Ron Effland has worked for the Missouri Department of Transportation for over 25 years. In that time, his job roles have evolved and he has helped to spur an important evolution in the way the department thinks about transportation.
Trained as a civil engineer, Ron initially ran a district engineering department. After passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, his focus shifted to designing intersections that would allow for safe crossing by individuals with disabilities. For the last five years, Ron has served as the state’s “Non-Motorized Transportation Engineer,” or as Ron refers to himself, the “state bike-ped coordinator.” These state positions, created by the Federal Department of Transportation, are intended to serve as internal advocates for the needs of pedestrians and bicyclists.
Ron’s job involves writing statewide policies and procedures related to bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, but more importantly, efforts to change the culture of transportation from one that has traditionally been exclusively about cars. Ron acknowledges that state transportation departments are not always enthusiastic about including bicyclists and pedestrians as a part of their responsibility.
“Somewhere along the way, transportation departments forgot to include people,” Ron said. “Our job is to give people options for how to get from place to place. If we are working on improvements to a downtown intersection, we have to realize that people might be in a car, but they could also be on foot, on a bike, in a wheelchair, or using public transit. We have to think about how the bus stop interacts with the crosswalk that interacts with the traffic signals. The challenge is to keep our eye on the big picture.”
One of the challenges Ron has faced is that transportation engineers often have a difficult time seeing important clues in that big picture.
“If you have a lot of traffic backups and delays and crashes, engineers understand that,” Ron said. “If you have a road with no sidewalk and there is a worn path in the grass next to the road, that means that there are pedestrians who have no safe place to walk and we should put a sidewalk there.”
Although Ron spends much of his time in offices in Springfield and Jefferson City, he also does a lot of outreach, some of his most creative and enjoyable work. To help his engineers understand the challenges of navigating with a disability, Ron procured a collection of wheelchairs and white canes.
“I take engineers out in the field and have them cross streets in a wheelchair or use a cane to feel their way along,” Ron said. “It really changes their perspective on what it is like to try and get around while dealing with a disability.”
To further his efforts on behalf of bicyclists, Ron applied for a grant several years ago to create his “Walk ‘n Roll” trailer. The twenty-four-foot trailer is filled with bikes of various sizes, parts, tools, helmets, cones and yield and stop signs. He uses the trailer in much the same way that he uses the wheelchairs.
“I put traffic engineers on bikes and show them what it’s like to negotiate roads and intersections on a bicycle,” Ron Said.
Ron recalls his personal experiences with bicycles while growing up: “I’ve been riding a bike forever. In the small town where I grew up that is how kids got around.” To share that experience with other children, Ron frequently takes his trailer on the road to provide biking opportunities and bike education for kids around the state.
For the last few years, Trailnet has worked with a number of St. Louis County elementary schools to put on Bike Weeks. These events provide opportunities for children to learn about bike handling skills, rules of the road, and proper fitting of bike helmets. Ron has been a valuable partner, contributing helmets, loaner bikes, and his skills as an educator.
“There is just nothing like seeing a kid’s face light up when you put them on a bicycle…and the great pride that they feel if they can get rid of their training wheels,” Ron said.
In October, Trailnet sponsored the first ever Bike Week at Froebel Literacy Academy in Dutchtown. With Ron’s help and his fleet of bicycles, over two hundred students received bike helmets and got a chance to practice biking through an obstacle course or to do some free riding around the playground.
Froebel’s Family and Community Specialist Von Smith said, “It was a great experience for our students to be able to ride ‘with the wind’ and receive a cool helmet for participating!” Many of the students asked if Trailnet would be coming back again the following week.
“At each turn there are three signs – a warning sign, a sign at the turn, and a confirmation after the turn,” Ron explained. “Every 10 miles you’ll also see a sign along the route. So as you go across the state, you don’t even need a map, although Bike Route 76 is printed on the back of our MoDOT maps now.”
We at Trailnet are grateful to have a strong voice at the state level looking out for the needs of pedestrians and bicyclists. For his part, Ron realizes the important role that groups like Trailnet play: “I’ve developed partnerships with all of the local advocacy organizations. My hope is that we can all work together to decide on what goals are most important and join forces to accomplish those goals.” Ron welcomes your input. If you have ideas, questions, suggestions or concerns that you would like to share, e-mail Ron at firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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.”
Biking and Walking Makes Cents – February 24, 2015
Trailnet introduced their new business membership program at an event on Tuesday, February 24 at the Venture Cafe on the Cortex campus. This invitation-only event served as a great opportunity to share Trailnet’s 2015 plans, to launch Trailnet’s Business Membership Program, and to meet Trailnet’s new executive director, Ralph Pfremmer.
The attendees were board members, community partners, donors, and prospective business members who spent most of the evening networking and enjoying food and drinks. The room was abuzz with the latest in transportation news and Trailnet’s vision to make walking and biking a way of life in St. Louis.
As part of the event, Ralph Pfremmer and Jennifer Allen, Director of Strategic Initiatives, presented research on the economic impact protected bikeways and improved walking infrastructure can have on a community. They connected this data to the introduction of Trailnet’s Business Membership Program and how, in becoming a member, businesses can invest in Trailnet’s vision for better walking and biking infrastructure that supports a prosperous, healthy region.
Executive Director Ralph Pfremmer summed up the evening this way: “In a perfect world, collaboration is abundant, everyone is included, and transparency is the standard. The Trailnet business member understands that together we can foster a quality of life that supports a prosperous, healthy region.”
Confluence Business Advisors, Ron Tanner and Dave Fingerhut, partners
Collaborate with us
As we work to make walking and biking a way of life in our region, it is critical that we have the resources and support to bring about innovative and positive change in our community. Your business membership provides for us the support we need to be visionary and collaborative leaders for progress. Click here for business membership levels and benefits. For more information contact Kay Barnes, Director of Development – email@example.com, 314.436.1324 x 104
While the conditions for single track riding in Lost Valley and Klondike Park were too spongy, the Hamburg and Katy Trails utilizing the Great Rivers Greenway connector were almost ideal. For mid-January, the weather seemed more like spring. The day started out in the low 40s with bright sunshine. Our partner, Missouri Department of Conservation, hosted the start/finish at the Weldon Spring Conservation Area maintenance facility near Highway 94.
At 9:00 a.m., 60 cyclists were ready to roll and begin their 14-mile loop. With temperatures unseasonably warm, the frozen ground thawed and was slightly soggy. Though soggy, the two trails served as great routes for a pleasant ride. Cyclists returned smiling and slightly speckled with white limestone mud. After resting briefly and getting some nourishment, cyclists who made the loop in less than 2 hours jumped back on for another go-around.
While the cyclists were out, Trailnet’s new Executive Director, Ralph Pfremmer, prepared chili for the after-party. Ralph was also the day’s announcer, calling out some of the faster or muddier cyclists. By noon most of the cyclists had returned from one, two, or three laps of the course and were ready for chili with all the fixings.
They were also treated to cold beer from O’Fallon Brewery. St. Charles County Parks, another Epic partner, prepared handmade plaques from sections of local cedar trees for all cyclists– a cool reward for finishing a fun ride! By 2:00 p.m., temperatures were in the low 60s and cyclists ended the day with their fill of food and drink at the after-party.
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:
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.
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!
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.
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.
St. Charles Wine Country Bicycle Ride – October 19, 2014
The day started out chilly with temperatures in the upper 30s for our final road ride of the season. The cold air reacted with the warmer river water to create some foggy conditions near the Mississippi and Missouri rivers. The fog moved in after registration opened at 7:30 and lingered for another hour, seemingly clearing from the top down. The effect created some beautiful and eerie scenery.
It was a slow start Sunday morning with most cyclists opting to start after the sun was brightly shining overhead. The routes were hilly but short compared to other rides this season. The long route traversed many rolling hills, with riders visiting historic Augusta twice in their 31-mile journey. As the temperatures climbed to the 60s, the bright sun and colorful autumn leaves created a perfect fall ride.
Riders enjoyed sampling wines from Sugar Creek, Noboleis and The Yellow Farmhouse along with the host winery, Chandler Hill. By 11:00 a.m. Chandler Hill Winery was hopping with crowds of people spending a fantastic fall day at the vineyards. All 80 riders had a great time.
A real adventure! Trailnet’s Journey Across Missouri began on Monday, September 30 with a train ride from St. Louis to Kansas City. Spirits were high and the trip to Kansas City passed by quickly with a car of lively riders making acquaintances and sharing their excitement. Upon arriving in Kansas City, riders immediately got on their bikes for a short four-mile ride to the Kansas state line to mark the start of their Journey Across Missouri. Afterwards, riders cruised on a scenic ride along the Missouri River to the Monday night campsite.
The kickoff party Monday night was organized by BikeWalkKC and held at Harry’s Country Club. Delicious food and drinks were consumed as riders learned about BikeWalkKC and Kansas City.
The first day of riding was beautiful, but challenging. Riders made their way to Higginsville, a 67-mile trek with 3,000 feet in elevation change. Along the way, riders visited the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum in Independence and several Civil War sites before racking their bikes for the day. For dinner, the Higginsville Rotary Club provided a grand feast of rib-eye steak sandwiches with all the fixins’ and live entertainment. Riders set up camp in Fairground Park.
Wednesday morning started off with advancing thunderstorms. A few riders left before the rain and some waited and watched, however most everyone experienced a soggy ride. Seeking shelter from the rain, riders were treated to lunch at Arrow Rock in the historic J. Huston Tavern. Arriving in Booneville, riders looked forward to a savory dinner at Maggie’s Bar and Grill. A smoked pork barbecue buffet was served in a private upstairs dining room. The campsite that night was at Fredrick Kemper Park where the Boonslick Heartland YMCA provided hot showers. Unfortunately, the forecast predicted strong thunderstorms for Wednesday night. The YMCA graciously offered their gym for a night of unconventional camping. Many cyclists took advantage of this offer to stay dry.
Rain was an integral part of the ride on Thursday. Riders battled bouts of heavy rain on the scenic and hilly ride to Jefferson City. Campsite plans were altered due to the severe thunderstorms. Thankfully, the Jefferson City Parks and Recreation extended their multi-purpose room in the Ice Arena for riders’ use to stay dry that night. Dinner was held at Bones Restaurant and Lounge in downtown Jefferson City. It was a scrumptious meal with chicken and beef options. After dinner, riders were spooked at the famous “haunted” tour of the old Missouri State Penitentiary.
By Friday morning, a cool front had moved in and the skies were clear. Riders started with a hot breakfast at the Downtown Diner then took off for a quick ride to the historic German-settled town of Hermann. With a strong tailwind, some riders made the 50-mile ride in under three hours, arriving before noon. Dinner that night was at Stone Hill Winery. Before dinner, riders enjoyed a tour of the historic winery with some of the largest underground cellars in the nation. The fun continued after dinner with riders attending the first night of the Hermann Oktoberfest, an event that lasts all month. Settling down for the night, the campsite in Hermann was in City Park.
Saturday morning began with sunny skies and very cool temperatures due to a strong northwest wind. It was another hilly ride en route to Defiance. In Defiance, riders checked out the old railroad depot town of Mokane on the Katy Trail. They also enjoyed visiting the historic Daniel Boone Home and Heritage Center. Riders camped out at Katy Bike Rental, conveniently located on the Katy Trail. Live entertainment, great food, and good times were had at the Defiance Roadhouse Saturday night. Back at the campsite, a big bonfire created a warm and reminiscent night with riders sharing their favorite moments of the 6-day adventure.
On the final day of the ride, the wind shifted from the south bringing warmer temperatures. Many riders opted to take the Katy Trail to Page Avenue Bridge, crossing the Missouri river and avoiding the rolling hills. Arriving in St. Louis, riders rode throught quiet neighborhood side streets and admired many St. Louis sites. Trailnet hosted a rest stop at the Missouri History Museum. The ride finished at Laclede’s Landing on the Mississippi River.
An after-party at the Admiral Portico welcomed riders. To celebrate the completion of their 340-mile Journey Across Missouri, riders made their way to the river for the ceremonial dip. Friends and family joined riders for the festive after-party with music by Tim Ryan Quartet, food from Sundeckers, and beer from Morgan Street Brewery.
Trailnet’s 10th Ride the Rivers Century was another outstanding success. More than 480 participants admired the scenic confluence of the Illinois and Mississippi rivers at the new event location in beautiful Pere Marquette State Park. We had 46 amazing volunteers help assemble ride packets, set up registration, welcome riders at rest stops all along the route, and assist with teardown.
Set-up began before sunrise at the Marina Pavilion where riders picked up their packets and sipped hot chocolate and coffee supplied by Mississippi Mud Coffee Roasters. Morning temperatures were in the upper 50s but the sky was clear and the sun was bright.
With the new location, riders boarded the Brussels Ferry in the first mile and traversed the challenging hills of Calhoun County. The new location also offered a metric century option that crossed the eastern section of St. Charles County and rejoined the full “traditional” century after crossing the Clark Bridge into Alton, Illinois.
At the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge, riders enjoyed buffet-style lunch and entertainment provided by Big Chief and the Smoke Signals. Riders faced their biggest challenge of the day along the Mississippi River Road – a 20mph headwind. This obstacle entitled riders to bragging rights at the finish and a much-deserved celebration.
At the after-party, hungry riders were in for a treat. Riders enjoyed a fresh fish dinner courtesy of master fish fryer Joe Beck. Beer was provided by Morgan Street Brewery and Noe & Diekemper entertained with live music. Dropping their wristband tabs in bins at each of the four rest stops, riders listened as winners were announced for prizes (two $100 gift certificates and two $125 entries to the Southern Illinois Fat Tire Festival) from our shop sponsor Bike Surgeon. As dusk approached, the day wrapped up welcoming the final riders to the party.
Sunday, August 31 started out with decent temperatures in the low 70s and beautiful blue skies. Riders were eager and ready to go by 7:10 but were held at bay until 7:25 a.m. The turnout for this Sunday City ride was stellar with nearly 400 cyclists.
Each route started cycling in different directions and featured unique rest stops. The short route began by going north into Forest Park. Cyclists then had a refreshing rest stop with cold watermelon at Turtle Playground.
The medium route cyclists first headed south and rode a bit on the River des Peres trail before stopping at Bellerive Park. At the park, cyclists admired a scenic overlook of the Mississippi while enjoying snacks provided by Pedal the Cause.
The long route traversed some of Grant’s Trail and River des Peres Trail before heading north into the City. Making a stop at the Carondelet Park YMCA, cyclists replenished with some hard-earned trail mix.
Most of the riders returned before the afternoon temperatures and humidity became too overbearing. The historic Giro della Montagna ProAm races of the Gateway Cup started in the early afternoon just half a block from our ride start. The Giro della Montagna races have been going on since 1986 and attract a large crowd and professional racers from all over the nation.