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!
Born and raised in St. Louis, Michael Schwartz can’t remember a time when he wasn’t riding a bike. Better known as Mike, he grew up in Chesterfield riding around his neighborhood with friends. He didn’t know that this leisure activity from his childhood would turn into an activity that would follow him into adulthood and become his main source of exercise and enjoyment. As a young adult, Mike says he always had a bike, but it was never anything that he spent a great deal of time with until he was living in Washington D.C. There, he was introduced to the Rails-to-Trails biking system, which was one of the first and more well known Rails-to-Trails systems in the country. Having access to this system sparked Mike’s interest with using biking as a way to get from A to B without relying on a vehicle.
When Mike moved back to St. Louis, he was looking to fulfill the missing void of the D.C. bike community. After doing research and asking around, he found out about Trailnet. Once he was introduced to the Bicycle Fun Club rides as well as Trailnet’s advocacy work for better the biking and walking infrastructure within our city, he realized he had found the St. Louis biking community he was longing for since his move. He finds it amazing that in St. Louis, you have multiple parks and neighborhoods to ride in, but you can drive just twenty minutes out and find rural areas to ride in as well.
Even though Mike finds this diverse aspect of St. Louis biking satisfying, he still thinks there’s room for improvement. He feels that our region is not designed well for commuting, which is why he’s so excited about Trailnet’s master plan to develop protected bikeways and walkways within our city. Mike started as a rider, but once he discovered Trailnet’s core mission to develop this master plan, he joined the development committee of Trailnet. Now, Mike serves on the Board of Directors helping Trailnet work towards its master plan to make St. Louis an even more equitable and vibrant city.
Mike works as an attorney at Bryan Cave which is a global law firm that got it’s start here in St. Louis. His practice is in mergers and acquisitions, corporate finance, and commercial transactions. He assists a range of clients including major corporations, family owned businesses and start-up enterprises in industries that include manufacturing, financial services, retail, healthcare and biotechnology. For the last eight years, Mike finds fulfillment in doing a job that helps businesses strategize their goals and hopefully change their business for the better based on what they want to accomplish.
When Mike isn’t working 9 to 5 to help corporate businesses with mergers and acquisitions, he spends time doing pro bono work for new nonprofits in our area that he’s passionate about and finds beneficial for our region. He helps these new organizations gather the pieces of what they want to provide our community by writing up business strategies and helping these education and art based nonprofits find their voice within the St. Louis region.
Now living in University City with his wife and 18-month-old daughter, Ingrid, Mike doesn’t get to spend much time riding 100-milers over the weekend like he once did, but he doesn’t regret a single moment spent with his family. Mike stays involved with the bike community by being one of the leaders within his firm, Bryan Cave, to organize a bike group for riders that want to bike to and from work. This past Bike to Work Day, Mike led his group to the Missouri History Museum to enjoy baked breakfast goods and coffee with other passionate and excited members of the bicycling community.
Wendy Campbell and her kids have been riding bicycles for a long time. As a resident of north city, Wendy would drop her then two-year old daughter at daycare and commute to her job, where she parked the bike in her office. “It was a really nice purple bike with a baby seat on the back. I would ride everywhere and the baby loved it. People looked at me like I was a parade float,” she recalls.
There are lots of things that Wendy loves about riding a bike: the benefits of getting exercise, the ability to directly experience her surroundings, and the chance to easily engage with people that she encounters. In 2010, Wendy and her family moved to the Dutchtown neighborhood, where she enjoys riding to “take in the beautiful architecture, the jewels, the little pocket parks, and seeing people I know in the neighborhood,” she says.
Having visited other cities with well-developed biking infrastructure, Wendy feels that Trailnet’s vision to connect St. Louis is greatly needed and long overdue. She looks forward to a network of “safe, protected bikeways that will get us anywhere we need to go and give people a chance to get out of their cars, saving money on gas and enjoying lots of health benefits.”
Wendy also predicts that the network “will create a domino effect. The more people see other people on bikes, the more familiar and possible it will seem. People who don’t have cars will be able to put their bikes on buses or MetroLink and get to their destinations. One of the best things about it is that it will put more people out on the streets and that will help to make our streets safer.”
Wendy Campbell knows a lot about what makes communities work, and is involved in her south city neighborhood in many ways. Shortly after moving to the area, she became a Block Captain, providing information and resources to neighbors, and welcoming newcomers to the community. She has worked with her local elementary school, Froebel Literacy Academy, as a crossing guard and den mother of a Cub Scout troup.
As one of Trailnet’s original Walk Bike Ambassadors, Wendy has helped to identify ways that safety can be improved in her area for walkers and bikers, and was a critical neighborhood advocate for a traffic calming demonstration near Marquette Park. She was elected 20th Ward Committeewoman in 2016 and works closely with her alderman, Cara Spencer, to promote the interests of her constituents.
Wendy’s generous and outgoing personality suit her perfectly for these many community roles, and also for her job as a Parking Enforcement Officer. She describes her job as “the perfect job. I get to walk a lot and meet and talk to people all day. Even if I won the lottery I wouldn’t quit my job!” After receiving her first paycheck last winter, Wendy bought toiletries and hand warmers, put them into zip lock bags and gave the bags to homeless people downtown, her first location as a parking officer.
Between her family, her many roles in the Dutchtown community, and her job, Wendy doesn’t have much time to stand still. She acknowledges that “new stuff excites me. You might have uncertainties and anxiety at first, but that’s followed by the rush of mastering a new thing.” She adds that “I don’t feel useful unless I’m doing something. That’s what makes me come alive.”
Wendy Campbell hopes that her enthusiasm and her willingness to work for her neighborhood will spread to her kids and to others in the community. That enthusiasm is one of the qualities that drew her to her fiancé, Byron Brown, who also serves as a Block Captain in the Dutchtown neighborhood. The couple shares an appreciation for their rich and diverse neighborhood and the belief that “if we agree to look out for each other, it makes this ride on planet earth a little better for everyone.”
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.
Thanks to generous funding from the Dana Brown Charitable Trust, there are now Pace Cars cruising the neighborhood around Froebel Literacy Academy in Dutchtown. Pace Cars serve as models of safe driving behavior and increase driver awareness of pedestrians, bicyclists, and other vehicles.
Students in Froebel’s Leadership Development Program composed a Pace Car Pledge that includes items such as:
I pledge to stop for people who are crossing the street.
I pledge to not use my phone to talk or text while driving.
I pledge to wear my seatbelt and to make sure that all of my passengers are buckled before driving.
Students also worked to recruit Froebel staff, family, and community members to sign the pledge. Pace Car volunteers receive a magnetic “Neighborhood Pace Car” logo to display on their car.
The program was officially launched on December 8 with a visit from Officer Patrick Clancy of the Metropolitan St. Louis Police Department. Officer Clancy answered questions posed by Froebel students and staff, and suggested ways in which the Police Dept. can help to reinforce the Pace Car Program.
Over twenty drivers have volunteered to sign the Pace Car Pledge and our goal is to increase that number to forty in the next few weeks. Because many Froebel students walk to and from school everyday, our hope is that Pace Cars will help to improve safety for the children and for the community as a whole. If you are a resident of Dutchtown, or frequently drive in the neighborhood, sign the pledge! Contact Ginny McDonald at firstname.lastname@example.org for information.
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.
For the last five years, Von Smith has served as Froebel Literacy Academy’s Family and Community Specialist, a role that he views as a “privilege and responsibility.” His position involves encouraging parental involvement, improving student attendance and achievement, and developing relationships with community groups and agencies.
Mr. Smith, crossing guard Wendy Campbell, and Trailnet staff member Ginny McDonald celebrate Froebel Walk to School Day, Halloween 2015
Mr. Smith is energetic and inventive in his efforts to develop partnerships between the school, its families, and its community. The most satisfying part of his job, he says, is “reaching out to parents in an effort to ensure students’ academic success.” His efforts to engage parents and families include “steak and egg breakfasts” for men in the community, using the school as a safe site for Halloween trick or treating, and starting a chess club for Froebel students.
Several years ago, Mr. Smith organized a Leadership Development Program for third through fifth grade students. Participants are selected by their classroom teachers and focus on four goals: improving communication skills, learning to collaborate, becoming better decision-makers, and volunteering in their community. Mr. Smith recruits a variety of community organizations to work with his Leadership students, and cites these efforts to make “lasting partnerships with the community” as another part of his job that he especially enjoys.
As one of the partners involved in the Leadership Program, Trailnet has worked with the students to disseminate information about pedestrian safety and to provide ways that students can act as advocates for their community.
Alderman Spencer speaks to Leadership students and Mr. Smith.
Highlights of last year’s program included enlisting Leadership students as volunteers during a traffic calming demonstration in the neighborhood, and a visit by alderman Cara Spencer. Students had the opportunity to ask questions of Ms. Spencer and to relay their concerns about neighborhood safety. One outcome of this exchange has been a commitment from Alderman Spencer to set aside funds for crosswalk improvements around the school.
For Mr. Smith, the chance to meet with an elected official was an exciting opportunity for his young students. “It was more than we could have hoped for…to give these young leaders a chance to speak directly with their alderman,” he said.
Beginning this week, Trailnet will launch a “Pace Car Program” at the school. Students will collaborate in writing a Pace Car pledge and recruit parents and staff members as Pace Car drivers. The Pace Cars will model safe driving behaviors for other motorists in the area, obeying all traffic signs and regulations. Mr. Smith has approached this new program with his typical enthusiasm. “It will be a great way to get parents involved, and maybe even other schools – this will make the whole community safer for everyone.”
Trailnet will also work with MoDOT and Froebel’s physical education staff to offer the first Bike Week at the school this fall. Students will learn about bike safety and get a chance to try out their bike handling skills.
Many of us at Trailnet have had the pleasure of working with Mr. Smith over the years. His interactions with his students are inspiring; he never misses a chance to take an ordinary exchange and turn it into a teachable moment. He is always receptive to novel ideas, and willing to do whatever it takes to provide new opportunities for the students. He displays a deep and genuine concern for his students and their families. One issue that he particularly worries about is the amount of violence in the neighborhood. Our hope is that programs that put more people out on the streets, walking, biking and looking out for each other will make the neighborhood safer for everyone.
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.
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!