CEO Ralph Pfremmer reflects on three decades of Active Living while looking ahead
For me, the middle of January always marks the halfway point of St. Louis’ winter doldrums. I was reminded of this one recent morning, waking up to zero-degree weather, feeling the sting of windchill on my face. As I travel the streets downtown, I am warmed by the fact that I still see bicyclists braving their way to work despite the cold! They are not waiting for the spring thaw to commit to a healthy, active lifestyle.
Inside our offices, with heaters plugged in, we are off to a great start to 2018 and you can feel the energy among the team members. This year is unique! This year is so much more significant than years past. This year marks Trailnet’s 30th anniversary and there is so much to look forward to. Whether consciously or not, we all start the new year thinking about healthy resolutions. Trailnet has resolved to make the healthy choice the easy choice. We want to make it safe and comfortable to walk and bike to the places you want to go. We think the best way to celebrate 30 years of making walking and biking better in St. Louis is to make significant improvements in community connectivity now, in 2018, while setting the stage for 30 years from now!
We embark on our 30th year with the tremendous momentum that your support is giving us. Take a look at Our Impact featured in the January/February newsletter, and if you haven’t yet, join us and count yourself among the people who are taking to the streets for healthy, active living. Join the fun.
Looking back, it’s really quite remarkable what Trailnet has achieved: so many people supporting our organization and so many diverse partners ready and willing to collaborate for change. Having started as a group of recreational bicycle enthusiasts, Trailnet has grown and evolved into—among other things—a very significant regional planning and advocacy organization. It goes without saying that Trailnet now exists as an important civic organization centered on improving the way we live in St. Louis, leveraging our past while staying committed to the platform of walking, bicycling and active living for all St. Louisans.
Trailnet’s staff and board of directors invite you to attend the kickoff of our 30th anniversary at our special event on Friday, February 9. Trailnet supporters, Cindy and John Lynch, will be our hosts at their unique venue, Break Room Concerts at Show Me Cables in Chesterfield. Seating is limited, so hurry to get your spot. Please join us as we kick off the new year and officially put an end to the winter doldrums!
So let’s look forward to having a fantastic year together. Get involved by participating in our events. Come to Beans, Bikes, and Brews on Saturday, March 10, when we announce all of our Bicycle Fun Club and Community Rides. Consider coming to one of our Peloton events. However you choose to participate, we promise you the opportunity to share your voice. We want to hear your Trailnet story. We’d like to know about how things have changed for you since Trailnet started and what your desires are for a region filled with so much promise as you enjoy a commitment to a healthy, active lifestyle.
The forecast for walking and biking is good, the weather is about to change. What better reason to challenge ourselves to renew our commitment to healthy, active living? It’s my hope that we all strengthen our commitment to ourselves and to the work that Trailnet is doing. Let’s join arm-in-arm as we propel St. Louis forward!
Ann Crowe took up bicycling while living in Washington, D.C., where an extensive network of cycling paths made commuting by bike a convenient way to incorporate exercise into her daily routine. Ann moved to St. Louis to be closer to family and to pursue work in engineering. After deciding to make a career change, Ann began volunteering at Trailnet rides and fundraising events while completing her Doctorate in Physical Therapy. Her volunteer activities allow her to “meet many new people and see different parts of the city and surrounding areas,” she says.
Ann’s volunteer experience introduced her to a “warm and welcoming community,” and she believes that a “shared love of biking provides common ground” for people that participate in Trailnet events. Ann’s husband Vance now joins her on many of the weekend rides, which she credits with giving him “the same confidence and passion for cycling and health” that is so important to her.
As a physical therapist, Ann understands the critical importance of regular exercise for maintaining health and recovering from injury. She notes the abundance of research supporting the positive impact of exercise on mood and overall health, and sees evidence of these effects at Trailnet events. “It only takes a morning at a Trailnet ride to see this come to life in the laughter, support and friendships created through group exercise,” she says.
Even with many years of experience as a bike commuter and recreational cyclist, Ann is aware that for many people concerns about safety may mean that they don’t bike or walk if no specific infrastructure exists. She is committed to building a community where more people have access to the benefits of active transportation. “Having a network of safe and connected bikeways and sidewalks will make biking and walking easier and available to more people,” she says. She also predicts that “as more people use the bikeways and sidewalks, they will feel personally invested in supporting the growth of this network.”
In addition to volunteering time to Trailnet, Ann and Vance are Trailnet Peloton members, providing financial support for the protected bikeway vision. They strongly believe in “dedicating personal efforts and resources to build infrastructure that empowers communities.”
Ann and Vance also feel that positive change will come to St. Louis only if individuals take the initiative. “Whatever challenges we face, the best way to identify problems and solutions is to get personally involved, seeing the community by biking on the roads and paths, meeting our neighbors, visiting and supporting local businesses. Trailnet gives us the opportunity to come together as individuals and make our city healthier and more interesting, with access and opportunity for everyone to enjoy a more active lifestyle.”
If you’ve ever been on a Bicycle Fun Club ride, you have probably been a recipient of Andy Mayberry’s generosity. If you have ever had a beer at a Trailnet event, you have definitely been on the receiving end of this equation. At the annual chili party five years ago, Andy noticed that we were serving beer with a hand-pumped keg. At the time, he worked for Grey Eagle Distributing and pulled equipment out of his truck to pressurize our keg and install a tap. He has been a valued member of the Trailnet family ever since, helping out in numerous ways at rides and other events.
Andy has been an avid bicyclist ever since buying a used Schwinn Continental at Goodwill while in junior high. He first rode the length of the Katy Trail in 2005 and now rides with a group called the Landsharks, that includes local friends and cyclists that come from other states to enjoy the country’s longest continuous rail-trail. To date, he has ridden the Katy Trail twenty-one times, and has also ridden with the group in Nebraska, Illinois, and along the shores of Lake Superior. “It’s the journey, not the destination…the people you meet and the sights you see,” he says.
Andy also participates in numerous fundraising events, and initially joined Trailnet to train with the BFC for his long-distance charity rides. “You get into riding because you like to ride and then you find a higher purpose with the charities,” Andy explains.
One of Andy’s favorite causes is The Delta Gamma Center for Children with Visual Impairments. As a volunteer, Andy rides a tandem with a visually-impaired child so that they can experience the freedom and joy of bicycling. “They just want to be normal kids and get out on a bike, and that is something I can help with,” he says with a smile.
Andy has helped to raise money for a variety of health-related causes by participating in numerous fundraising rides, including the Tour de Cure and Bike MS. “I’m never going to be the fastest, the strongest, or biggest fundraiser,” he says, “but I can give of myself and my time.” He also encourages drivers to be courteous to cyclists who “may be out there training for a charity ride that will help someone that the driver knows.”
A ride that has particular significance for Andy is Pedal the Cause, which raises money for cancer research and support of individuals with cancer and their caregivers. Andy has beaten cancer twice himself and refers to people with cancer as “fighters, not patients.” He rides to “let them know that there are a lot of people out here who have beaten it and offer support.”
In 2015, Andy provided support for an 8-man racing crew in the Tour Across America. The cycling team won the race from Ocean Side, California to Annapolis, Maryland. They rode over 3000 miles in 5 days, 21 hours, and 58 minutes, raising $600,000 for the Fallen Heroes Fund.
“Once you ride, you get it. You can’t explain it to someone who doesn’t ride. For the time that you’re on the bike, you can put all that other stuff behind you.”
Andy has taken on many tasks to help Trailnet, including painting road markings for rides, driving SAG vehicles, and leading group rides. “As a group leader, you’re sometimes with people who haven’t ridden a bike in twenty years. You get to take them from zero to completing twenty plus miles,” he says.
The many ways that Andy Mayberry helps Trailnet have sometimes meant that he spends less time on a bike himself. “The more I’ve gotten involved, the more I am not on the bike,” he explains. “The satisfaction I get is to see the smiles on peoples’ faces when they come in, and I don’t care if the people know what I do at all.”
Trailnet volunteers rock, and may have counted you in September
Did you happen to walk or bike past a suspicious person with a clipboard in early September? Were they looking at you and fastidiously scribbling mysterious information? Not to worry! That was likely one of our remarkable volunteers recording data on bicycle and pedestrian activity.
On September 13 and 14, Trailnet coordinated 122 volunteers to perform counts at 71 different locations across the City of St. Louis, St. Louis County, and St. Charles County. This year saw a 44 percent increase in volunteer participation, accounting for 244 hours of volunteer service.
A lack of documentation of cyclists and pedestrians makes it difficult to measure the positive benefits of investments in these modes of transportation. The NBPD sets detailed standards and guidelines and provides tools for performing bicycle and pedestrian counts and surveys. This allows for a uniform method of accounting for walkers and cyclists across the country.
Locations for the counts are determined by a collaboration between Trailnet, Great Rivers Greenways (GRG), and the Gateway Bike Plan Working Group. The primary purpose is to find out how many people are walking or biking for transportation, although all pedestrians and cyclists are counted. All counts are performed on streets, even if there is an adjacent trail.
Trailnet compiles the data and shares it with GRG as well as regional governments, planning agencies, and key partners in the Gateway Bike Plan Working Group. The information is used to inform projects and educational efforts. It helps our advocacy in the region by providing data to lobby for better conditions and makes the case for advancing funding in infrastructure by local and national government agencies. We would like to thank all of those who volunteered for their time. Stay tuned for the results!
If you look up the word “sag” in Webster’s dictionary, you will find this definition: “to hang down in the middle especially because of weight or weakness.” That definition might apply to some bicyclists, but for most, the word is an acronym for Support And Gear. Trailnet can thank Stewart Drolet for providing some of our most reliable and versatile SAG services.
His work with Trailnet is not the first time that Stewart has taken his mechanical skills on the road. After owning a bike shop in his hometown of O’Fallon, Illinois from 1994 through 2004, he started a traveling bike repair service, working out of a 16-foot step van. He describes one of his successful forays into mobile bike repair:
“I got together with a guy in St. Louis who put the word out to all of the tenants in his apartment building – I worked on the bikes all day and when people got home, their bikes were ready to go,” Stewart said. “I really liked that but eventually the truck died.”
In his current job, Stewart works on airplanes instead of bikes, but he continues to get his bike “fix” through his work as a Bicycle Fun Club SAG driver.
“I really enjoy all of the people, I like being outside and I love fixing things,” Stuart said. “I like being able to see something that’s broken work again. We get a lot of people that are doing 100 miles for the first time because they have the support. Lots of these folks just wouldn’t feel confident doing it on their own.”
Many bicyclists that participate in these rides may not realize the commitment of time and energy given by the SAG drivers. “I usually leave the house by 5 a.m. to start putting water out so it’s ready for the early riders,” Stewart said. “I bring my own tools and repair stand. Between doing repairs, moving supplies around, and picking up riders, you keep really busy all day. Even though SAG support usually ends at 3 p.m., you still have to collect everything, so you may not finish until six in the evening.”
The repairs Stewart makes range from airing up tires, to adjusting brakes and derailleurs. His most complicated fix was completely rebuilding a rider’s wheel that had become “untensioned” within a few miles of the start. His most frequent task is fixing flat tires.
“I had a group come in who had three flats on the same tire between downtown and the Chain of Rocks Bridge,” he said. “When I checked it out, I found a wire stuck in the tire. They were surprised that they kept getting flats with such a ‘small hole.’”
In addition to his mechanical expertise, Stewart uses his skills as a photographer to benefit Trailnet. He frequently volunteers his time taking photos at Trailnet events, and occasionally takes photos on the rides. Stewart also does his part to spread the word about Trailnet on the Illinois side of the river. He lets his friends and co-workers know about Trailnet events and encourages them to go on the rides.
As for himself, Stewart said he has too many work and family obligations to bike these days. But he remembers always being into bikes, and introduced his daughter to biking when she was an infant.
“When I had the bicycle shop, my daughter came to work with me,” he said. “I would pull her to work in my bike trailer and take her on any errands that I had.”
Stewart believes that encouraging more kids to bicycle should be a focus for Trailnet. He was pleased to hear that Trailnet has “Bike Weeks” planned at three area schools this fall: two in Kirkwood and one in south St. Louis. Stewart said he’s happy his daughter still rides a bicycle and hopes that Trailnet will be able to “teach more kids about bike safety and give them opportunities to ride – do outreach to more schools and maybe even provide loaner bikes. If kids got a chance to ride, maybe they would ask for a bike for Christmas instead of a video game.”
Counters needed to help St. Louis become an even better place to walk and ride!
We need YOU to help us count people walking and biking at locations throughout St. Louis City, St. Louis County, and St. Charles County. Volunteers commit to using a pen and paper (we’ll email you a standard counting form) to count at one street location from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, September 13, Wednesday, September 14, or both days. Only one person is needed per count location, but feel free to bring a friend, family member, neighbor, or pet for counting company. In case of rain, counts will be done the following week on September 20 and 21.
As we continue to collect bicycle and pedestrian data each year, we are able to show changes in how people walk and bike around the St. Louis region. Last year, volunteers counted more than 9,000 people walking and biking at 60 locations!
Volunteers are especially needed to count in St. Charles County, North St. Louis County, Mid St. Louis County, South St. Louis County and North St. Louis City. Counts in all areas of the St. Louis region help to paint a more complete picture of where people are using walking and biking routes and where better planning for new routes and encouragement and education programs are needed. Click here to see a map of all count locations.
Will you consider counting in an area you have never been before? Bring a lawn chair and get comfortable as you help make St. Louis an even better place to walk and bicycle!
Once you have completed the count, scan or take a picture of the form with your phone and email your completed counting form to email@example.com, or drop the paper copy in the mail to Trailnet Attn: Taylor 411 North 10th Street., Suite 202 St. Louis, MO 63101.
All volunteers who submit a completed counting form are eligible to win an Apple iPad!
Optional volunteer training will be held on September 7, from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m., at Trailnet’s office (411 North 10th Street., Suite 202 St. Louis, MO 63101). To sign up as a counting volunteer, click here.
Dean Wette enjoys challenging himself by setting personal goals. When he got into bicycling three years ago, he wanted to maximize the number of miles he put in the saddle. Averaging 150 to 200 miles per week, he has bicycled more than 6,000 miles each year. He rode 15 centuries in 2015, some of them on Trailnet BFC and nonprofit partner rides, qualifying Dean as a Trailnet Century Club member.
Riding 15 centuries in a year is an accomplishment he shares with several of his friends, demonstrating the physical challenge involved as well as the camaraderie he enjoys in cycling. Although he loves the social aspects of bicycling, Dean found himself riding solo a couple of years ago, noting, “I wanted to see if I could ride a hundred miles in all sub-freezing temperatures. I got 70 miles in at 24 degrees, but then the roads got so slick from snow that I had to stop.”
So what could be so great about being on a bike that Dean braves frigid temperatures and spends so many hours rolling on two wheels?
Climbing in Augusta during Big Shark’s 2016 Vino Fondo Mondo ride. Photo: Kim Morris, kimmorris.com
“It’s just fun!” he said. “You never really know where you live until you get on a bike. You can explore the entire metropolitan area. There’s just no way to really experience things if you’re in a car, and if you are a runner or walker, you just can’t cover the miles that you can on a bike.”
Most of the miles Dean rides are for recreation, although he did participate in Bike to Work Day this year, completing a 40-mile round trip commute. He and his wife do almost all of the Trailnet BFC rides every year.
“They bring cyclists of all capabilities together,” Dean said of Trailnet’s events, adding, “It shows them that there is a real community that they can belong to.”
In addition to his participation in the BFC rides, Dean is a strong supporter of Trailnet’s Advocacy work.
“Trailnet has done a lot to make St. Louis safer for bicyclists,” he said.
Going forward, Dean believes Trailnet’s most important contributions will be to educate drivers and bicyclists about safely sharing the road. Although he appreciates efforts to increase the number of bike lanes in the region, he believes these infrastructure changes should be met with education and maintenance.
“If a bike lane has bad pavement or a lot of debris, I won’t use it,” he said. “So the drivers get confused when they see a bike lane and I’m not in it. And ‘sharrows’ are even worse – drivers don’t know what they mean. All of this should be covered in driver’s ed and questions should be included on the driver’s test.”
Because issues sometimes come up with drivers and even with law enforcement, Dean carries Trailnet’s “Missouri Bicycle Law” cards with him when he rides.
“Sometimes drivers will tell me that I should be on the sidewalk, so I have the card to show them that that is not only unsafe, but also illegal,” he said.
Dean also sees bicyclists doing things that compromise safety:
“I still see cyclists riding in the wrong direction, on sidewalks, or desperately hugging the white line on streets when there isn’t enough room for cars to pass safely—in which case the cyclist should be taking the full lane,” Dean said. “I see a lot of bicycle commuters riding as if they’re just unwelcome guests on the road. I see it differently: I’m not blocking traffic, I am traffic!”
For this year, Dean will be seeking out routes with lots of hills. His current goal is to become a better climber. His abilities will be put to the test at the end of July, when he and his wife travel to Colorado to ride in the mountains with Dean’s brother. Dean credits bicycling for greatly improving his own health and is also amazed at the benefits of cycling for his brother, who has Parkinson’s disease.
“When I got back into riding three years ago, I had a diagnosis of pre-diabetes and pre-hypertension,” Dean said. “I wanted to get healthy without medication. It worked. I now have great blood pressure and my blood sugar dropped down to ideal levels. Cycling also nearly eliminated my chronic lower back pain, got me off medication for high cholesterol and helped get my allergies under control, not to mention reducing stress in my life. For my brother, bicycling has really helped to control his symptoms, and has allowed him to live a more normal life.”
Bike to Work Day, the highlight of National Bike Month, was founded in 1956 by the League of American Bicyclists. Every year, the League assesses each of the 50 states in terms of facilities that encourage bicycle commuting. Missouri is currently ranked 34th in the nation.
“We want to make St. Louis one of the best cities for walking and biking in the country by 2030,” says Trailnet Executive Director Ralph Pfremmer. “The 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.”
The number of bicyclists is growing rapidly from coast to coast. The National Household Travel Survey showed that the number of trips made by bicycle in the US more than doubled from 1.7 billion in 2001 to 4 billion in 2009.
Trailnet works to make a more bike friendly and walkable St. Louis.
“We have a lot of facilities in place: greenways and infrastructure on the streets, and we have a lot of riders that commute to work. We are doing well but we can do better, and that’s what Trailnet works for,” says Pfremmer.
Many thanks to the Great Rivers Greenway District for providing funding for Bike to Work Day, to all of the businesses who hosted refueling stations, and to the bike commuters who made it all happen!
Trailnet is again providing secure and complimentary Bike Valet for people cycling to Fair Saint Louis in Forest Park. Since the Park will be closed to vehicle traffic during the Fair, attendees are being encouraged to use bikes, walking, or MetroLink to get to the festivities.
Bike valets operate like a coat check for bicycles. Valet volunteers will give cyclists a claim ticket and park and retrieve bicycles from the bike racks. Shifts are three hours and will be staffed by 6 volunteers and one Trailnet staff member at each station.
What a great opportunity to gather friends, family and co-workers to team up and support Trailnet, active transportation, and CO2 reduction!