Former Director of The City of St. Louis Civil Rights Enforcement Agency joins our growing team!
As Policy Catalyst, Charles will lead Trailnet’s strategic policy and advocacy agenda through coalition-building, community outreach and government relations.
Charles began his career in non-profits, working in services for the unhoused in Baltimore, Maryland. After two years with Catholic Charities in Baltimore, he moved to work with the Illinois Department of Public Aid, where he oversaw federal and state grants for services for the unhoused. Eventually, he moved back to his home state of Missouri, where he worked for the Missouri Housing Development Commission as a proponent for low-income housing tax credit development for six years.
When Mayor Francis Slay was elected in 2001, he called on Charles to work as an advisor in his administration, where he was responsible for developing and implementing the overall neighborhood, ethnic and religious outreach plan for the City. During his time in City Hall, Charles worked with three mayors—as special advisor, Director of Public Safety, and for the last eight years, as the Director of the Civil Rights Enforcement Agency (CREA), enforcing federal, state and local fair housing, equal employment opportunity and public accommodation laws, rules and regulations, “a job I truly loved,” said Charles.
Charles will start with Trailnet in late June. As our new Policy Catalyst, he has one overarching goal:
“Listen. Listen to what the community is saying. Look at how our policies, procedures and practices can impact the needs of those various communities. Whether it’s black folks feeling underserved by public transit; Whether it’s the LGBTQIA+ community feeling afraid to walk in certain areas at night; Whether signage in our region adequately serves folks who speak English as a second language. The one thing I want to be able to accomplish is to listen to folks and address their needs.”
Charles currently lives downtown, a short walk from the Trailnet offices.
“I live downtown, in part, because I wanted access to public transit. Public transportation is a big deal for me, so I’m excited to see how my passion for transit can factor into this work.”
He also enjoys hiking, and he says he’s getting into biking.
“I’m in walking shape—I walk about 6.7 miles every couple of days through Forest Park—but that doesn’t mean I’m in biking shape. So I’m working on that,” he said with a smile.
We’re excited to have someone with Charles’s passion and experience join our team. Welcome!
Trailnet has received an award from the Transportation Research Board for Slow Your Street: A How-To Guide for Pop-up Traffic Calming. Grace Kyung, Trailnet’s Special Projects Director, developed the guide to make it easier for everyone to create their own pop-up traffic calming demonstrations. Trailnet has installed these temporary demonstrations in several St. Louis neighborhoods to show how streets can be designed for those who walk and bike. Several other cities, including Tulsa and Indianapolis, are currently using the Guide to plan traffic calming demonstrations. View the Guide online. Read more about Trailnet’s pop-up traffic calming projects.
Louisiana Avenue is a busy residential street that runs along several south city parks and connects to a variety of local businesses and neighborhood schools. It is also a pilot site for the City of St. Louis’ Calm Streets Concept, an initiative funded by the Environmental Protection Agency to create a network of Calm Streets in the city. Calm Streets are residential streets where the use of 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.
The block of Louisiana between Osage and Gasconade Streets was the site of a Calm Streets pop-up demonstration on Thursday, November 17. Staff members from the St. Louis City Street Department and Trailnet staff and volunteers installed temporary crosswalks, a roundabout, and other items designed to slow traffic speeds. The traffic calming features remained in place throughout the day while driving behaviors were observed and feedback was collected from community members.
Many respondents were enthusiastic about the traffic calming measures and how they would contribute to safety for everyone using the street. One resident acknowledged that we “definitely need something to slow traffic.” Two community members were supportive because “there are lots of kids on this street.” One resident stated that “if you have to put a speed hump every six feet, I’m all for it!”
We look forward to continuing our work with the community, with elected officials and with other project partners to realize the vision of a network of calmer safer residential streets. To read more about Trailnet’s Calm Streets Project, click here.
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
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.
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.
Father and son Richard and James Fox spent a blustery Sunday afternoon in January giving away bike lights to riders on the Forest Park bike path. The pair, along with James’ girlfriend Skye Clogson, flagged down cyclists pedaling up the popular trail along Skinker Boulevard.
Richard’s interest in cycling safety has a long history. While attending college in Tuscon, Arizona, he founded Share the Road, a company that manufactured high visibility cycling clothing. After hearing of a cyclist who was left paralyzed after being struck by a car, Richard came up with the light project to impress on his son the importance of riding safely and to help keep other cyclists safe.
The Fox’s chose Forest Park because they knew that it was a popular route for urban riders. Standing to the side of the bike path, they waved down any riders who lacked this important safety asset.
“People were super skeptical at first,” says James. “They had never seen anyone do this. Many wouldn’t stop and my dad had to run alongside them.”
“Everyone was suspicious about ulterior motives,” says Richard. To get riders’ attention, he often called out “Your mother would be happy that we gave this to you.”
“Ride as much or as little, or as long or as short as you feel. But ride,” James quotes cycling champion Eddie Merckx. Cycling is independence for James. “Even the most social person… needs time to themselves and cycling does that for me.”
The father and son share their passion for cycling and spent two weeks together during the summer of 2014, riding from St. Louis to Breckenridge, Colorado.
James is now studying Public Health at New York University. He is a member of the NYU Cycling Team and races in the Eastern Collegiate Cycling Conference. This takes him to competitions all along the eastern seaboard. He is also navigating the streets of New York City on a bicycle, far different from the rural roads near the family home in Wildwood. While he plans to work as a doctor or a health care analyst, he dreams of owning his own bike shop one day.
Of their recent light project, Richard remarked, “There was such a great reaction. I think we’ll do it every year.” As the sun started to fade that Sunday in Forest Park and the Fox family packed their gear into their truck, they saw a cyclist approaching in the twilight. Richard was impressed with the intensity of the lights on the oncoming bike. They waited, idling as the rider neared. The cyclist looked familiar. As he passed, James, Richard and Skye saw that the lights on the bike were theirs. They flashed their headlights at the grateful cyclist, and I waved back.
The speed cushion: one of many great traffic calming tools
Among other opportunities, the Plan4Health project lead to a renewed connection between Trailnet and local bicycle advocate Martin Pion. Martin has been working hard to create dialogue around effective measures for traffic calming. He was very generous in allowing Trailnet to use his temporary speed cushion at one of our four traffic calming demonstrations.
Speed cushions are similar to speed humps, but they have a smaller surface area and can be offset with wheel cutouts, allowing larger vehicles (like emergency vehicles) to pass through without reducing their speed.
Trailnet thanks Martin for the donation of his speed cushion and for sharing his resources with us. To learn more about Martin’s work please read this article he posted on traffic calming.
Traffic calming: a lighter, quicker, cheaper way to policy change
St. Louis’ most recent effort toward creating safer streets consisted of brightly painted tires, colorful cones, plants, and signs. The Healthy Eating Active Living (HEAL) Partnership in the City of St. Louis is using pop-up traffic-calming demonstrations to raise awareness on how to create safer streets. The materials from the demonstrations will be used to develop a traffic-calming lending library.
Please watch this exciting recap that highlights the positive effect the Plan4Health grant has brought to the community.
This new opportunity for the City comes from a Plan4Health grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in partnership with the American Planning Association (APA) and American Public Health Association (APHA). The objective of the grant is to bring together those who work within planning and public health to improve their communities and make them become more loveable.
The City of St. Louis is like many other cities—built for cars to have the largest advantage in transportation. In the U.S., 12 percent of fatal traffic crashes involve people walking, In St. Louis, however, that figure is 36 percent. In the first six months of 2015, 15 pedestrians were killed in the City of St. Louis, many in hit-and-run incidents. These sobering statistics earned St. Louis a designation as a Focus City by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, joining 21 other U.S. cities in which pedestrian deaths are higher than the national average.
Data has shown that wider roads lead to a faster rate of travel for people driving. The graphic below illustrates how higher rates of speed lead to higher rates of traffic fatalities.
Many streets in the City of St. Louis were built to accommodate streetcars and high levels of traffic, so some residential streets are as wide as 65 feet. The traffic calming pop-ups have been a great way for the City and residents to start exploring what to do with the extra space.
Trailnet, a local bicycle and pedestrian advocacy organization and partner within the HEAL Partnership, has been working to address this problem by implementing several pop-up traffic-calming demonstrations throughout the City of St. Louis. The purpose of the events has been to educate community members, elected officials, and city staff on how we can work together to create safer streets. The pop-up traffic-calming demonstrations are less-than-ten-hour events meant to measure the impact street designs have on people driving as well as listen to the community’s suggestions for safer streets.
The Plan4Health grant also offers a unique opportunity for the HEAL Partnership to develop a traffic-calming lending library so community members who are interested in demonstrating their own pop-up traffic-calming events have the resources and tools to use for free. The lending library will come with a toolkit that will list all available materials with instructions anyone can use on how to create their own pop-up traffic-calming demonstrations.
These lighter, quicker, cheaper tactics have already shown to be a catalyst for change within the City of St. Louis. The demonstrations have aided in creating new traffic-calming policies and the City of St. Louis has begun to use the traffic-calming lending library for community outreach.
These demonstrations are helping the City of St. Louis to create equitable places people love by bringing together planning and public health.
To learn more about the St. Louis Plan4Health project, click here.