How does St. Louis rank in comparison to other metropolitan areas in terms of pedestrian safety? Where is the most dangerous place for pedestrians in the country? Answers to these questions can be found in the most recent Dangerous by Design report, released in January by Smart Growth America.
The report has been produced for several years and identifies metropolitan areas and states that are most dangerous for people walking. The January report uses pedestrian fatality data from 2005-2014 to rank cities and states by
pedestrian deaths per 100,000 in population
a “pedestrian danger index,” calculated as the share of commuters who walk to work and the most recent data on pedestrian deaths.
Of the 104 metro areas ranked in the report, the two largest cities in Missouri, Kansas City and St. Louis, rank 45th and 52nd respectively. Florida has been the most dangerous state for pedestrians for the past four years, and it now has 8 of the top 10 most dangerous cities for pedestrians. In the past decade, over 46,000 people have been killed by motor vehicles while walking. The poor, the elderly, and people of color – those who are less likely to own cars or drive – make up a disproportionate share of the victims.
The report emphasizes that better street design will play a critical role in improving safety for people walking. Arterial roads, such as Manchester or Kingshighway in St. Louis, are particularly dangerous for pedestrians. These roads were designed for fast moving vehicles, often have sections that lack sidewalks, and have limited safe crossing opportunities for people who are walking. Arterial roads consign people traveling on foot to second-class status.
Trailnet has worked tirelessly for passage and implementation of Complete Streets policies in our region. A Complete Street is one that is designed with all users in mind: motorists, pedestrians, bicyclists, transit users, the elderly, and the disabled. Making streets welcoming and safe for all users promotes active lifestyles, and helps to build communities that are vibrant, economically strong, and appealing to residents and employers.
Ask Gubernatorial Candidates About Transportation Funding
Earlier this year the Missouri General Assembly created the $20 million Missouri Moves Fund. It was an historic first because bicycle and pedestrian projects were finally eligible uses for state transportation funds. Last month, however, Governor Nixon moved to withhold Missouri Moves funds after a series of veto overrides by the legislature created budget shortfall implications.
Gov. Nixon stated the Missouri Moves program was not a solution to a long-term issue of funding the state’s growing transportation needs. Missouri needs stable, long-term, user fee-based transportation funding and Missouri Moves only provided a one-time infusion of general funds. A 21st century transportation system requires state funds for multi-modal uses, not just road projects. As MoDOT explained in the Missouri Moves Frequently Asked Questions, multi-modal transportation helps road users by reducing congestion and demand for car travel on roads and bridges.
Governor Nixon is leaving office soon. The two leading candidates running to replace him need to know that Missourians support funding for walking, bicycling, and transit. Trailnet urges you to contact candidates Chris Kosterand Eric Greitens. Tell them:
State funding for walking, biking and transit is important to you.
Road user-based sources are the most appropriate and stable for the state’s long-term transportation funding needs.
Chris Freeland power cleans his bicycle after completing Trailnet’s Ride the Rivers Century, making everyone else feel extra weak. Way to go, Chris!
Trailnet’s 12 Walk Bike Ambassadors are located throughout the St. Louis region. They help address walking and biking issues in their communities and assist Trailnet in advocacy campaigns and events. We’re excited to tell you about their recent successes!
Chris Freeland has deep roots in the Tower Grove East (TGE) neighborhood of St. Louis. He’s lived there for 16 years, is a past president of the TGE neighborhood association, and has built many productive relationships with elected officials and other TGE neighborhood residents. Tower Grove East is an area where many residents walk, bike and use transit. A passion for bike safety was one of the factors that motivated Chris to apply to Trailnet’s Walk Bike Ambassador program. Chris has increased many TGE residents’ bike safety awareness and bike route IQ by organizing group rides from the neighborhood to the Riverfront Trail and back. He also reached a personal milestone this year by completing his first 100-mile century ride in Trailnet’s Ride the Rivers event. Next year Chris will be designing a community bike ride route for Trailnet to tour libraries of St. Louis, which is a natural for someone who works as a librarian at Washington University! Chris will also work with Trailnet on TGE community outreach when the City completes a design proposal for traffic calming improvements on Louisiana Ave. In his spare time Chris and his husband, also named Chris, are often busy with their soap making business. Their product can be found at a number of local stores in the Tower Grove area, and at various community events.
Wendy Campbell is an enthusiastic person who has “never met a stranger.” She is outgoing, generous, and thoroughly engaged in her community, the Dutchtown neighborhood of south St. Louis.
Wendy’s primary mode of transportation around Dutchtown and throughout the city is her bike; she says she “feels like a little kid again” every time she rides. And Wendy’s kids are often riding bikes right along with her. They all surely inspire others to get on two wheels for some good fun and real health benefits!
Wendy Campbell and Froebel student volunteers at Dutchtown Traffic Calming Demonstration
Wendy’s main focus in her work with Trailnet has been traffic safety. Before becoming a Walk Bike Ambassador, Wendy worked with Trailnet on a Safe Routes to School program at Froebel Literacy Academy, and promoted community awareness of traffic calming tools and benefits in Dutchtown and other city neighborhoods.
This summer Wendy knocked on many doors in the 20th ward of Dutchtown and talked about active transportation and traffic safety to hundreds of potential voters during her successful campaign for committeewoman in her ward.
Dutchtown benefits because Wendy Campbell is an active resident there, and Trailnet is well-represented by Wendy as a Walk Bike Ambassador.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org and copy Trailnet. Let the Slay administration know that traffic deaths are preventable, not inevitable, and it’s time to act.
Since her first Trailnet ride ten years ago, Susan Rollins has participated in many Trailnet rides, has been a volunteer, and now serves as a member of Trailnet’s Board.
So what is so great about being on a bike? Susan’s reply: “Cycling keeps me sane; being outside with the fresh air on my face combined with the challenge of the ride calms my soul and gives me a peace that I can’t find anywhere else.” She plans to spend lots of time on her bike this year, including her first multi-day trip, starting in Savannah, Georgia and pedaling around the coastal islands, New York’s Five Boro Bike Tour, and Bike the Drive in Chicago. She also hopes to ride the length of the Katy Trail, and to begin commuting to work by bike at least a couple of days a week.
In her role as Executive Director of the St. Louis County Housing Authority, Susan sees the possibilities that bicycles have for easing the transportation challenges faced by many low-income residents. “Our clients do not have the dollars needed to purchase or maintain a car. So even if you have a job but lack transportation, how do you survive?” Rollins is convinced that creating communities where walking and biking are safe alternatives would provide access not only to jobs and school, but also to better food options and other vital facilities. “Ideally I would like all of our public housing children to own a bike and learn how to ride. I see them visiting libraries, recreational centers, and neighborhood pools. I see them visiting each other and feeling like a part of a community. I see myself riding with our children and showing them how access to transportation can take you to places you never thought existed.”
As a Trailnet Board member, Susan Rollins is dedicated to seeing that vision come true. She feels that realizing Trailnet’s goal of connecting our region through a network of protected bikeways and neighborhood greenways can make St. Louis one of the best places to live in the country. “It is only Trailnet that can put St. Louis on the map as a community that embraces walking and cycling. If we want to look like Indianapolis, Trailnet has the expertise to make that happen. If we want to look like Portland, Trailnet can make it happen. We just have to work hard to raise the funds to make this bold vision a reality.”
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.