patients.” He rides to “let them know that there are a lot of people out here who have beaten it and offer support.”
In 2015, Andy provided support for an 8-man racing crew in the Tour Across America. The cycling team won the race from Ocean Side, California to Annapolis, Maryland. They rode over 3000 miles in 5 days, 21 hours, and 58 minutes, raising $600,000 for the Fallen Heroes Fund.
“Once you ride, you get it. You can’t explain it to someone who doesn’t ride. For the time that you’re on the bike, you can put all that other stuff behind you.”
Andy has taken on many tasks to help Trailnet, including painting road markings for rides, driving SAG vehicles, and leading group rides. “As a group leader, you’re sometimes with people who haven’t ridden a bike in twenty years. You get to take them from zero to completing twenty plus miles,” he says.
The many ways that Andy Mayberry helps Trailnet have sometimes meant that he spends less time on a bike himself. “The more I’ve gotten involved, the more I am not on the bike,” he explains. “The satisfaction I get is to see the smiles on peoples’ faces when they come in, and I don’t care if the people know what I do at all.”
Ron Effland has worked for the Missouri Department of Transportation for over 25 years. In that time, his job roles have evolved and he has helped to spur an important evolution in the way the department thinks about transportation.
Trained as a civil engineer, Ron initially ran a district engineering department. After passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, his focus shifted to designing intersections that would allow for safe crossing by individuals with disabilities. For the last five years, Ron has served as the state’s “Non-Motorized Transportation Engineer,” or as Ron refers to himself, the “state bike-ped coordinator.” These state positions, created by the Federal Department of Transportation, are intended to serve as internal advocates for the needs of pedestrians and bicyclists.
Ron’s job involves writing statewide policies and procedures related to bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, but more importantly, efforts to change the culture of transportation from one that has traditionally been exclusively about cars. Ron acknowledges that state transportation departments are not always enthusiastic about including bicyclists and pedestrians as a part of their responsibility.
“Somewhere along the way, transportation departments forgot to include people,” Ron said. “Our job is to give people options for how to get from place to place. If we are working on improvements to a downtown intersection, we have to realize that people might be in a car, but they could also be on foot, on a bike, in a wheelchair, or using public transit. We have to think about how the bus stop interacts with the crosswalk that interacts with the traffic signals. The challenge is to keep our eye on the big picture.”
One of the challenges Ron has faced is that transportation engineers often have a difficult time seeing important clues in that big picture.
“If you have a lot of traffic backups and delays and crashes, engineers understand that,” Ron said. “If you have a road with no sidewalk and there is a worn path in the grass next to the road, that means that there are pedestrians who have no safe place to walk and we should put a sidewalk there.”
Although Ron spends much of his time in offices in Springfield and Jefferson City, he also does a lot of outreach, some of his most creative and enjoyable work. To help his engineers understand the challenges of navigating with a disability, Ron procured a collection of wheelchairs and white canes.
“I take engineers out in the field and have them cross streets in a wheelchair or use a cane to feel their way along,” Ron said. “It really changes their perspective on what it is like to try and get around while dealing with a disability.”
To further his efforts on behalf of bicyclists, Ron applied for a grant several years ago to create his “Walk ‘n Roll” trailer. The twenty-four-foot trailer is filled with bikes of various sizes, parts, tools, helmets, cones and yield and stop signs. He uses the trailer in much the same way that he uses the wheelchairs.
“I put traffic engineers on bikes and show them what it’s like to negotiate roads and intersections on a bicycle,” Ron Said.
Ron recalls his personal experiences with bicycles while growing up: “I’ve been riding a bike forever. In the small town where I grew up that is how kids got around.” To share that experience with other children, Ron frequently takes his trailer on the road to provide biking opportunities and bike education for kids around the state.
For the last few years, Trailnet has worked with a number of St. Louis County elementary schools to put on Bike Weeks. These events provide opportunities for children to learn about bike handling skills, rules of the road, and proper fitting of bike helmets. Ron has been a valuable partner, contributing helmets, loaner bikes, and his skills as an educator.
“There is just nothing like seeing a kid’s face light up when you put them on a bicycle…and the great pride that they feel if they can get rid of their training wheels,” Ron said.
In October, Trailnet sponsored the first ever Bike Week at Froebel Literacy Academy in Dutchtown. With Ron’s help and his fleet of bicycles, over two hundred students received bike helmets and got a chance to practice biking through an obstacle course or to do some free riding around the playground.
Froebel’s Family and Community Specialist Von Smith said, “It was a great experience for our students to be able to ride ‘with the wind’ and receive a cool helmet for participating!” Many of the students asked if Trailnet would be coming back again the following week.
“At each turn there are three signs – a warning sign, a sign at the turn, and a confirmation after the turn,” Ron explained. “Every 10 miles you’ll also see a sign along the route. So as you go across the state, you don’t even need a map, although Bike Route 76 is printed on the back of our MoDOT maps now.”
We at Trailnet are grateful to have a strong voice at the state level looking out for the needs of pedestrians and bicyclists. For his part, Ron realizes the important role that groups like Trailnet play: “I’ve developed partnerships with all of the local advocacy organizations. My hope is that we can all work together to decide on what goals are most important and join forces to accomplish those goals.” Ron welcomes your input. If you have ideas, questions, suggestions or concerns that you would like to share, e-mail Ron at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you look up the word “sag” in Webster’s dictionary, you will find this definition: “to hang down in the middle especially because of weight or weakness.” That definition might apply to some bicyclists, but for most, the word is an acronym for Support And Gear. Trailnet can thank Stewart Drolet for providing some of our most reliable and versatile SAG services.
His work with Trailnet is not the first time that Stewart has taken his mechanical skills on the road. After owning a bike shop in his hometown of O’Fallon, Illinois from 1994 through 2004, he started a traveling bike repair service, working out of a 16-foot step van. He describes one of his successful forays into mobile bike repair:
“I got together with a guy in St. Louis who put the word out to all of the tenants in his apartment building – I worked on the bikes all day and when people got home, their bikes were ready to go,” Stewart said. “I really liked that but eventually the truck died.”
In his current job, Stewart works on airplanes instead of bikes, but he continues to get his bike “fix” through his work as a Bicycle Fun Club SAG driver.
“I really enjoy all of the people, I like being outside and I love fixing things,” Stuart said. “I like being able to see something that’s broken work again. We get a lot of people that are doing 100 miles for the first time because they have the support. Lots of these folks just wouldn’t feel confident doing it on their own.”
Many bicyclists that participate in these rides may not realize the commitment of time and energy given by the SAG drivers. “I usually leave the house by 5 a.m. to start putting water out so it’s ready for the early riders,” Stewart said. “I bring my own tools and repair stand. Between doing repairs, moving supplies around, and picking up riders, you keep really busy all day. Even though SAG support usually ends at 3 p.m., you still have to collect everything, so you may not finish until six in the evening.”
The repairs Stewart makes range from airing up tires, to adjusting brakes and derailleurs. His most complicated fix was completely rebuilding a rider’s wheel that had become “untensioned” within a few miles of the start. His most frequent task is fixing flat tires.
“I had a group come in who had three flats on the same tire between downtown and the Chain of Rocks Bridge,” he said. “When I checked it out, I found a wire stuck in the tire. They were surprised that they kept getting flats with such a ‘small hole.’”
In addition to his mechanical expertise, Stewart uses his skills as a photographer to benefit Trailnet. He frequently volunteers his time taking photos at Trailnet events, and occasionally takes photos on the rides. Stewart also does his part to spread the word about Trailnet on the Illinois side of the river. He lets his friends and co-workers know about Trailnet events and encourages them to go on the rides.
As for himself, Stewart said he has too many work and family obligations to bike these days. But he remembers always being into bikes, and introduced his daughter to biking when she was an infant.
“When I had the bicycle shop, my daughter came to work with me,” he said. “I would pull her to work in my bike trailer and take her on any errands that I had.”
Stewart believes that encouraging more kids to bicycle should be a focus for Trailnet. He was pleased to hear that Trailnet has “Bike Weeks” planned at three area schools this fall: two in Kirkwood and one in south St. Louis. Stewart said he’s happy his daughter still rides a bicycle and hopes that Trailnet will be able to “teach more kids about bike safety and give them opportunities to ride – do outreach to more schools and maybe even provide loaner bikes. If kids got a chance to ride, maybe they would ask for a bike for Christmas instead of a video game.”
Murmuration Festival Bike Valet
Trailnet will be providing free, secure bike parking at the Murmuration Festival in the Cortex Innovation Community September 23 through 25. This three-day event, named after the patterns produced by flocks of starlings in flight, celebrates the intersection of music, art, science and technology.
Show your support for active transportation and check out this exciting event. Volunteers receive a t-shirt and a single-day music pass (good for the day of your shift). Water and snacks will be provided at the bike valet station.
Celebrate Labor Day weekend by listening to great music and making it easy for people to ride their bikes to the Big Muddy Blues Festival. This year’s festival will be even bigger and better, and we’ll be providing free bike valet for all of the cool people who will be biking to the Landing.
Sign up here to volunteer on Saturday, Sept. 3. Volunteers receive a FREE PASS to the festival (Saturday only).
Plan on riding your bike? We’ll meet at Big Daddy’s in Soulard for a “slow roll” down to Laclede’s Landing. Click here for info.
Dean Wette enjoys challenging himself by setting personal goals. When he got into bicycling three years ago, he wanted to maximize the number of miles he put in the saddle. Averaging 150 to 200 miles per week, he has bicycled more than 6,000 miles each year. He rode 15 centuries in 2015, some of them on Trailnet BFC and nonprofit partner rides, qualifying Dean as a Trailnet Century Club member.
Riding 15 centuries in a year is an accomplishment he shares with several of his friends, demonstrating the physical challenge involved as well as the camaraderie he enjoys in cycling. Although he loves the social aspects of bicycling, Dean found himself riding solo a couple of years ago, noting, “I wanted to see if I could ride a hundred miles in all sub-freezing temperatures. I got 70 miles in at 24 degrees, but then the roads got so slick from snow that I had to stop.”
So what could be so great about being on a bike that Dean braves frigid temperatures and spends so many hours rolling on two wheels?
Climbing in Augusta during Big Shark’s 2016 Vino Fondo Mondo ride. Photo: Kim Morris, kimmorris.com
“It’s just fun!” he said. “You never really know where you live until you get on a bike. You can explore the entire metropolitan area. There’s just no way to really experience things if you’re in a car, and if you are a runner or walker, you just can’t cover the miles that you can on a bike.”
Most of the miles Dean rides are for recreation, although he did participate in Bike to Work Day this year, completing a 40-mile round trip commute. He and his wife do almost all of the Trailnet BFC rides every year.
“They bring cyclists of all capabilities together,” Dean said of Trailnet’s events, adding, “It shows them that there is a real community that they can belong to.”
In addition to his participation in the BFC rides, Dean is a strong supporter of Trailnet’s Advocacy work.
“Trailnet has done a lot to make St. Louis safer for bicyclists,” he said.
Going forward, Dean believes Trailnet’s most important contributions will be to educate drivers and bicyclists about safely sharing the road. Although he appreciates efforts to increase the number of bike lanes in the region, he believes these infrastructure changes should be met with education and maintenance.
“If a bike lane has bad pavement or a lot of debris, I won’t use it,” he said. “So the drivers get confused when they see a bike lane and I’m not in it. And ‘sharrows’ are even worse – drivers don’t know what they mean. All of this should be covered in driver’s ed and questions should be included on the driver’s test.”
Because issues sometimes come up with drivers and even with law enforcement, Dean carries Trailnet’s “Missouri Bicycle Law” cards with him when he rides.
“Sometimes drivers will tell me that I should be on the sidewalk, so I have the card to show them that that is not only unsafe, but also illegal,” he said.
Dean also sees bicyclists doing things that compromise safety:
“I still see cyclists riding in the wrong direction, on sidewalks, or desperately hugging the white line on streets when there isn’t enough room for cars to pass safely—in which case the cyclist should be taking the full lane,” Dean said. “I see a lot of bicycle commuters riding as if they’re just unwelcome guests on the road. I see it differently: I’m not blocking traffic, I am traffic!”
For this year, Dean will be seeking out routes with lots of hills. His current goal is to become a better climber. His abilities will be put to the test at the end of July, when he and his wife travel to Colorado to ride in the mountains with Dean’s brother. Dean credits bicycling for greatly improving his own health and is also amazed at the benefits of cycling for his brother, who has Parkinson’s disease.
“When I got back into riding three years ago, I had a diagnosis of pre-diabetes and pre-hypertension,” Dean said. “I wanted to get healthy without medication. It worked. I now have great blood pressure and my blood sugar dropped down to ideal levels. Cycling also nearly eliminated my chronic lower back pain, got me off medication for high cholesterol and helped get my allergies under control, not to mention reducing stress in my life. For my brother, bicycling has really helped to control his symptoms, and has allowed him to live a more normal life.”
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.
Bike to Work Day, the highlight of National Bike Month, was founded in 1956 by the League of American Bicyclists. Every year, the League assesses each of the 50 states in terms of facilities that encourage bicycle commuting. Missouri is currently ranked 34th in the nation.
“We want to make St. Louis one of the best cities for walking and biking in the country by 2030,” says Trailnet Executive Director Ralph Pfremmer. “The assets of our community will most certainly attract and retain talented young people and entrepreneurs, adding to the vitality and economic prosperity of our region.”
The number of bicyclists is growing rapidly from coast to coast. The National Household Travel Survey showed that the number of trips made by bicycle in the US more than doubled from 1.7 billion in 2001 to 4 billion in 2009.
Trailnet works to make a more bike friendly and walkable St. Louis.
“We have a lot of facilities in place: greenways and infrastructure on the streets, and we have a lot of riders that commute to work. We are doing well but we can do better, and that’s what Trailnet works for,” says Pfremmer.
Many thanks to the Great Rivers Greenway District for providing funding for Bike to Work Day, to all of the businesses who hosted refueling stations, and to the bike commuters who made it all happen!