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.”
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.
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.
Mapping out a bright future for students in Dutchtown
Trailnet has collaborated with Froebel Literacy Academy in Dutchtown for several years, delivering programs focused on encouraging active lifestyles, improving safety for students walking to and from school, and presenting opportunities for community advocacy.
Selected by their classroom teachers, Froebel’s Leadership Development students are third through fifth graders that meet once a week to concentrate on communication, collaboration and decision-making abilities. Trailnet’s Walk Ambassadors Program provides these students with an ideal platform to hone these skills in fun and creative ways, while teaching the kids about pedestrian safety.
In this year’s program, students learned about the structure of government, from the U.S. president to city alderman. After discussing some of the improvements that they would like to see in their neighborhood, the leadership students met with their 20th Ward alderman, Cara Spencer. The group had a lively discussion with Ms. Spencer about their concerns and their hopes for ways in which citizens and government officials can work together to make change happen.
Students also practiced map-reading skills by plotting the safest walking route to a friend’s birthday party on a map peppered with hazards ranging from closed sidewalks to distracted drivers. In keeping with Froebel’s emphasis on literacy, the students wrote out directions to their party, including risks that a pedestrian should watch for en route, and safety features such as crosswalks that would make the trip safer and more pleasant.
Having written careful instructions for the safest way to get to their destination, the students embellished their writing by adding other elements that a traveler could encounter along the way. Their walking chronicles expanded to include aliens, UFOs, circus animals, and even surprises found on the sidewalk like discarded dollar bills, brightly wrapped mystery gifts, or bakeries filled with goodies. The students did a masterful job of weaving these new elements into their stories, which they read aloud to their classmates. The listening skills of the audience were tested, as students were asked to list the new features that had been added to the narratives. One of the stories brought the program to a tidy close by including Cara Spencer’s donation of a birthday gift to the party.
Trailnet is grateful to the Saigh and Trio Foundations for funding Walk Ambassadors in Dutchtown and to Alderman Spencer for her generous and genuine interest in her young constituents. Special thanks to Mr. Von Smith, Froebel’s Family and Community Specialist, for his tireless dedication, and to the inspiring students at Froebel, who are mapping out a bright future for themselves through their hard work and enthusiasm.
As detailed in the Post-Dispatch, MODOT’s 2015 plan for re-paving and replacing some old signals on Gravois in the City of St. Louis also proposed several street closures; that last item was wildly unpopular. Now, nine months later, MODOT has unveiled a new plan for Gravois and the street closures are no longer part of it. The new Gravois plan will be presented to the public in an “open house” format on January 12th, from 4-7 pm at the Five Star Senior Center, 2832 Arsenal Street. Trailnet will submit comments to MODOT on whether this new plan goes far enough to improve walkability, bikeability, traffic safety and opportunities for economic development on Gravois. Come out to the January 12th meeting, take a look at the plans, talk to MODOT, talk to Trailnet (we’ll be there), and decide what you think!
Alderman visits Froebel Elementary’s Walk Ambassadors
The goals of Trailnet’s Walk Ambassadors Program are to teach elementary school students about the benefits of active living, safe pedestrian behaviors, and ways in which kids can advocate for making their communities better places for walking. Students in the Leadership Development Program at Froebel Literacy Academy have participated in the program for several years.
20th Ward Alderman Cara Spencer paid a visit to the Leadership students on December 3 and got to hear about what the students liked and what they would like to change about their community. Each student also had an opportunity to ask a question of their alderman.
Some of the things that the students liked about their neighborhood included: “my school, my friends, the crossing guard, the stores, the parks, I can walk to places…” The students’ concerns about where they lived ranged from high rates of violence and drug use to the presence of abandoned buildings and trash on the streets to noisy neighbors and “pooping” dogs and cats.
The students’ most poignant questions stemmed from their concerns about neighborhood safety. Spencer’s answers were thoughtful and honest and led to interesting exchanges with her young constituents. In response to a student asking “why people kill other people,” Spencer acknowledged the many factors that can lead to violence and the inability to know exactly what drives people to carry out these acts. A leadership student offered the idea that “they want something that the other person has.”
Students concerned about litter in the neighborhood were assured that more trash containers would be installed and that Spencer was planning a clean-up day that she hoped would include the students’ participation.
When asked if she “would give a homeless person a hundred dollars,” Alderman Spencer described some of the many services that are available to the homeless in St. Louis and admitted the scope of the problem by saying that she could not afford to give money to all those experiencing homelessness.
More lighthearded questions included “what did you eat for Thanksgiving?” Answer: “everything.” And “what kind of car do you drive?” Answer: “a square one.”
Spencer also defined her motivation to seek political office in response to the question “what does an alderman do?” Answer: “An alderman works to make a community a better place to live.”
Froebel Literacy Academy and Trailnet are grateful to Spencer for taking time to talk with the Leadership students. Her visit made quite an impression on the students, as evidenced by some of the comments in their thank you notes to the alderman:
“Thanks for making Ward 20 a safer and better place for young and old people to live.”
“I want to be like you when I grow up.”
“I hope we did not make you tired.”
“You R the greatest.”
Our first Bakeries on the Rise bicycle tour–a sweet success
On June 21, Trailnet hosted our first ever bicycle-powered bakery tour, “Bakeries on the Rise.” The day was slightly overcast, offering a reprieve from the hot summer sun, with a slight breeze all morning. Conditions were prime for a ride– and 94 people (!) of all ages came out for this 8-mile South City ride.
We began our quest for pastries at Whisk: A Sustainable Bake Shop. Owner and baker extraordinaire Kaylen Wissinger offered up some cookie samples, as well as a little history on her Cherokee Street storefront. We then made our way through Dutchtown, across Grand, and into the South Town neighborhood to visit the Companion Earlybird Outlet. Only open on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, this hidden gem is a great place for anyone on a budget who wants top-notch breads and pastries. From here we crested a great BIG hill (whew!) into the Tower Grove South neighborhood and then turned into Tower Grove East, where we visited the brand new Grove East Provisions and Red Fox Baking and Catering. Proprietor Barry Kinder told us all about the process behind building a wood-fired brick oven, and how Red Fox and Grove East Provisions came to enter a neighborhood cornershop partnership. Our final stop took us back to Cherokee Street, where we paid a visit to Black Bear Bakery, which is operated as a cooperative establishment.
Many riders said that we visited places they had either never heard of, or had been meaning to try for some time. We saw bike baskets and panniers filled with loaves of bread, bagels, and sweets to take home, and heard plenty of riders saying they will be back to visit these local businesses again soon!
Thank you to Great Rivers Greenway District and Enterprise Holdings Foundation who provided funding for this ride, and to everyone who came out, supported local business, and learned some new bicycling routes through the city. Special thanks also to the participating bakeries who welcomed our riders with great service and plenty of delicious treats to choose from. Life is sweet when you’re two-wheeled in St. Louis!