Trailnet was invited to be a part of the signing of the St. Louis Safer Streets Bill on March 1. Here’s what that means, why we’re excited, and what more needs to be done.
On Wednesday morning, March 1, 2023, City of St. Louis Mayor Tishaura O. Jones signed the St. Louis Safer Streets Bill (also referred to as Board Bill 120) into law.
This is a huge win. It marks the City’s largest-ever investment into street safety and infrastructure, and Trailnet was invited to be a part of the ceremony.
We couldn’t have done this without support from our members and community.
Together, we have fought for pedestrians, bicyclists and transit users over the last three decades. We laid the groundwork for change by shifting the conversation, focusing on systems, and gradually building public support. We sounded the alarm about traffic violence with the Crash Report. We built relationships with decision makers and met with elected officials.
The work isn’t over, though. Now, the funding must be carefully applied, on a comprehensive scale, to the problems it hopes to solve.
As Trailnet CEO Cindy Mense said in her remarks to the press, “While improving infrastructure is crucial, it will not, on its own, deter reckless drivers or put an end to the plague of traffic violence…. Trailnet and our partners stand ready to work with the administration in pursuing a vision of zero traffic injuries and fatalities on our streets.”
Together, we will continue to fight for Streets for All.
From intern to Programs Director, Taylor March left a lasting impact on Trailnet and the St. Louis region. Now, he is taking his talents to the state level, advocating for better walking and biking across Missouri as the new Executive Director of Missourians for Responsible Transportation.
For eight years, Taylor was the smiling face of Trailnet. It’s only right that we reflect on the legacy he leaves behind—a legacy of kindness, knowledge, professionalism and passion.
Taylor first joined Trailnet as an intern in the winter of 2010, while he was studying environmental engineering at Murray State University. He had worked as a bike mechanic since high school and was an avid environmentalist.
Though he didn’t know it then, Taylor’s passion for Trailnet’s mission (and his handiness with an Allen wrench) would serve the organization for years down the line.
Five years after his internship, having worked for several years as a solar engineer in between, Taylor returned to Trailnet on February 24, 2015 as our Youth Programs Specialist.
In his first full-time role, he led Trailnet’s bike education programs and designed our curriculum for smart cycling. He also worked on a number of Safe Routes to School projects, including one with Froebel Literacy Academy in south city. Taylor worked with Froebel through eight years and a handful of title changes at Trailnet.
“Working with Froebel and seeing that relationship develop and change throughout the years was so satisfying,” said Taylor. “From the walking school bus, to the installation of speed humps on Nebraska Ave., to the Calm Street now under construction on nearby Louisiana Ave… It was really cool to see the community buy in.”
Advocating for Change
Midway through his tenure with Trailnet, Taylor shifted his focus to the advocacy and policy spaces. As a long-time bike commuter, he was a natural advocate for safe, alternative transportation. As a leading expert in bike/ped best practices, he influenced change-makers across the state. And as an exemplary colleague, he fostered relationships that would blossom into our strongest partnerships today. To name a few…
Taylor co-created the annual Juneteenth Community Ride with our partners at 4theVille and grew the ride into a collaboration between the Missouri History Museum, Northside Community Housing and other aligned partners. The event draws over 200 riders each June and celebrates Black music, art, culture and history.
Taylor spearheaded our state-wide advocacy efforts. In collaboration with BikeWalkKC, Local Motion in Columbia, and Ozark Greenways, he helped create Missourians for Responsible Transportation and Hands-Free Missouri.
The Work Continues
Now, Taylor is off to lead the statewide partnership that he once helped to create. Trailnet looks forward to many more years of collaboration with Taylor and his team at MRT.
“Trailnet will miss him and his careful and precise explanations of the transportation system we are trying to change, his help changing a flat, and his ability to always find time to listen,” said Trailnet CEO Cindy Mense.
For your years of dedication—Thank you, Taylor! Let’s continue to work together to make Missouri better for people outside of cars.
Trailnet says: Funding Process for Infrastructure Improvements in St. Louis City Needs to Change
The next time you buy something in the City of St. Louis, take note of the sales tax at the bottom of the receipt. A portion of that tax has been the city’s primary means of funding infrastructure improvements since 1993. Thirty years later, the process for allocating that tax funding, called “Ward Capital,” is being reconsidered. Here’s why that number on your receipt matters, how the funding is currently being used and why the funding process needs to change.
The City of St. Louis currently has a ½-cent sales tax in place. This tax collects, on average, $8 million per year for capital improvements in the city. That sum is currently the City’s primary means of funding infrastructure improvements in all 28 wards.
At the beginning of each fiscal year, the $8 million total is split into 28 equal parts and distributed evenly to each ward. That’s about $300,000 per year, per ward, to be spent on capital improvement projects—filling potholes, replacing streetlights, street trees, improving sidewalks, etc.
If an alderperson chooses to spend their Ward Capital, they must first submit a project proposal. Once the project is approved, the alderperson takes the necessary funding from their pot of accrued Ward Capital and gives it right back to a city department. Ninety-eight percent of the Ward Capital from all 28 wards ends up in the hands of the Streets Department.
The current system is convoluted. It also further divides our city.
Our streets do not stop and start at ward boundaries, nor do each of these wards have the same needs. This system allocates funding equally, not equitably, and results in fractured, short-term solutions applied at the whims of 28 politicians.
A convoluted system
Let’s revisit the $300,000 per ward. That sounds like a lot of money, but according to St. Louis Board of Aldermen President Megan Green, recent traffic calming projects around Tower Grove Park cost over $1 million. Her ward received a grant for that work, but had Green relied solely on ward capital, she would have had to sit on her yearly allocation for at least four years to save enough money for those few improvements, and no other projects in her ward, such as street lighting or dumpster replacement, would have been funded in that timeframe.
Meanwhile, Tyus, who chairs the City’s Streets, Traffic, and Refuse Committee, has saved up nearly $2 million in Ward Capital over the years. Tyus has previously claimed obstacles to spending the money on her desired projects.
“‘They won’t spend it,’ she said at a board meeting in December. ‘They haven’t. I’ve been requesting. I can show you the letter.’”
Currently, alderpersons have $8 million in accumulated ward capital money that could be in use to repair our infrastructure.
Divisive and fractured
Whether they’re saving money for one big project or spending it on immediate needs, it’s clear that the current system leaves alders with no choice but to apply a patchwork of fixes to a city-wide network.
In her Riverfront Times Op-Ed, Mayor Jones hinted at a bigger-picture need, for which Trailnet has been desperately advocating—the need for a comprehensive plan in the City of St. Louis.
Ward-by-ward “piecemeal solutions” prevent the city from effectively planning for a safer, more accessible transportation network. If the Streets Department doesn’t know what projects lie ahead—if city departments are paralyzed by the inaction of individual leaders—they are not afforded the time or resources to plan for long-term fixes, staffing needs, or equipment purchases.
If the city continues to react only to the small-scale symptoms (potholes, crumbling curbs, etc.) of a large-scale, decades-old problem, our streets will never be safe for people outside of cars.
Whatever the new comprehensive system is, it needs to take into account the areas of greatest need.
Trailnet recently completed a full sidewalk assessment of The Ville and Greater Ville neighborhoods—the first complete study of its kind in the St. Louis area. Trailnet’s Community Planner walked over 30 miles of sidewalk, marking sections that were ADA-non-compliant, inaccessible or nonexistent. Forty-seven percent of the 61 miles of sidewalk assessed in The Ville and Greater Ville were in need of significant repair.
This study is emblematic of the largest issue with the current system—different wards have different needs. Trailnet’s annual Crash Reports identify the highest crash corridors across the city. Our analysis of crash data consistently reveals a glaring truth: Black and minority communities suffer from a disproportionate amount of traffic violence. The state of the streets, sidewalks and intersections on the Northside is one of the reasons why that disparity exists.
As a result of decades of disinvestment, Northside streets and sidewalks need far more attention and funding. It is unacceptable that all of these areas currently receive proportionate funding to address disproportionate realities.
The northside wards are the areas of highest need—the areas where it’s unsafe to walk, bike or catch a bus. These are the areas that must be identified as the highest priorities in the city’s comprehensive plan. These are the areas that must receive the largest investment from the ½-cent sales tax.
A number of systems might work more effectively than the current one. What matters most is that the current system be replaced by something better, something equitable, something that makes sense.
Trailnet’s recommendation is that the city do away with the ward-based capital improvement system. Instead, centralize the funding structure under one city department, and ensure that the money is being invested based on the infrastructure needs identified by a future comprehensive street study, as well as demographics such as poverty levels and car ownership. Treat the whole body, not its disparate parts, in pursuit of a safe system for everyone.
If you agree, contact the President of the Board’s office and your alderperson to voice your opinion. As the city moves from 28 to 14 wards this year, there will be many changes. A new and improved system for funding infrastructure improvements must be one of those changes, so that when you pay that sales tax, you know your money is being used to make our whole city better.
Trailnet will continue to advocate for a new system that better serves the people moving around our city. To stay informed on our advocacy work in the City, subscribe to our newsletters here.
Trailnet’s Work With The Ville & Greater Ville Neighborhoods
From our earliest collaborations, to the annual Juneteenth Community Ride, to transportation planning in 2022: What we’re working on in these historic neighborhoods, and why the work matters.
Since 2014, Trailnet has worked with community partners like 4TheVille and Northside Community Housing, Inc. within the Ville and Greater Ville neighborhoods to help plan for safer, slower, and greener residential streets.
Regular Trailnet riders will recognize the name 4TheVille—the community-based tourism and arts organization created by multi-generational Ville residents and volunteers to restore pride in the legacy of The Ville—as our perennial partner on the Juneteenth Community Ride. But our partnership has grown well beyond one ride.
EPA-Funded Traffic Calming
In 2019, Trailnet received a grant from the Environmental Protection Agency’s Environmental Justice Collaborative Problem-Solving program. This funding was aimed at (1) making it easier for people in The Ville/Greater Ville to get around and (2) exploring opportunities for green infrastructure to address negative environmental and health impacts in the neighborhoods.
In September of 2021, Trailnet partnered with 4TheVille to host a pop-up park and traffic calming demonstration at MLK Drive and North Sarah Street. The event celebrated the Ville’s heritage, highlighted talented Black artists, and imagined the Ville’s potential.
The 2021 traffic calming pop-up event also allowed us to survey community residents on their current transportation patterns and priority areas for improvement:
The Cultural Boulevard
In 2022, we began consulting on 4TheVille’s Cultural Boulevard Project, which aims to transform a stretch of Dr. Martin Luther King Dr. into a walkable, bikeable hub of culture, history and economic development in North St. Louis.
“One of the things that impacts the residents of this community directly is unsafe streets… So we’re considering how this project can create safer streets in the community,” said 4TheVille Co-Founder Aaron Williams of the Cultural Boulevard Project.
Full Sidewalk Assessment
Also in May 2022, one Trailnet planner began an in-depth sidewalk assessment of The Ville & Greater Ville neighborhoods. Over the course of five months, she surveyed 68 miles of sidewalks! The completed map (right) is littered with colored marks, which represent sections of sidewalk that are inaccessible or in disrepair. This map is the first of its kind—a full sidewalk assessment for a single St. Louis neighborhood.
In early 2023, Trailnet along with our partners will have completed a plan—called the Low-stress, Green, Bicycle-and-Pedestrian Infrastructure (LGBPI) plan—which we’re hoping, along with last year’s community survey results and this year’s sidewalk assessment, will inform the City of St. Louis’ future investments in safer Streets for All.
The Ville & Greater Ville neighborhoods comprise 1.4-square-miles of one of the most historically significant pockets of Black history, art and culture in the entire country. Yet, 100% of the census tracts in this once-thriving community have now been identified by the Department of Transportation’s Safe Streets and Roads for All discretionary program as environmentally, economically, and health disadvantaged.
These are also communities with disproportionately low rates of personal vehicle ownership and high rates of public transit use. Yet, years of disinvestment have left their sidewalks and streets inaccessible and unsafe for people outside of cars.
As Trailnet aims to direct our local advocacy efforts toward the areas of greatest need, we will continue to implore local leaders to invest in neighborhoods like The Ville & Greater Ville, with the hope that someday soon our streets will be safe and accessible for everyone, everywhere.
Board Bill 120: What is it, and why should you care?
A provision for equitably implemented enforcement, such as automated enforcement, which would reduce traffic violence and dangerous driving behaviors without adding to current racially biased enforcement strategies,
A line item that explicitly names the city’s commitment to Vision Zero, and the creation of a position to oversee and follow-through on said commitment to a Vision Zero plan.
This amount of money, if used correctly, could be seriously transformative—the first draft of the bill proposes over 4x the average yearly annual budget that goes toward street maintenance in the city.
This is a massive step in the right direction. Trailnet is proud of the part we have played in advocating for these changes. Now we look forward to helping the City make these improvements as quickly and effectively as possible, so that sometime in the near future, our Streets can truly be forAll.
Trailnet CEO: St. Louis Mayor Proposes Additional Funding for Safe Streets
Trailnet is excited that Mayor Tishaura O. Jones will propose that the Board of Aldermen approve the investment of an additional $40 million in ARPA funding for Safe Streets. This is a bold move by the Jones Administration to begin to address one of the most critical issues our City faces—the epidemic of traffic violence.
In her press release, Mayor Jones acknowledged that ward-by-ward street planning is not working: “Piecemeal solutions to a crisis that touches our entire city sets us up to fail time and time again,” said Mayor Jones.
Chief of Staff Jared Boyd also announced at a traffic safety town hall meeting Monday that there would be immediate work on “crash corridors” where vehicle crashes and fatalities are the highest.
While these are positive steps, Trailnet acknowledges that implementation may be the hardest part. There must be rigorous and sustained public input into road changes. How will this system take into consideration the drastically underfunded and underserved areas of our city? Will new street designs prioritize people who walk, bike and use transit? Will automated enforcement be incorporated into the new street system? Will all of this be enough to help us achieve our vision of zero traffic fatalities in the City in the near future?
Trailnet stands ready to assist the City moving forward with community engagement, planning and other critical support areas. It is our hope that the additional funding outlined in Mayor Jones’s announcement will help create safer Streets For All.
— Cindy Mense, Trailnet CEO
Trailnet Optimistic About Citywide Street Study
City of St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones told reporters in an interview session on Thursday, September 22, 2022 that the City intends to explore more comprehensive planning and budgeting in pursuit of Safe Streets for All in St. Louis.
Trailnet is excited about this announcement and encouraged that the Jones administration is looking to address the epidemic of traffic violence in our region. Read more in the press release below:
In response to the continued epidemic of traffic violence in our region, Trailnet is partnering with the Community Mobility Committee (CMC) to lead a series of discussions on street safety. The goal of these discussions will be to provide recommendations to the administration and the community on ways to make our city streets safer for all.
We’re halfway through the year, which means it’s time for the second quarterly Crash Report of 2022. The quarterly Crash Reports compare the number of bicycle, pedestrian, and vehicular crashes over a three-month period to the same time period in the previous year. The Quarter 2 Report examines crashes from April 2022 to June 2022.
When comparing April – June 2022 crashes to April – June 2021 crashes, there are a few trends worth noting.
There’s been a noticeable decrease in the number of pedestrian crashes for both St. Louis City and County
Car crashes resulting in a fatality increased significantly in St. Louis City from 13 to 21 for this time period in 2022
For the first time since 2018, a person riding a bike was killed in the City of St. Louis
High crash corridors in St. Louis continue to be problematic for the safety of people walking. Roads like N. Lindbergh, W. Florissant, and Halls Ferry continue to be above average in the number of pedestrian crashes
We’re also releasing a mid-year breakdown of bike, pedestrian, and fatal car crashes for 2022. Click on the photo below to see the trends for crashes from January – June of 2022. Below are some noticeable trends for the first half of 2022:
Pedestrian deaths are the same as they were at this time in 2021
In St. Louis City, car crashes resulting in a fatality are up 75% from 2021 to 2022
Total bike crashes for St. Louis City and County have increased from 2021 to 2022
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.
“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. email@example.com or 618-576-9013