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!
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.
Dwayne James loves creating opportunities for people to challenge themselves and succeed at things they never thought they could accomplish. As a Ferguson City Council member, he worked closely with Trailnet’s Healthy Active and Vibrant Communities Initiative from 2008- 2013 to develop Live Well Ferguson, which organizes a variety of community events that bring people together for fun and exercise. Seven years ago, Live Well Ferguson organized the first Ferguson Twilight Run, an annual event that now draws up to two thousand participants.
“The first year we thought we might get 50 people to show up—we ended up with 900 people,” Dwayne said. “We get everyone from little kids, to seasoned runners, to those using a cane to walk the 5K. We’re telling people to show up however you are, as long as you do it. It’s not just good for the individuals or families, it’s good for the whole community because the community comes together and shines.”
Other annual events sponsored by Live Well Ferguson include the Twilight Ramble bicycle ride, and Sunday Parkways, an opportunity for residents to walk, bike and play on streets closed to car traffic.
Live Well Ferguson also promotes healthy food choices through Eat Well Ferguson, a program that provides nutritional information at participating local restaurants, and by offering garden plots at three community garden sites. Dwayne worked with several other residents to craft an ordinance creating the community gardens and conveyed his own excitement as a novice gardener.
“We wanted to do something positive with the empty lots that we had around town,” he said. “The great thing about community gardens is that people get out there to work and neighbors meet each other for the first time…they might live four doors apart but never knew each other. I grew my first cucumber – I was so excited! I just wanted to save it, but I had to eat it eventually.”
Another early goal of Live Well Ferguson was to craft Complete Streets legislation for Ferguson. Dwayne spearheaded this effort in 2008, making Ferguson one of the first communities in the region to pass Complete Streets.
“I am a civil engineer, so streets and infrastructure were things that I had in my back pocket,” Dwayne said. “We were already on a path to build a healthier, more active community, and I knew that designing streets that were safe for all users would be a great asset.”
Having served the maximum number of terms on the City Council, Dwayne is no longer a member, but is still an enthusiastic organizer of Live Well events and is also a Board Member of the Ferguson Youth Initiative.
FYI provides Ferguson teens with a welcoming space where they have access to activities, computers, and adult volunteers who provide tutoring. It also coordinates youth programs with other organizations, like the YMCA, Ferguson Parks and Recreation, and local schools and churches. Most importantly, FYI helped to create a Youth Advisory Board. This group of 10 teens provides a youth perspective on city issues, and gives young people a chance to participate in local government. Dwayne emphasizes the value of the Youth Board for the city as well as the teens who serve.
“It allows them to have a voice and empowers them to do things for themselves,” he said. “It also helps city officials understand what is important to our young people and ways that we can all work together to solve problems.”
Having lived in Ferguson for most of his life, Dwayne is familiar with its struggles, but positive about its future.
“We have people moving into the community, businesses that are growing, citizens stepping up to serve on the council,” Dwayne said. “Ferguson youth are doing amazing things. The schools are graduating some spectacular kids. If you don’t know the good and bad aspects of your community, then you’re not involved. I love Ferguson, I love North County, I love St. Louis. I know that there is lots of work to be done and it’s the entire community that makes things happen. There’s the person who steps up to volunteer, the person who comes out to an event and cheers the runners on, or even the resident who says ‘I’m ok with them shutting down my street to hold this event.’ I have faith in my community and know that working together we will continue to make great things happen.”
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.
Twelve energetic, engaged and diverse individuals were recently selected from among 45 applicants to be Trailnet’s first Walk/Bike Ambassadors. They are: Deidre Brown, Florissant; Jodi Devonshire, City of St. Charles; Chris Freeland, St. Louis (Tower Grove East); Robin Medici, St. Louis (Northhampton); Chris Mileski, Wildwood; Aaron Mollette, St. Louis (Holly Hills); Michele Oesch, St. Louis (Skinker/DeBaliviere); Margie Oliver, Hazelwood; Don Orf, St. Louis (St. Louis Hills); Steven Peyton, Belleville; Ramona Scott, St. Louis (Greater Ville); and Patty Szymkowicz, Chesterfield. These folks will have a day-long training session later this month and then volunteer time to expand awareness of Trailnet and to build our advocacy capacity in the region. They’ll develop relationships with community leaders, participate in advocacy campaign events, promote active living, and recruit other Trailnet supporters (and potential future ambassadors). Stay tuned for more updates!
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.
Bicycle Fun Club (BFC) Rides and Events: great volunteers assist before each ride by helping staff set up tables and tents, sell tickets, work registration, sell memberships, hand out maps and refreshments, answer general questions, and clean up. BFC volunteers ride free at the close of registration AND receive a free ride voucher for a regularly priced BFC ride of their choice!
Trailnet introduced their new business membership program at an event on Tuesday, February 24 at the Venture Cafe on the Cortex campus. This invitation-only event served as a great opportunity to share Trailnet’s 2015 plans, to launch Trailnet’s Business Membership Program, and to meet Trailnet’s new executive director, Ralph Pfremmer.
The attendees were board members, community partners, donors, and prospective business members who spent most of the evening networking and enjoying food and drinks. The room was abuzz with the latest in transportation news and Trailnet’s vision to make walking and biking a way of life in St. Louis.
As part of the event, Ralph Pfremmer and Jennifer Allen, Director of Strategic Initiatives, presented research on the economic impact protected bikeways and improved walking infrastructure can have on a community. They connected this data to the introduction of Trailnet’s Business Membership Program and how, in becoming a member, businesses can invest in Trailnet’s vision for better walking and biking infrastructure that supports a prosperous, healthy region.
Executive Director Ralph Pfremmer summed up the evening this way: “In a perfect world, collaboration is abundant, everyone is included, and transparency is the standard. The Trailnet business member understands that together we can foster a quality of life that supports a prosperous, healthy region.”
Confluence Business Advisors, Ron Tanner and Dave Fingerhut, partners
Collaborate with us
As we work to make walking and biking a way of life in our region, it is critical that we have the resources and support to bring about innovative and positive change in our community. Your business membership provides for us the support we need to be visionary and collaborative leaders for progress. Click here for business membership levels and benefits. For more information contact Kay Barnes, Director of Development – firstname.lastname@example.org, 314.436.1324 x 104
Host a DIY Bike to Work Day Station at your workplace on National Bike to Work Day, Friday, May 15. Join Trailnet in counting 500 cyclists throughout the STL area. We will help promote your station and your business!
How it works:
Recruit co-workers to run the station with you.
Decide what breakfast items you will provide. If your workplace’s budget allows, these items may be purchased, or donated by partner businesses.
Once you have an idea of who will run the station and what breakfast items will be provided, fill out the DIY Station form, found here. Trailnet will follow up with you to arrange for educational materials to be displayed at your station.
Make a plan to promote Bike to Work Day through your workplace’s employee newsletter, email, flyers in the breakroom, and social media (don’t forget, Trailnet will be promoting your station too, so someone from outside your workplace might stop by).
If your workplace doesn’t have one already, create a team on ShiftYourCommute.com. Co-workers can join your company’s team and log their car-free miles. On Bike to Work Day, everyone who logs their car-free commute is eligible to win prizes!
Provide support and encouragement for your co-workers leading up to Bike to Work Day. Some ideas include:
Route mapping – Provide links or maps in your company-wide newsletter or break room featuring bike-friendly routes. If you are a regular bike commuter, list your favorite streets, shortcuts, and parks to ride through.
Bike mentors – Pair novice cyclists with experienced bike commuters who can accompany them on their first ride to work.
Bike trains – Identify a handful of meeting locations to “pick up” fellow bike commuters on the way to work. Designate an experienced commuter to lead the group from each spot, ending at your workplace’s Bike to Work Day station.
On Bike to Work Day, make sure to track the number of people who visit your station (don’t forget to count yourself and any colleagues who help run the station), and send your final tally to email@example.com by Monday, May 18.
Thank your volunteers, pat yourselves on the back, and start thinking of ideas for next year. Share your successes through your company’s social media, employee newsletter, and partners. Share the experience with Trailnet and send any photos or quotes to firstname.lastname@example.org.
New Directors of Transportation in City and County
St. Louis news of late has been filled with death, tragedy and crime. We know that’s not the entire story. There is a lot of positive activity happening below the surface of the news cycle. St. Louis has become an entrepreneurial hub. Our region has talented, creative, and energetic people working every day to create a vibrant, active region. Organizations and agencies are collaborating at an increasing rate. Together, we are focusing our collective activities towards the same targeted outcomes – economic inclusion, talent attraction, and increasing transportation options.
We are in a moment of great opportunity with significant changes in City and County staff. County Executive Stenger is working to fill high-level positions in his administration, and the selections he makes will shape the future of the region. Mayor Slay announced this week a new Chief of Staff, Deputy Chief of Staff, and Director of Operations. We applaud his decision to promote the next generation to positions of power. They know better than many which assets will bring new residents and businesses to our region.
Both City and County are working to fill vacant Director of Transportation positions. The importance of placing the right people into these positions cannot be overstated, as they will determine how streets are designed throughout the region and who can safely use them. The Directors of Transportation can choose to continue on the current path of car-centric road design or choose to diversify transportation options. They can help make St. Louis a more livable region with a North-South Metrolink line, protected bike lanes the whole family can ride, and pedestrian crossings that accommodate all people regardless of age or ability.
We are counting on our leaders to choose wisely, selecting staff who are innovative, with a collaborative and transparent nature, and are willing to work hand-in-hand with private and public businesses for the betterment of the region. We need a 21st century vision and plan for the St. Louis we want to become, and stand ready to support our leaders and put in the work to take the region to the next level.
As we plan for our future, we should always focus our energies towards principles that ensure community advancement. We must collaborate, be inclusive, and promote transparency to meet our region’s highest potential. Together, our region can lead in fostering a healthy, active community where walking, biking, and public transit are a part of our daily lives.