Bike to Work Day is back this year! Metro Transit, Trailnet and our partners are hosting hospitality stations across the region where bike commuters can stop and refuel on their way to the office! Click here to see the current location of commuter stations. We will add more so check back for updates!
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.”
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.”
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!
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.
For ten years, Harold Karabell has led bicycle tours that highlight St. Louis’ unique neighborhoods and interesting inhabitants, both living and deceased. Riders on his tours have pedaled their way through Calvary and Bellefontaine cemeteries, LaSalle Park and Soulard, Old North and “North of Old North” (Hyde Park, College Hill, and O’Fallon Park), exploring the history and architecture of these fascinating parts of St. Louis. He recently led Trailnet’s Literary Tour, winding through the Central West End, Academy, and Fountain Park neighborhoods, regaling riders with the life stories of local writers such as Tennessee Williams, T.S. Eliot, and Kate Chopin while reading selections from their works. Of all of the tours that he leads, Harold lists the cemetery and literary tours as the most popular, though he himself plays no favorites.
“People seem truly fascinated by well-known authors and tombstones,” Harold says.
Harold is also a dedicated bike commuter, using his bicycle as his principal mode of transportation, a lifestyle that he concedes is a relatively new phenomenon.
“Forty-five years ago, I didn’t know a single adult bicycle commuter,” Harold says. “You would see children on bikes using them for fun and recreation, but seeing an adult bike commuter was even more unusual than dining with a vegan. My wife and I used our bikes much of the time when we became parents and were able to serve as a model of alternative transportation for the next generation. Now bikes are accepted as a legitimate and even preferred form of transportation for increasing numbers of people. We’re not marginal any longer, we’re almost mainstream.”
Harold believes that this shift came about in part because of people’s concerns about our energy dependence and related environmental issues, such as global warming.
“It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by some of the big environmental problems that we face. Riding a bicycle is the single most important thing that an individual can do to make a real contribution and feel good about yourself.”
A long-time resident of the Central West End, Harold feels fortunate to live in a “self-sufficient and sustainable neighborhood.” He describes St. Louis City as “a bike commuter’s paradise – it’s very easy for an educated cyclist to get anywhere they need to go in the city.”
Harold also sees Trailnet as an important agent for change in transportation habits.
“As the pre-eminent bicycle enthusiasm organization in the region, Trailnet builds a constituency of bicyclists and pedestrians and helps move alternative forms of transportation from the margins to the mainstream,” he says.
Going forward, Harold believes Trailnet’s most important focus should be education.
“One can learn, as I have, to ride safely and successfully anywhere in the absence of separate infrastructure, simply by taking one’s place on the road as part of the normal flow of traffic,” Harold said. “Nonetheless, we’re seeing more and better infrastructure each year. The best local example is the City’s protected bike lane on Chestnut Street, a considerable step forward compared to St. Louis’ older door-zone bike lanes. But even the best-designed infrastructure contains not-so-obvious dangers and won’t automatically prevent conflicts between bicyclists and other users of the road. Cyclists need to educate ourselves not to run red lights, not to ride in the door zone, not to be victims of the ‘right hook’ at an intersection, not to be nighttime ninjas, and not to ignore the risks inherent in riding even in state-of-the-art separate facilities.”
Whether commuters or recreational riders, people have many reasons for riding a bike – they might do so to lose weight, to save money at the gas pump, or to do their part for the environment. Harold agrees with his long-time friend Paul McFarlane from the former St. Louis Regional Bicycle Federation (which became part of Trailnet in 2011), who sums it up this way: “The bicycle is the answer to every question.”
For Harold, the most important motivation for riding a bicycle is that it’s simply the most pleasurable way to travel.
“If it weren’t just joyful to get on a bike, most of us wouldn’t do it in the first place,” he says. “Being on a bike opens up the sights and sounds of the city in a way that no other vehicle can. Not being confined inside a car allows you to see your neighborhood in a new and exciting way, to hear the birds, to discover that very large part of the world that remains unknown and unknowable when speeding along in a car.”
In that spirit, Harold says, “Nothing makes me happier than to be on my bike heading toward a dinner date with a good veggie burger. Forty-five years ago, who would have imagined that such a thing would be possible for so many of us on an everyday basis?”
Keep those wheels rolling through the cold! Bike, walk, or take transit to work and log your miles on shiftyourcommute.com. The program will keep track of your car-free trips, calories burned, and carbon emissions saved. Commuters who log the most car-free miles during the month of February will be entered to win some rad Trailnet gear.
This year also brings the Winter Limbo competition. Those who log biking commutes on the coldest day(s) of the winter will be entered to win a long sleeve jersey from Retro Image Apparel.
Tell your friends and colleagues and help us build a community around active lifestyles!
Like many local professionals, Adrian Stillman makes frequent trips to other cities in the Midwest. Unlike most business travelers, Adrian makes these visits without getting into a car or walking through an airport. His modes of transportation include his bicycle, Metro bus, MetroLink and Amtrak.
In order to get in better shape and to save money, Adrian sold his car five years ago, bought a used bicycle, and began commuting to his office by bike—a twelve-mile round trip. Never a bicyclist before this, he soon decided to extend his car-free travels beyond St. Louis.
Adrian’s most recent trip took him to Milwaukee in early November. Loaded with a change of clothes and his laptop, he left his house at 4:30 a.m., biked a few blocks to catch an express bus to the Brentwood MetroLink station, rolled his bike onto the Metro and arrived at the Amtrak station in plenty of time for his train’s 6:40 a.m. departure. Adrian estimated door-to-door travel time for his trip to Milwaukee at ten hours. A nonstop flight to Milwaukee from St. Louis takes just over an hour. This begs the obvious question: why does he do it?
“I love being able to explore and appreciate the world as I travel,” Adrian said. “Using my bike and transit, I can relax and enjoy the scenery, look at the interesting architecture and hear the music – I can explore the new city in a way that you just can’t in a car.”
Most importantly, Adrian values the way that his travels allow him to “connect with other people by sharing physical and social space with them.”
Trailnet staff member Ginny McDonald accompanied Stillman on the St. Louis leg of his journey and observed Adrian connecting and conversing with everyone from the bus driver, to other early-morning commuters, to the person who sold him his first cup of coffee at the Amtrak station. Other transit commuters shared the value of time spent together rather than being isolated in a car. Two co-workers who knitted during their bus ride described their commute as “much more relaxing than driving and a lot cheaper than therapy.”
Would Stillman recommend this mode of travel to others?
“It’s very empowering to travel like this, especially to new places,” he said. “We are all good at throwing obstacles in front of ourselves that prevent us from doing new things. It is up to us to overcome those obstacles.”
One of the barriers that Adrian encountered on this trip was having to dismantle and box his bike for the train from Chicago to Milwaukee. Amtrak baggage staff helped him with the transfer.
“Those guys were great,” Adrian said. “Any connection is so valuable, even when you have to ask for help and show that you are a little vulnerable. That’s life.”
Adrian also appreciates the importance of Trailnet’s efforts in helping to break down barriers to biking and using transit in our region.
“They are doing some awesome things for our community,” He said. “Don’t keep it a secret – tell a friend!”
The data from our 2015 walk and bike counts is in. Thanks to the 76 volunteers who donated 152 hours of their time to count cyclists and pedestrians throughout the St. Louis Metro region in September. Collecting such extensive data can be a real challenge, and it would not have been possible without them. You’ve helped make Trailnet a resource for advising the city and other organizations on transportation-related decisions. We have summited the data to the National Bicycle and Pedestrian Documentation Project, which compiles data for use by planners, governments, and bicycle and pedestrian professionals. We also submit the data to local planning agencies and nonprofits to inform plans for better biking and walking.