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Connecting Transportation to Land Use and Housing Policy

When looking at other cities around the United States and abroad, it’s apparent that comprehensive and interconnected walking, biking, and public transportation networks are vital to sustainable and healthy communities. But transportation doesn’t function in a vacuum. For these networks and systems to succeed, people of all backgrounds and incomes must have access.

Alongside Trailnet’s commitment to making walking and biking viable transportation options across age, race, gender, and income level, we are continuing to unpack how transportation infrastructure connects to other sectors. In this article we begin to explore how active transportation systems should exist alongside land use and housing policies. 

“A developed country is not a place where the poor have cars. It’s where the rich use public transportation.” -Gustavo Petro, Colombian politician

If we build protected bikeways and greenways between our neighborhoods, it can lead to an increase in demand for housing parallel to that investment, and rightfully so. If built correctly, protected bikeways and greenways are fantastic amenities that prioritize people over cars, offer comfortable places to rest and connect with one another, and offer a healthy commuting alternative. So much so that Trail-oriented Development is now national lingo.

However, in some St. Louis neighborhoods–specifically where vacancy rates are already low–it’s difficult to imagine that the supply of housing could meet the new demand without triggering an increase in rent and housing prices. That’s why modern transportation networks must be implemented alongside housing and land use changes–to avoid displacement. We don’t just need to build transportation networks in a way that creates environmentally sustainable places, we must also build networks that are socially and financially sustainable for current and future residents. 

“History has repeatedly demonstrated that investment without protective equitable policy and process mechanisms leads to gentrification and the subsequent displacement of residents in low-income and communities of color.” (1)

The St. Louis region is becoming increasingly aware that policy and outcomes are linked in ways that make it impossible to address one topic or service in isolation without having unintended and often negative consequences somewhere else. 

We must recognize that in order for St. Louis to be the healthy, active, and vibrant place we envision, we must team up and be prepared to support policies that aren’t always directly connected to pedestrians or cyclists.

When it comes to avoiding displacement as transportation infrastructure increases housing investment in low-income areas of St. Louis, Trailnet is exploring every angle to maintain and increase affordable housing.

One example may include Community Land Trusts. CLTs purchase and retain ownership of land to ensure ongoing use for community purposes. They promote long-term affordability for renters and homeowners by removing the price of land from the home’s cost, reducing the degree to which rising land values inflate the cost of the home.

In the future, you’ll hear more from us on these topics, and we’ll do our best to explain how the different land-use and housing policies that we are helping push forward work to accomplish our transportation goals, and our vision for a healthy, active, and vibrant St. Louis for all.

Click Here to read the full land use policy recommendations from Connecting St. Louis, and learn more about what we believe is necessary to achieve our vision for a healthy, active, and vibrant St. Louis for all.

(1) https://www.buildhealthyplaces.org/whats-new/opportunity-zones-who-benefits/

Trailnet Champion: Cycle St. Louis

This month’s Trailnet Champion is Cycle St. Louis. This group is committed to building an inclusive cycling community in the St. Louis region by creating cycling opportunities for people with disabilities, and where everyone (all ages and abilities) ca n ride together. Read on for a Q&A about how Cycle St. Louis and Trailnet are working together to make bicycling more fun and accessible for everyone.

How have Cycle St. Louis and Trailnet worked together in the past? How did your relationship begin?

At one of our Cycle St. Louis meetings in late 2017, the partner organizations discussed the key stakeholders we needed to engage in order to be more effective in creating cycling opportunities for people with disabilities. Trailnet was at the top of the list because they’re key to making cycling a way of life in the St. Louis area and they host an amazing portfolio of community rides. In early 2018 we started a conversation with Trailnet and immediately we both realized our mission of developing solutions for people of all ages and abilities aligned perfectly. After discussion, we did a test ride at the 2018 Bridge Birthday Bash Ride by inviting people with disabilities to participate. It was a huge success and showed both organizations what was possible by partnering together.

What excites Cycle St. Louis about our collaboration as we explore new opportunities in 2019 and 2020?
We’re very excited Trailnet has made all their rides “inclusive” for people with disabilities. That means a short route where cyclists can turn around at any point and head back to the start. For some people with disabilities, a mile or two is a long ride. In addition, Trailnet has very generously made their rides free for Cycle St. Louis participants.

Cycle St. Louis is now part of Trailnet’s Ride Committee and we’re thrilled to be at the table with the cycling community at large because we believe people of all ages and abilities should be riding together, whether it’s commuting on the streets of St. Louis or at a community ride for recreation. Given that 15 to 20 percent of our community has a disability, this inclusion is important.

What are your thoughts on our Connecting St. Louis plan?

We’re very pleased the plan includes “all ages and abilities” and we are committed to working with Trailnet and others to help make that a reality. People with disabilities face some unique challenges to cycling and mobility, and need access to cultural centers, neighborhoods and business districts, so having a voice in planning efforts is vitally important.

Trailnet’s mission includes accommodating people of all ages and abilities. What feedback are you getting from your partners and the people you serve?

Our partners are elated about Trailnet’s inclusive mission and this partnership. The alignment couldn’t be better. Also, Trailnet has an amazing network and influence that can help Cycle St. Louis achieve its vision and mission. We believe that integration is important, that we’re all one community and the needs of all of us need to be considered. We all ride the same road!

What are St. Louis’ biggest barriers to safer walking and biking and how can we work to overcome them?

The current focus of Cycle St. Louis is access to cycles, training, and cycling opportunities for people with disabilities. We fully realize that safety for walkers and cyclists is important for everyone. There are unique access and safety considerations for people with disabilities, such as wider cycling lanes and trails needed for adapted cycles. Addressing these considerations would also enhance safety for the general population. Other infrastructure challenges need to be addressed in planning new projects as the example below highlights.

-During a walk to a park last year with blind and visually impaired children, we encountered a light pole in the middle of a sidewalk, and occasionally no sidewalk at all, among other obstacles.

Why are you and your partners so passionate about transportation related work?

Our partners work with people with disabilities every day and realize they make up a significant part of our community. We believe people with disabilities should have the opportunity to realize the amazing benefits that cycling provides, including a sense of freedom and independence, fitness, opportunities for socialization, and an important mode of transportation, which connects people to services, social opportunities and communities to each other. And, cycling is simply fun – how many of us remember the thrill of our first bike ride and still get a thrill when cycling? Many people with disabilities simply don’t have the opportunities to even get on a cycle.

I’ve been volunteering with the Delta Gamma Center for 12 years, tandem cycling with blind and visually impaired children. I know first-hand how magical it is to share the joy of cycling, especially with people that don’t typically have the opportunity. Recreation and transportation/mobility work needs to be inclusive of this large community. The attitudes of others have the greatest impact on access to sports for people with disabilities. For too many years, “she has no business doing that” was an all too common refrain. We need to embrace inclusion, paving the way for others to do so as well.

In your opinion what makes a city thrive?

There are so many important ingredients that make cities thrive. I’ve traveled all over the world for business and have seen ancient cities (compared to US cities) that have been reengineered for active and public transportation. These cities are thriving economically, are culturally vibrant and the people seem happier and healthier. I believe active and public transportation is the right long-term investment, but we need to be inclusive in our policies and how we execute solutions.

Any other final thoughts or words?

Cycle St. Louis is grateful for our partnership with Trailnet and very excited about what we can accomplish together. We feel we’re just scratching the surface and through awareness building, communications and joint programs, we’ll have a huge impact on the entire community in the near future.

The Katy Land Trust | Across STL

Conserving Missouri’s Hudson River Valley

By Andrew Cooperman

Great cities have great landscapes,” said Dan Burkhardt, who founded the Katy Land Trust (KLT) with his wife, Connie. “New York, San Francisco, Austin, Miami are all identified with what surrounds and adjoins them. The Missouri River Valley is St. Louis’ Hudson River and Napa Valley, Texas Hill Country and Everglades — and it all begins less than 45 minutes from the Arch. And like those landscapes, ours needs advocates.”

Land trusts work to bring attention to the value of the countryside, to remind all of us that the expanses of natural beauty, the farms and forests, that surround our cities can be permanently protected or they can become victims of development. Almost 30 years ago — the anniversary is in 2020 — a huge gift from Pat and Ted Jones forged the Katy Trail, a 225-mile reinvention of the old Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad line that allows exploration of this area. Stretching across Missouri, the trail is now a 280-mile linear park, the longest in the nation.

Nine years ago, the Katy Land Trust (KLT) was formed to advocate for and protect that park and the land that surrounds it — the farms and vineyards that soften the blufftop views of the Missouri River Valley. Sometimes that means stripping out invasive bush honeysuckle along the trail or planting native trees. Sometimes it means educating landowners about conserving their property. But the mission expanded fast to include historic and cultural preservation, as well as a little horn-blowing to make sure everyone in the region — and any tourist who shows up — knows the beauty and significance of this valley.

Connecting small river towns, the river valley is home to the first American Viticultural Area. Decorated with grapes and sheltered by forested hills, its wide cornfields were enriched by the river bottom. “And all historians know that the 100 river miles from Hermann to the Confluence are unrivaled in history-per-mile,” Burkhardt added.

In 2014, he and Connie bought the Peers Store near Marthasville to save it from demolition. Not long after, they bought the Treloar Mercantile nearby. Restoring those two stores meant more than historic preservation; it resurrected all the stories they held — a century of provisioning along the river, along the railroad, surrounded by small farms. Less than 4 miles apart, Peers and Treloar bookend an important stretch of the German Heritage Corridor. This stretch along the old railroad line “teaches us so much about our history,” Burkhardt said. “The two stores at either end are now tangible examples of what preservation can accomplish. They’re also a perfect way to demonstrate that to people who don’t have conservation as a top-of-mind issue. And visitors are coming from all over the world.”

Culturally, the Treloar Mercantile and Peers Store also “offer wonderful opportunities to showcase our state’s rich German heritage,” said Steve Belko of the Missouri Humanities Council. His work helped secure Peers a spot on the National Register of Historic Places, and he was gratified to see that “the Treloar Mercantile still retains much of its original architecture and interior.”

The KLT is making the most of the building’s setting, too. Back in 1896, when the Treloar Mercantile Building was erected to welcome the new railroad, an elm sapling grew up next to it. For more than a century, that tree lent its shade. Then it died a natural death, so when the Burkhardt’s bought the building, they also bought a magnificent dead tree. Rather than cut it down, they had it reduced to a 12-foot stump and brought in a talented carver to “remove everything that didn’t look like an ear of Missouri corn.” What’s left is a wooden homage to the crop that grew in the river bottom, filled the grain elevators, and kept the area thriving.

On one of those old corrugated-tin grain elevators, the KLT hung banners of artist Bryan Haynes’ work. Regularly compared to Thomas Hart Benton, he shrugs off the comparison, saying the landscape itself — its crooks and hollows, curves and bends — dictates a certain visual language. The paintings that decorate the elevators depict old-time farmers harvesting a wheat field and Missouri’s state bird, the bluebird, taking flight over a vineyard of Missouri’s state grape, the Norton.

Another installation is on a vine-covered silo at McKittrick, across the river from Hermann. There, two of Billyo O’Donnell’s small, vivid, thickly textured oil paintings have been blown up to show, from miles away, glimpses of what he considers “the most beautiful place in the world.” One shows two boats tied ashore at Berger Bend; the other is a scene just upstream of the grand limestone bluffs. At the Peers Store, the art form that’s capturing the region is music. Peers was originally the Glosemeyer General Store. It opened in 1896, because commerce was lively in the growing communities along the new KATY railroad. Linus and Loretta Glosemeyer ran the store for almost 60 years. Now, it’s a welcome post for residents and trail users, run as a nonprofit. And its wide, gingerbread-trimmed front porch is the perfect place to make a little music.

Rick Funcik coordinates that front-porch music, which feels spontaneous but happens nearly every Saturday and Sunday, noon to 4 p.m., April through October. “It’s about as non-commercial as it gets,” he said. “What we try to re-create is a scene that would have happened 100, maybe 150 years ago, when a general store was the social focal point — along with the church! — of a small town on the Missouri River.”

Local musicians show up and play, and people drop in — no admission price — and stay for a while, sip a cold soda, maybe stroll through the pollinator garden between the store and the Katy Trail. Often longer than they planned.

“We’ve heard blues, freedom songs, barndance tunes, and a lot of river songs,” said Funcik. He’s been touched by the musicians’ “deep respect for the music our ancestors made. The depth of historical knowledge is amazing.” He’s also touched by the musicians’ patience when a small child is fascinated by their instrument and wants to try it out: “That’s ‘folk’ music at its best!”

The only puzzle piece still missing is the folk music of the German families who settled and farmed the Missouri valley. Funcik’s hunting for those melodies.

Meanwhile, the KLT continues to support and promote local artists and glass-blowers, quaint old railroad towns, breathtaking views from the bluffs, and food and wine for the trail-goers.

Land trusts are one of the most effective conservation measures around. They’re nonprofit, community-based, and voluntary. And while they may sound gentle, even a little passive, they fight some urgent battles. KLT’s biggest recent preservation project was its campaign to block the Missouri Bluffs subdivision from sucking up public land, destroying views, and disrupting the forest’s ecological balance. “Conservationists and philanthropists have worked for decades to protect this area and create a place for public enjoyment. It’s our turn to make sure that effort isn’t wasted,” said Burkhardt.

Over the years, the KLT has produced CDs featuring river music, funded hundreds of bluegrass performances, helped develop a river camping experience, made TV documentaries, sponsored campaigns to eradicate invasive bush honeysuckle, bought and rehabbed abandoned buildings, and fought legal battles for preservation.

But many Missourians know that the Burkhardts are working in Missouri River Country because of two books that they wrote and published. In 2013, Dan published a lushly-photographed coffee-table book, Missouri River Country: 100 Miles of Stories from Hermann to the Confluence. This anthology tapped more than 60 Missourians who wrote original essays about their experiences with the Missouri River valley.

In 2016, the Burkhardts wrote a second book for younger conservationists and their families. Growing Up with the River: Nine Generations on the Missouri travels 100 miles, visiting different river towns from Lewis and Clark’s journey to the present. With beautiful original illustrations by Bryan Haynes, it is a history of the river valley through the experiences of children as they wonder about world changing around them — the trees, the river, the birds. and wildlife. Growing Up with the River received the Mom’s Choice Gold Award for Family Friendly Literature.

But Burkhardt, who conceived these books, sees them as more than literature. They are invitations — invitations asking all of us to jump on our bikes or to pile our families into the car.

“We’ve carved a 10-foot ear of corn from an old elm tree and hung art on grain elevators,” said Burkhardt, “all to connect people to the value and beauty of the Missouri landscape. Because people have all kinds of interests, we want to show them they can relate to our history and landscape in all kinds of ways. Everyone, lifelong Missourians included, need to get off Highway 70 and into the real Missouri countryside.”
Even the magazine in your hands is part of KLT’s efforts, in partnership with Trailnet, to raise awareness and appreciation of this extraordinary place and make sure it stays protected for years to come!

Across STL is a collaboration between the Katy Land Trust and Trailnet, telling the stories of the people and places that make up the St. Louis community.

This article was first published in Across STL Volume 3, click here to read the entire issue or sign up for your own physical copy of the magazine.

Juneteenth Photos

Check out the photos from our Juneteenth Celebration Community ride, part of Trailnet’s 2019 Community Rides Series. We visited important city landmarks where various storytellers highlighted the different aspects of the abolition of slavery and the significance of Juneteenth.

Thanks to our partners: DotZack – .ZACK4thevilleNorthside Community Housing, Inc.National Coalition of 100 Black Women – Metropolitan Saint Louis ChapterSt. Louis Storytelling Festival, & The State Historical Society of Missouri

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.

Trailnet Welcomes New CEO, Cindy Mense

Trailnet is pleased to announce Cindy Mense as its new CEO.

For more than 12 years, Cindy has been an integral part of Trailnet’s mission to lead in fostering healthy, active and vibrant communities where walking, bicycling, and the use of public transit are a way of life. The expertise, experience, and passion Cindy brings to her new role will help advance St. Louis toward being a world class city for walking and bicycling. Keep reading for a Q&A with Cindy.

When and why did you come to Trailnet?

When I first came to Trailnet more than 12 years ago, I was thrilled to be coordinating Trailnet’s walking school bus program. My own kids were school-age and starting to explore the world as pedestrians. It seemed so natural as a dietitian to be working with schools helping them get more kids engaged in daily physical activity.

I quickly learned that the design of our streets and sidewalks plays a role in the decision to walk to school. The solutions for getting more children walking to school involved not only building their skills, but addressing safety through policies that prioritize pedestrians and make actual changes to the street. As CEO, I continue to  be motivated by the challenges ahead and inspired by the staff who share the same values and vision for this organization and region.

What about Trailnet’s Mission motivates you the most?

Every day, Trailnet employees come to work motivated by the impact biking and walking can have on issues in St. Louis, whether we are focused on equity, economic development, or just overall quality of life. We love St. Louis, we seek data-driven solutions, try to provide equitable benefits, and we recognize the key role we play in addressing climate change.

Personally, I am motivated by the call to action for a more sustainable planet. In 2017 transportation overtook electric power as the biggest source of greenhouse gases in the U.S. Unfortunately, this isn’t surprising. Even as cars have become more fuel efficient, our street design and land-use choices continue to encourage and subsidize inefficient behaviors. We can, and must do better and it is my opinion that no city is more capable of reinventing itself around multimodal transportation than St. Louis. Our transportation and land-use systems can be redesigned to benefit everyone with seamless connectivity that supports using practical, sustainable, modes of transportation.

What do you want for St. Louis?

I want our streets to be places that welcome a new quality of life and embrace a personal experience. We are seeing small changes that bring our streets to life. These changes are carving out space for people, providing breathing room–so people can stretch their legs, pedal a bike, push a double wide stroller, or just sit outside. Adding places for people to become part of the street-scape is a great place to start.

How does Trailnet make that happen?

My greatest desire is to embed Trailnet into the fabric of our region. To fully understand St. Louis’ needs, we must get closer to those with the need. The staff are bursting with new ideas on how to foster and renew partnerships to advance our mission. I am open, listening and feeling their passion.

I plan to make the most of this new chapter, finding new ways to connect and deepen existing relationships. We can build mutually-beneficial partnerships that advance our region in ways that people will feel every day when they open their front door. When our streets are friendlier to all modes of transportation, we will have the choices that improve our quality of life and our air quality far into the future.

Trailnet will do what it’s done for 30 years. Foster partnerships and push to see our city and our region evolve. Smart. Vibrant. Sustainable.

Trailnet Champion: Bridget McAndrew

May’s Trailnet Champion is Bridget McAndrew, Clayton alderman and long-time advocate for safer biking and walking. She played a key role in the addition of protected bicycle lanes along one of Clayton’s downtown streets.

Check out this Q&A to learn more about Bridget’s dedication to transportation improvements.

How have you, Clayton, and Trailnet worked together in the past?

We moved to St. Louis about nine years ago and started going to Trailnet-sponsored events soon thereafter. My family enjoys being active outdoors so we are very supportive of an organization that strives to improve walking and biking in our region.

What work have you done, or are currently doing, to advance walking and biking in the region?

Approximately one year ago, I was elected to the Clayton Board of Aldermen. Around this time, the Board began to consider the addition of protected bike lanes along one of our streets in Downtown Clayton. Clayton adopted a Complete Streets Policy in 2012 that mandates we consider pedestrian and bike safety prior to approving new streets projects. After many public meetings and discussions, the Board did decide to add protected bike lanes down Maryland Avenue between Hanley and Forsyth.

Why are you passionate about transportation-related work?

I am concerned about both our environment and the health of our citizens. Multi-modal transportation is good for our world and supports healthier lives. If we can encourage communities to have safer streets, then I am confident that people will be more comfortable biking and walking to their destinations.

What are your thoughts on our Connecting St. Louis plan?

One of the arguments that I advanced in our bike lane discussions was that I wanted our community to be a part of St. Louis bike connections.  Downtown Clayton is a very busy place during the weekdays, but I wanted to make sure that we did not remain an island. I wanted bikes to be able to safely travel through Clayton rather than around it. I am also encouraged by the street calming that is prevalent on streets with bike lanes–thus promoting a better pedestrian experience. I’m so excited by Trailnet’s Connecting St. Louis plan. In St. Louis, we are so blessed by so many different neighborhoods. It would be so exciting to have a safe way to connect to all these great places by having protected bikeways and sidewalks.

What are some of the region’s biggest barriers to safer walking and biking? How can we work past them?

One of the biggest barriers I see is psychological. The majority of people in the St. Louis region love their cars and are not particularly open-minded when it comes to other types of transportation. People in cars honk at bikers and race in front of pedestrians who are trying to cross at pedestrian walkways. Pedestrians and bikers should be celebrated and the region needs to learn to be more tolerant of them. With the addition of more safe biking and walking options, I believe this psychological barrier will shift in a more positive direction.

Are you a bicyclist? If so, what keeps you pedaling?

I enjoy biking with my family and also go road biking when I am training for triathlons.  Exercise is a huge part of my life and I am grateful for the health and adrenalin benefits that I get from a great bike ride!

In your opinion, what makes a city thrive?

That is a big question! There are many factors that make a city thrive. I think that a motivated, engaged, diverse, and happy citizenry at multiple generations is vital. We moved to Clayton because we wanted to be able to walk and bike to places, live in a safe neighborhood, and send our children to good public schools. We are blessed to have all of those factors in Clayton. Thriving cities provide residents with convenient places to shop, eat, recreate, go to school and work. It goes without saying that thriving cities have strong economies and are looking at ways to attract new residents and new businesses. Lastly, I believe thriving cities benefit hugely from respected cultural institutions likes major universities that offer unique ideas and shared knowledge.

What do you do for fun?

I love to watch my children play sports and get together with our friends and family. We enjoy exploring new restaurants in town and going on bike rides or hikes as a family. I also love to sit on my deck and read a book!

Any final thoughts or words?

As a region, St. Louis is lucky to have an organization like Trailnet working hard to making our communities safer, healthier, and more vibrant. I look forward to seeing how Trailnet will help continue to transform St. Louis as we move into the future!

Trailnet Updates Laclede Intersection for a Day

Morning commuters who passed through the intersection of Laclede and Vandeventer on April 19 caught a glimpse of some proposed updates that will make St. Louis streets safer for all users. Trailnet’s pop-up demonstration utilized temporary materials to create a parklet that increased safety, comfort, and accessibility for those who walk and bike.

Trudy Luchini from Capstone Development LLC and Ronald R.Coleman, Neighborhood Improvement Specialist with the City of St. Louis, were among others who joined us to help evaluate and design spaces that prioritize transportation at a human scale.

“Thank you Trailnet for taking the lead on this creative popup parklet,” Coleman said. “The pop up provided a great opportunity to envision a permanent public space where people could pause from their everyday city bustle.”

The purpose of these pop-ups is to show people how improved walking and biking infrastructure will make their daily lives easier, safer, and more pleasant. By testing examples of on-the-ground implementation, we can deliberately plan for how people will interact with streets and walkways.

“I think it’s a great idea and it’s an inexpensive way to beautify an intersection,” Luchini said. “It adds life to the neighborhood.”

Stay tuned for more pop up dates so you can see low-cost, simple design changes to our streets that can transform the city into a place where people can utilize high-quality bike lanes and sidewalks to get to the places they love.


Trailnet Champion: Cara Spencer

Cara Spencer has been a long-time advocate for advancing multi-modal transportation access and increasing transportation safety. As Alderman of the 20th Ward in St. Louis, she’s worked closely with Trailnet to push forward policies that prioritize bicycle and pedestrian safety, advocated for better street designs through traffic calming demonstrations, and helped us out with community safety workshops. This year, we’re excited to continue collaborating with Cara as the region’s first Calm Street breaks ground in her district.

Read on to learn more about what Cara is doing to make St. Louis better for those who walk and bike.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

How have you, the city, and Trailnet worked together in the past?

I’ve worked with Trailnet since the time I became an Alderman. I was lucky enough to participate in a three-day trip to Portland with several Aldermen, the Board of Public Service and Trailnet in 2015 to observe best practices in street design. Since that time, I’ve worked with Trailnet to lay the groundwork for the region’s first Calm Street: the Louisiana Project which will break ground later this year. Trailnet has been a great partner with the community at Froebel Elementary and I’ve worked with several Trailnet staff members to host workshops for students as well as implementation of recommended traffic calming measures to help students get to school safer.

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

I’m pushing for a Vision Zero policy – I would love to see our City get serious about adequately funding a Streets Department that comprehensively reviews our streets and sidewalks for safety.

Why are you passionate about transportation-related work?

I use all modes of transportation to get around this city including walking, biking, and even scootering. Many of the residents I represent do the same, and some out of necessity. Many our families don’t have access to a car in their household and I strongly believe that getting serious about multi-modal transportation is an issue of social justice.

What are some of St. Louis’ biggest barriers to safer walking and biking? How can we work past them?

Two of the biggest barriers are a lack of funding and a lack of planning. With these two critical components, we cannot design streets that are safe for all. We need a dedicated funding stream and a commitment to safety as a priority.

Are you a bicyclist? If so, what keeps you pedaling?

Yes, I’m an avid cyclist—both on roads and on paths. This past weekend I biked from my home in South City to the riverfront trail, along the trail to the Chain of Rocks Bridge and back home—a 37-mile loop. Sometimes I bike alone and sometimes I haul my son Cy who still likes to join me in a trailer and sometimes we bike together. We love cycling – it’s a great way to see a neighborhood and/or nature, up close and while getting exercise.

What are some other initiatives you’re working on that you’re excited about?

Being a place people not just have to live, but want to live is what makes a city thrive. And that means at every stage of life. We’ve got to family friendly amenities, quality education for all and a robust economy for adults of all backgrounds to be able contribute and thrive. We need safe and accessible housing and a way for all residents, including those with mobility challenges, to be able to get around easily and safely.

What do you do for fun?

Fun! I love biking! I try to bike somewhere at least once a week, but I also run 3-5 times a week and spend a lot of time in my garden in the summer.

Women’s Bike Summit Panelists Talk Safety, Policy

Trailnet and some dedicated advocates participated in The St. Louis Women’s Bike Summit on Saturday, April 6. The event united a diverse crew of women with a shared interest in bicycling. Trailnet’s Deputy Executive Director, Cindy Mense hosted a panel discussion with Cara Spencer, 20th Ward Alderwoman in St. Louis, and Bridget McAndrew, Third Ward Alderwoman in Clayton.

Panelists spoke about the various ways recreational bicyclists can really benefit from having streets and sidewalks that are designed to support daily walking and biking in their community. Participants learned about  the successes and struggles when advocating for safer streets and meaningful ways that women can take part and make difference!

From left: Bridget McAndrew, Third Ward Alderwoman in Clayton, Cara Spencer, 20th Ward Alderwoman in St. Louis, Cindy Mense, Trailnet Deputy Executive Director

Why build for better biking and walking

Each panelist shed light on what improved bicycling and walking can do to advance the region as a whole. Making it easier for people to travel on foot and bicycle can have a positive impact on safety, economic development, social equity, and the environment, panelists said.

“I’ll bring it to social justice,” Cara said. “There’s a lot of people who don’t have a way to get around. Cindy mentioned our pedestrian fatality rate – three times the national average. There’s a real sense of urgency just to provide some safer alternatives for getting around. It’s important to change the culture and the mindset that we all have a right to access and use our roadways.”

Bridget spoke about how changing roads to accommodate bicyclists can boost a region’s economy and expand its population.

“One of the things that people look at when they’re moving to a community or city is its infrastructure,” Bridget said. “Millennials want to see alternative ways to get around and not be in their car. We need to think about how we can be more sustainable as a region and make sure there are reasons that we can get people to move here. That’s a big way to attract companies, to say, ‘hey look at this infrastructure we’re building, look at what’s in place,’ so that they can attract educated young people here to keep our city growing.”

With fossil fuel use being the absolute biggest contributor to global warming, panelists also discussed how building a community that supports active transportation can help protect the environment for future generations.

“I’ve got kids and they’re very concerned about the environment and how much time we’ve got left to really make a difference,” Cindy said. “Transportation is a key driver of pollution and if we can carve out some space for protected bike lanes and pedestrian safety features, people are more likely to leave their cars behind. Streets are public space and it’s right in front of us, there’s some urgency to do that.”


Those attending the panel expressed concerns over general safety when bicycling in St. Louis. People said they were not only worried about motor vehicle traffic, but about bicycling or walking in areas with high crime rates. Panelists said addressing safety at different levels is a long-term process, but solutions are underway. Cara noted her district is about to have the first Calm Street in the region.

“We’re doing the region’s first calm street in my district, which is the Louisiana project,” Cara said. ”It was born out of a Trailnet project where Trailnet paid for several elected officials and the board of public service to travel to Portland, Oregon to take a look at some of their infrastructure over there and explore making a safe roadway that is inclusive within a neighborhood.”

Calm Streets are residential streets where traffic calming features, such as curb extensions and speed humps, are used to reduce vehicle speeds and make the street safer for people walking, biking and driving. In December 2016, Trailnet and staff members from the St. Louis City Street Department installed temporary crosswalks, a roundabout, and other items designed to slow traffic speeds on a stretch of Louisiana Avenue. Now those features will become permanent in 2020.

Cindy spoke about how Trailnet is working to bring safer transportation options and community events to St. Louis’ more challenged neighborhoods.

“We are addressing safety in different areas,” Cindy said. “Last year we did a Juneteenth Celebration Ride highlighting the end of slavery and we got our community partners involved. We had 4theVille, Girl Trek, and National Coalition for 100 Black Women and really got the community engaged in planning the route and the destinations. We’re doing it again this year. Last year when we road through the Ville, people were clapping and happy to see us. So, maybe there’s a little bit of change. Maybe getting the community to select ride destinations and historic things they want to highlight helps bring us closer together.”

Policy and advocacy

Panelists also spoke to the varying degrees to which they must engage the community and local leaders to acquire support for streets that feature safe bicycle and walking infrastructure. Cindy noted that complete streets policies or ordinances in St. Louis and Clayton dictate that every time a city designs, builds, or maintains a new or old street, they must think about all users—not just motor vehicles. Still, when it comes to carrying out these policies, there can be some resistance.

“Clayton has a complete streets policy that we adopted,” Bridget said. “Every 20 years or so, we kind of look at streets – Maryland Avenue between Hanley and basically where Clayton ends in Ladue – needs to be repaved. Part of our initiative is to look and see how we can make the street better for biking and walking. In looking at that we decided to institute protected bike lanes on either side going east and west. It  was a big undertaking because there was a lot of resistance within the community. People were very much for it or very much against it.”

Bridget said she had many public meetings about the protected bike lanes and educated residents about how accommodating bicyclists can have a positive impact on safety. “We’ll see how it goes,” she said. “The street will get repaved in the fall and finished in the spring.”

Panelists said one of the most effective ways for the community to lend a hand in optimizing St. Louis’ streets for those who walk or bicycle is by not only by voting but by staying in contact  with local officials.

“Supporting policies means communicating with elected officials on a regular basis,” Cara said. “Even just once in a while. It’s really important to connect directly with those who are representing you on issues. It’s incredible what five emails to an elected official can do.”