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Learn about the revised MODOT plan for Gravois

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As detailed in the Post-Dispatch, MODOT’s 2015 plan for re-paving and replacing some old signals on Gravois in the City of St. Louis also proposed several street closures; that last item was wildly unpopular. Now, nine months later, MODOT has unveiled a new plan for Gravois and the street closures are no longer part of it. The new Gravois plan will be presented to the public in an “open house” format on January 12th, from 4-7 pm at the Five Star Senior Center, 2832 Arsenal Street. Trailnet will submit comments to MODOT on whether this new plan goes far enough to improve walkability, bikeability, traffic safety and opportunities for economic development on Gravois. Come out to the January 12th meeting, take a look at the plans, talk to MODOT, talk to Trailnet (we’ll be there), and decide what you think!

We have our Ambassadors!

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Twelve energetic, engaged and diverse individuals were recently selected from among 45 applicants to be Trailnet’s first Walk/Bike Ambassadors. They are: Deidre Brown, Florissant; Jodi Devonshire, City of St. Charles; Chris Freeland, St. Louis (Tower Grove East); Robin Medici, St. Louis (Northhampton); Chris Mileski, Wildwood; Aaron Mollette, St. Louis (Holly Hills); Michele Oesch, St. Louis (Skinker/DeBaliviere); Margie Oliver, Hazelwood; Don Orf, St. Louis (St. Louis Hills); Steven Peyton, Belleville; Ramona Scott, St. Louis (Greater Ville); and Patty Szymkowicz, Chesterfield. These folks will have a day-long training session later this month and then volunteer time to expand awareness of Trailnet and to build our advocacy capacity in the region. They’ll develop relationships with community leaders, participate in advocacy campaign events, promote active living, and recruit other Trailnet supporters (and potential future ambassadors). Stay tuned for more updates!

New transportation bill preserves bicycle and pedestrian funding

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Congressional negotiators reached an agreement Tuesday on a new five-year, $305 billion transportation bill, but once again failed to find a long-term way to pay for transportation. The new bill, called Fixing America’s Surface Transportation, or FAST, cobbles together federal gas tax revenues and $70 billion in transfers from other areas of the federal budget, such as selling oil from the Strategic Reserve ($6 billion), and raiding the Federal Reserve’s “rainy day fund” ($19 billion). FAST is expected to pass both chambers by December 4, when transportation spending was set to expire. President Obama is likely to sign the bill this week.

According to the Washington Post, FAST increases money for pedestrian and bicycle programs and protects funding for transit. Other reports have indicated that funding for pedestrian and bicycle programs will remain status quo. More details will emerge soon, but it looks like a significant win since such programs have been threatened with cuts during the transportation bill development process.

Locally, we expect Safe Routes to School programs as well as bicycle and pedestrian projects to continue to be funded and to get more people moving.

The lobbying work of Trailnet staff and supporters, and that of many advocates across the country, made a difference over the past year. In addition, a debt of gratitude is owed for the diligent work of Sen. Barbara Boxer and Rep. Peter DeFazio, alternative transportation advocates in their own right and vice-chairs of their respective transportation committees.

Trailnet moves Calm Streets project forward with study tour

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One of the best ways to advocate for better infrastructure is to allow decision-makers to experience best-practice designs first hand. We do live in the Show-Me state after all. Knowing this to be the case, Trailnet took City of St. Louis staff, elected officials, and partners to Portland, Oregon August 17 to 20. The study tour was part of Trailnet’s Calm Streets project—a project with the purpose of promoting the creation of a Calm Street network in the City of St. Louis. Calm streets are residential streets transformed to reduce speeding and provide safety for everyone traveling there. On calm streets, traffic calming measures are used to reduce the volume and speed of motorized vehicles; increase space for landscaping and managing stormwater; and increase comfort for those walking and biking.

From left to right: Alderman Shane Cohn, Community Liaison Wendy Campbell, City of St. Louis Traffic Commissioner Deanna Venker, community partner Matthew Green of Park Central Development, and Alderman Scott Ogilvie get ready for the trip's first bike tour of neighborhood greenways.

From left to right: Alderman Shane Cohn, Community Liaison Wendy Campbell, City of St. Louis Traffic Commissioner Deanna Venker, community partner Matthew Green of Park Central Development, and Alderman Scott Ogilvie get ready for the trip’s first bike tour of Calm Streets.

For two days, Trailnet’s Director of Strategic Initiatives, Jennifer Allen, led tour participants to meet with City of Portland staff and local organizations to learn about how Portland created successful Calm Streets and other low-stress infrastructure. They biked Calm Streets and protected bike lanes. They learned about the profound impacts rain gardens can have in managing stormwater as part of Calm Street design. They learned new best-practices and discovered new strategies for making a Calm Street network a reality in the City of St. Louis.

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From left to right: Community Liaison Ramona Scott, Community Liaison Wendy Campbell, City of Portland Capital Program Manager Dan Layden, community partner Matthew Green of Park Central Development, and community partner Josh Goldman of Urban Strategies.

The tour was profoundly successful. It significantly strengthened the partnerships of those involved and everyone walked away with important realizations and strategies critical to the project’s success. Perhaps most importantly, the group came to understand that creating Calm Streets is really a low-hanging- fruit project that will meet many of the City’s goals, such as building more complete streets and reducing pedestrian injuries and fatalities.

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Project partners do a mini-charette with City of Portland staff and the Bicycle Transportation Alliance. City of St. Louis Director of Operations Todd Waelterman, Alderman Shane Cohn, and Board of Public Service Planning and Program Manger John Kohler pictured left to right in back.

One of the tour’s greatest impacts was strengthening relationships with City of Portland staff and providing tools to the City of St. Louis. After the tour, City of St. Louis Traffic Commissioner Deanna Venker, requested Portland’s design specs for traffic-calming design elements used on Portland’s Calm Streets. She, other Streets Department staff, and Aldermen are now working to create a traffic-calming policy for the City of St. Louis to describe permissible traffic-calming designs in the city. This policy is an important step along the way to seeing Calm Streets built with high-quality design.

Aldermen Cara Spencer and Scott Ogilvie check out a world-class protected bike lane

Aldermen Cara Spencer and Scott Ogilvie check out a world-class protected bike lane

The current phase of The Calm Streets Project includes selecting pilot Calm Streets routes and devising strategies for creating a full network in the future. The Calm Streets Project is funded, in part, by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Crash. Not Accident.

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#CNA-VERTWord choice matters.  The words “Crash” and “Accident” are often used to describe the same event, but in reality each word conjures up very different images.  An “accident” just happens.  Accidents can’t be reasonably predicted or avoided.  A “crash,” on the other hand, is the result of choices made and risks disregarded.  Crashes don’t just happen; somebody is at fault in a crash.  

A majority of fatal road crashes are caused by intoxicated, speeding, distracted, or careless motorists.  They are NOT just unfortunate events.  The victims were NOT simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Deadly crashes in the St. Louis region this year are too numerous to list here.  They include the January crash precipitated by Hazelwood motorist William Goad, who was driving more than twice the speed limit on Gallatin Lane in Bridgeton when he struck and killed Bridgeton resident Duane Johnson, who was riding his bicycle.  That was no accident.  More recently, in September, the 18th pedestrian fatality in the City of St. Louis this year occurred when a hit and run driver sped through St. Louis’ Fairground Park on a Sunday afternoon and killed Nathaniel Thomas, 29, as he crossed the street.  That was no accident.      

Trailnet, and many other transportation advocates, want to change how we talk about traffic collisions in this country. When one motorized vehicle careens into another, or turns into an oncoming cyclist, or rounds a corner right into a pedestrian — call it a “crash,” not an “accident.”  Words matter, and the way car crashes are framed has a powerful effect on how they are perceived. If thousands of preventable traffic injuries and deaths per year are described as accidental, why bother with thorough investigations to uncover root causes and determine potential solutions?

Accident or Crash?  Our choice of words can educate the public, set accurate expectations, contribute to improved road safety, and ultimately help save lives. Changing our language is one of the first steps to realizing Vision Zero in St. Louis.

The Time for Vision Zero STL has Arrived

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A movement to end traffic deaths and disabling injuries known as Vision Zero, which began as an Act of Parliament in Sweden in 1997, is gaining traction in the U.S. where traffic fatalities are twice that of EU countries and almost twice that of Canada.

Vision Zero is a philosophy, a policy, and a paradigm shift. It holds that “all traffic deaths and serious injuries are unacceptable and preventable.”

The U.S. Conference of Mayors endorsed Vision Zero this year, and ten cities including New York, San Antonio, Los Angeles and Seattle are developing or implementing Vision Zero plans.

Vision Zero cities have taken these steps:

  1. The Mayor has publicly, officially committed to Vision Zero.
  2. A clear goal of eliminating traffic fatalities and severe injuries has been set.
  3. A Vision Zero plan or strategy is in place, or the Mayor has committed to doingso in clear time frame.
  4. Key city departments (including police, transportation and public health)are engaged.

Vision Zero is a Trailnet priority because the St. Louis region is now at a five‐year high for traffic deaths. It’s time to systematically address and ultimately end the crash carnage. Trailnet urges Mayor Slay to publicly announce a commitment to Vision Zero and embark on the other three steps necessary to make St. Louis a recognized Vision Zero city. We will be an engaged partner in this bold journey.

Safety is the priority for alternative transit in St. Louis

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Trailnet, Missouri Department of Transportation, and Bi-State Development Agency advocate “Safe Roads for All” during National Bike to Work Day

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Trailnet celebrated the St. Louis region’s 10th annual Bike to Work Day Friday, May 15. Sponsored by Great Rivers Greenway, Missouri American Water, and Saint Louis Bread Co., the event drew more than 560 cyclists dedicated to making biking a way of life in St. Louis. Sponsors, volunteers, and Trailnet staff hosted refueling stations throughout the area, offering coffee and bagels to all bike commuters. Bike to Work Day helps to build a sense of community, promotes environmentally-friendly modes of travel, and inspires people to maintain healthy, active lifestyles.

The Missouri History Museum hosted a refueling station during Bike to Work Day and was also the site of the Safe Roads for All Press Conference. Speakers highlighted the progress made in alternative transit over the past year and discussed their vision for a healthy, safe, and vibrant future in the St. Louis region. The conference was presented by Trailnet, The City of St. Louis, St. Louis County, the Missouri Department of Transportation, the Bi-State Development Agency/Metro, and Great Rivers Greenway.

Maggie Crane, communications director for BTWDKaldi'sGinny150002the Office of Mayor Francis Slay, drew applause from the audience when she announced St. Louis will include its first bike and pedestrian coordinator position in the city’s 2015-2016 budget. This is one step required to boost the region’s overall bike friendliness ranking, as evaluated by the League of American Bicyclists.

Ralph Pfremmer, Trailnet’s executive director, stressed the importance of installing bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure to improve the health of local communities as well as the environment. “For the future, it’s critical that the expansion of well-designed bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure continue,” Pfremmer said. “By increasing safe and pleasant opportunities for walking and biking, we will build the confidence of our users and improve public health and the environment. These 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.

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In addition to the Missouri History Museum, Trailnet-hosted refueling stations at: Big Shark in the Loop, Missouri Botanical Garden, The Downtown Bicycle Station, Urban Shark, Kaldi’s on DeMun, and Mississippi Mud Coffee Roasters.

Area businesses and organizations also committed to sponsoring “DIY” refueling stations. Participants included the DeSales Community Housing Corp., Ferguson Bicycle Shop, Lyon Park, Microgrid Energy, Nebula Coworking, Pedal the Cause, St. Louis Development Corporation and City of St. Louis Health Department, St. Louis Earth Day, St. Louis University’s Simon Recreation Center, the St. Louis Zoo, The downtown O’Fallon office of Scott Air Force Base, and W.W. Grainger. A map of all of the station locations is available at trailnet.org.

Bike to Work Day was organized in partnership with The City of St. Louis, St. Louis County, the Missouri Department of Transportation, and Urban Shark Bicycle Company.

Advocacy Alert: Help ensure funding for safe walking and biking for our youth

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IMG_1987smallHelp make sure that Congress doesn’t cut the Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) funding in the next transportation bill. TAP helps local communities build sidewalks, crosswalks, bike lanes, trails and more. TAP funding supports Safe Routes to School initiatives throughout St. Louis City and County.

IMG_2078smallWithout TAP, hundreds of millions of dollars used to improve streets for walking and biking would evaporate. Some of these funds have been used to support youth programs like Trailnet’s “Steps in the Right Direction” at Froebel Literacy Academy to help make walking and biking a way of life in St. Louis.

IMG_1977smallPlease follow the link below to ask Senators Roy Blunt and Senator Claire McCaskill to support bill S. 705, the Transportation Alternatives Program Improvement Act. Thank you for supporting legislation that will keep our youth walking and biking safely.

https://www.votervoice.net/Shares/Be2UOAVgACIsJAh1gpM7FAA

City Complete Streets bill passes unanimously!

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Trailnet’s Manager of Policy and Advocacy, Rhonda Smythe with Alderman Scott Ogilvie, and Trailnet’s Executive Director, Ralph Pfremmer

An update to St. Louis City’s Complete Streets policy passed on January 30, 2015 with unanimous support from the Board of Aldermen. Every aspect of our lives are impacted by the way our streets are designed and built.  The comprehensive and collaborative approach laid out in this bill will have significant impacts on the quality of life for St. Louisans.

Major updates include:

  1. A new framework for collaboration between City departments will be developed. The Departments of Health, Parks and Recreation, and Office of the Disabled will now have a formal seat at the table for the planning and implementation of future transportation projects. This means that air quality, public health, public safety, ADA improvements, and safe connections to major destinations will have a higher priority than in years past.
  2. Street design standards will be updated to reflect the most current best practices, guidelines, and recommendations issued by the USDOT. This means no more bike lanes in gutters and appropriate pedestrian signals!
  3. A targeted, data-driven approach to high crash intersections and corridors with prioritized improvements. Trailnet recently partnered with OpenDataSTL and Walker Hamilton to create an interactive map of bicycle and pedestrian crashes at http://bike-ped.confluencecity.com/. Tools like this enable data-driven decision making.
  4. Performance measures and benchmarks will be identified and assessed annually.

Alderman Ogilvie sponsored this important piece of legislation and continues to be a strong advocate for pedestrians, bicyclists, and people with disabilities. Many partners joined Trailnet in advocating for the Complete Streets update, including Paraquad, American Heart Association, AARP, YMCA, and numerous neighborhood advocates. Our deep and sincere thanks for the valuable work they do to support a more livable St. Louis!

 For more information on Complete Streets, click here.

 

New Directors of Transportation in City and County

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St. Louis news of late has been filled with death, tragedy and crime. We know that’s not the entire story. There is a lot of positive activity happening below the surface of the news cycle. St. Louis has become an entrepreneurial hub. Our region has talented, creative, and energetic people working every day to create a vibrant, active region. Organizations and agencies are collaborating at an increasing rate. Together, we are focusing our collective activities towards the same targeted outcomes – economic inclusion, talent attraction, and increasing transportation options.

We are in a moment of great opportunity with significant changes in City and County staff. County Executive Stenger is working to fill high-level positions in his administration, and the selections he makes will shape the future of the region. Mayor Slay announced this week a new Chief of Staff, Deputy Chief of Staff, and Director of Operations. We applaud his decision to promote the next generation to positions of power. They know better than many which assets will bring new residents and businesses to our region.

Both City and County are working to fill vacant Director of Transportation positions. The importance of placing the right people into these positions cannot be overstated, as they will determine how streets are designed throughout the region and who can safely use them. The Directors of Transportation can choose to continue on the current path of car-centric road design or choose to diversify transportation options. They can help make St. Louis a more livable region with a North-South Metrolink line, protected bike lanes the whole family can ride, and pedestrian crossings that accommodate all people regardless of age or ability.

We are counting on our leaders to choose wisely, selecting staff who are innovative, with a collaborative and transparent nature, and are willing to work hand-in-hand with private and public businesses for the betterment of the region. We need a 21st century vision and plan for the St. Louis we want to become, and stand ready to support our leaders and put in the work to take the region to the next level.

As we plan for our future, we should always focus our energies towards principles that ensure community advancement.  We must collaborate, be inclusive, and promote transparency to meet our region’s highest potential. Together, our region can lead in fostering a healthy, active community where walking, biking, and public transit are a part of our daily lives.

–Ralph Pfremmer, Trailnet Executive Director