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Letter: City infrastructure plans must look beyond just pavement

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Originally published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Recently, Aldermanic President Megan Green, on St. Louis Public Radio’s Politically Speaking, spoke on the need to address traffic safety during the upcoming aldermanic session. Trailnet, the regional nonprofit dedicated to safe streets for all, has several recommendations for Aldermen to consider.

First, the use of American Rescue Plan Act funds in Ordinance 71650 must include community engagement and safety for pedestrians and cyclists. The city cannot pave and stripe its way to safety for all; protective infrastructure changes must be made.

The aforementioned can be done by enacting new Complete Streets legislation. The City’s current Complete Streets guidelines were recently scored 30 out of 100 by Smart Growth America. A more rigorous complete streets policy, strictly adhered to by city officials, would increase safety for people walking, biking and driving.

Trailnet supports Board Bill#105 on automated enforcement and Board Bill#106 concerning surveillance and the establishment of a Neighborhood Traffic Safety Fund. We are, however, concerned with Board Bill #185 regarding surveillance. We recommend the establishment of a committee, made up of an equal number of residents and city officials, to create policies and monitor the implementation of all the bills.

Finally, keeping the public more informed on infrastructure changes and traffic safety is essential for a safer environment. Providing accessible updates on City infrastructure spending—perhaps on the City website—would promote transparency and allow the public to better understand how projects are progressing.

Trailnet stands ready to assist.

Sincerely,

Cindy Mense, Trailnet CEO

2023 Trailnet Wrapped

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2023 was an outstanding year to be a “Trailnut”! (a nickname our team happily adopted following a cake decorating snafu at this year’s Ride the Rivers)

Together with our members, donors, sponsors, partners and neighbors, we celebrated some of the most significant wins EVER for people walking, biking and using transit in the St. Louis region.

We made a lot of progress, and we’re excited to move into the new year with a lot of momentum. Here’s some of what we accomplished:

2023 Stats

  • 2,919 riders ages 4 to 85 came from 21 states to join us at 11 bike rides
  • 195 people learned new bike skills and explored the greenways through our bike education programs funded by Great Rivers Greenway
  • We analyzed 736 crashes throughout St. Louis City and St. Louis County to produce our 2022 Crash Report
  • Our advocacy team attended 111 community meetings, reviewed 15 bills, and testified at 6 hearings.
  • Our planning team engaged 220+ people at two traffic calming demonstrations
  • Along with BWorks, we surveyed Aldermanic candidates, received 9 responses, and published their positions on mobility issues
  • 8.41 miles of bike infrastructure is funded for construction in the City of St. Louis, much of it inspired by Connecting St. Louis and Trailnet’s other advocacy efforts
  • 350 crashes, $8.3 million in economic damages and one fatality were prevented by Missouri’s new Hands-Free driving law
  • 1,773 of you have donated or joined as members so far this year!
  • 142 people volunteered their time with Trailnet

Behind The Numbers:

$40 Million for Safer Streets

Years of conversations at community meetings, public testimonies and outspoken advocacy in pursuit of safer streets culminated in the signing of the St. Louis Safer Streets Bill (Board Bill 120) on March 1, 2023. Trailnet CEO Cindy Mense stood by the mayor’s side and gave remarks on behalf of all of Trailnet’s neighbors and supporters who stand to benefit from this unprecedented investment!

Trailnet will continue to engage with the City to make sure that this money is put to use efficiently, effectively and in the interests of all road users.

Distracted Driving Banned

For years, Trailnet and our statewide partners have recognized distracted driving as one of our most pressing problems. Along with other members of the Hands-Free Missouri Coalition, we have advocated tirelessly to get Missouri legislators on board with a hands-free driving law.

In July 2023, the Siddens Bening Hands-Free Law was passed, making Missouri the 49th state to ban texting while driving.

In honor of the memory of Randall Siddens and countless other victims of distracted driving in Missouri, we are proud our state has finally taken this step forward.

St. Louis’ First Calm Street

A decade in the making, the Louisiana Calm Street Project finished Phase 1 of construction in Spring 2023.

This 1.1-mile corridor is a pilot project for the City’s Calm Streets initiative. The construction of phase 1 was the result of years of hard work and collaboration across the City. We look forward to seeing how this project will progress—eventually connecting two of our City’s largest parks and paving the way for future infrastructure improvements across our streets network.

Pop-Up Traffic Calming Demos

It can be hard to imagine what new infrastructure could look and feel like to walk, bike or drive through. That’s where traffic calming pop up demonstrations come in. We use temporary materials like brightly colored cones, tires and flowers to demonstrate a cross walk, bump outs, fewer driving lanes or a bike lane.

We hosted two of these this year: one for MODOT on Route D in St. Louis City and another on Park(ing) Day on Compton Avenue.

New Community Trail for South County Students

A team of Spire volunteers constructed an all new walking and biking path on the property of Bayless Elementary School this summer! The project was the result of a collaboration between Trailnet, Spire and Bayless Schools, funded by Spire Serves and carried out by volunteers through Spire’s Day for Good program. The trail is an asset to the school’s bike education programs.

7th grader Sudais Abdirahman reminded us of the importance of getting outside and being active, saying, “It… gets my mind clear because the breeze gets in my hair and it’s… relaxing,”

Trailnet’s First Soiree

In our 35th year we tried something new.. and it was a rousing success!

Trailnet’s inaugural Paving the Way Soiree was a new take on our annual fundraising event—a night for us to celebrate with our friends and supports, to recognize the partners who make our wins possible and to raise a little money.

This year’s event also featured the presentation of our first ever batch of Members, Advocates and Partners (MAP) Awards. We can’t wait to build on this event and celebrate more deserving community leaders in the years to come!

Miles of Smiles at Trailnet Rides

Trailnet’s rides are a big part of how we carry out our mission. Rides provide a safe place for people to have fun on their bikes, meet other active people, explore their community, and make a statement with their presence that our streets are for PEOPLE! 

The best part of our rides are the smiles! You can’t help but smile when you’re riding your bike. It’s just fun!

The Louisiana Avenue Calm Street Project

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A decade in the making, this North-South corridor in South St. Louis is undergoing transformations that could change the way St. Louis streets are designed and improved in the interests of vulnerable road users.


2013 – 2014: Project Background

In 2013, Trailnet and our partners in the City of St. Louis received an EPA grant to educate and engage the St. Louis Community about traffic calming.

Traffic Calming – Traffic calming consists of physical design and other measures put in place on existing roads to reduce vehicle speeds and improve safety for pedestrians and cyclists. 1

From 2013 – 2014, Trailnet helped to educate more than 1,200 residents in Dutchtown, Forest Park Southeast, and North City through mapping, community meetings and neighborhood outreach.

The communities we worked with became excited about increasing pedestrian and cyclist safety by transforming neighborhood streets into what were then referred to as neighborhood greenways and bicycle boulevards, now known locally as Calm Streets.

Calm Streets – A Calm Street is a residential street transformed to reduce speeding and provide safety for everyone traveling there. Using traffic calming features such as speed humps and curb extensions, Calm Streets create an environment where people drive the speed limit and therefore preserve the safety of people walking and biking. They also incorporate green infrastructure to mitigate stormwater issues and address environmental concerns like the urban heat island effect.

2015: A Formative Trip to Portland

In 2015, Trailnet secured a second round of EPA grant funding, which was used to fly a group of project partners, city officials and residents to Portland, Oregon, where they took inspiration from the Portland Bureau of Transportation’s Neighborhood Greenways Program.

Full of ideas and bolstered by concrete evidence of the plausibility and effectiveness of neighborhood-, and city-wide traffic calming projects, the team returned to St. Louis to choose a location for a pilot project.

At the time, Trailnet was working with Froebel Elementary School in the Dutchtown Neighborhood on creating safe routes to school for their students. Through that project, Trailnet had already established residents’ desires for safer streets in their neighborhoods and begun to build political willingness to act in the Dutchtown Community—which has the highest concentration of school-aged children in the City of St. Louis.

With that groundwork already done in the Dutchtown community, Louisiana Avenue was chosen as the pilot site for the City of St. Louis’ Calm Streets Concept. The rationale: Louisiana was an ideal North-South connection, parallel to the City’s highest crash corridor (Grand Blvd.) and adjacent to many parks, schools, small businesses and residential streets. Thus began the process of planning, designing and constructing what would become the Louisiana Avenue Calm Street.

2016 – 2023: Pop-ups, Planning and Construction

In November 2016, Trailnet hosted a traffic calming demonstration (check out the video and flyer!) on Louisiana Avenue next to Marquette Park to demonstrate what a Calm Street could look like on the corridor. During the demonstration, people driving slowed down by over 10 miles per hour. Ten miles per hour is the difference between someone struck by a car having a 5% chance of dying (with the concept installed) or having a 45% chance of dying (prior street layout).

Residents who witnessed the demonstration expressed their overwhelming support for the project, saying “we definitely need something to slow traffic” and “if you have to put a speed hump every six feet, I’m all for it!”

In 2017, the City of St. Louis submitted an application for federal funding, and the Louisiana Avenue Calm Street Project was chosen as the number one funding priority that year by the East-West Gateway Council of Governments.

Over the next five years, the City of St. Louis, its project partners and contractors jumped many hurdles on the way to creating a more streamlined process for building future Calm Streets in the City. The plan went for design in 2018, with construction beginning in 2021.

In spring 2022, construction was finished on Phase 1 of the Louisiana Calm Street Project. The first phase features 1.1-miles of assorted traffic calming measures (speed humps, mini traffic circles, high visibility crosswalks, bump-outs, rain gardens, etc.), from Gravois to Meramec.


Looking Ahead:

Phase 2 will extend the current Louisiana Avenue Calm Street South to Carondelet Park. Phase 2 is currently in design.

A third and final phase will extend North to Tower Grove Park and complete the North-South connection between two of our City’s largest and most-visited parks.

The goals of the Louisiana Avenue Calm Street Project are many:

  1. To reduce speeds and increase safety for all road users,
  2. To foster a sense of safety in the neighborhoods, schools and parks adjacent to the corridor,
  3. To provide an alternative North-South connection in South City parallel to one of our most dangerous streets,
  4. To encourage healthy, active living,
  5. To test various, modern best practices for transportation engineering and traffic calming,
  6. To develop a streamlined process for calming a network of streets across the City of St. Louis…

The finished vision for Louisiana is a safe > 3-mile corridor that connects thousands of people to the places that they live, work and play.

Phase 1 is completed, but this project still needs public support to be fully realized!

If you live in the neighborhoods that have been or will be touched by the Louisiana Avenue Calm Street, express your support to the City for safer streets. If you have feedback based on your experience of the corridor, reach out to your alderperson.

This pilot project will ultimately be a success if it paves the way for effective improvements to our built environment that save and better the lives of our neighbors! As one project partner from the City said at a recent presentation: “Maybe every street should be a Calm Street.”

More Resources:

  1. For example, vertical deflections (speed humps, speed tables, and raised intersections), horizontal shifts, and roadway narrowing are intended to reduce speed and enhance the street environment for non-motorists. Closures that obstruct traffic movements in one or more directions, such as median barriers, are intended to reduce cut-through traffic. Traffic calming measures can be implemented at an intersection, street, neighborhood, or area-wide level,” according to the US Dept. of Transportation. ↩︎

2023 Walk/Bike Counts

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CALLING ALL VOLUNTEERS!

We need volunteers who can commit to counting bicyclists and pedestrians at designated locations from 4 to 6 p.m. on Sept. 19th and/or Sept. 20th. 

98 total time slots need to be filled at 49 locations across St. Louis! Chances are, one of these locations is near your work, home or school. Check the map below, and sign up to help us out! 

Map of Locations: bit.ly/counts-map-23 

Signup Here: bit.ly/counts-signup-23 

This initiative provides meaningful data to show changes in bicycling and pedestrian activity. Documenting these changes is essential to shaping infrastructure projects that make the St. Louis region more livable for all. 

Questions? Contact sam@trailnet.org 

2023 Park(ing) Day

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Park(ing) Day is a global, public, participatory project where people across the world temporarily repurpose curbside parking spaces and convert them into public parks and social spaces to advocate for safer, greener, and more equitable streets for people.

To celebrate Park(ing) Day 2023 in St. Louis, Trailnet will be hosting a pop-up parklet + bike lane demonstration along Compton Ave from Shenandoah to Longfellow.

Come visit Trailnet’s Park(ing) Day pop-up + bike lane demonstration at 2292 Compton Ave. on Friday, September 15!

Two Lifetime Advocates Making St. Louis Better for People Who Bike, Walk and Roll

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Q&A with Bill and Carla Sauerwein, owners of Pedego St. Louis

Conducted by Trailnet Marketing & Communications Coordinator Justin Seaton

Justin: Hi Bill! I understand you and Carla have long histories as bike/walk advocates. Tell me about how you got involved in this world.

Bill: Both Carla and I have been cyclists all of our lives.  Carla is a pediatric RN and for years ran the St. Louis SAFE KIDS Coalition.  She led education and advocacy to prevent childhood injury, including supplying and promoting bike helmets and car seats.   I served as Mayor of the City of Oakland form 1997 – 2001 and with the idea of providing safe streets and walkways for residents, constructed almost all of the sidewalks you see in the city of Oakland and redesigned many of the streets.  As Mayor, our city-wide capitol improvements plan was nominated for a state-wide landscape architect design award.

J: How did you first become involved with Trailnet? Tell me about your partnership with us over the years.

B: I suppose my first connection to Trailnet came when I attempted to acquire a small strip of abandoned railroad property within the City of Oakland in order to construct a park.  In that process, I met Ted Curtis, then the Director of Trailnet, who introduced me to Trailnet and its mission.  Trailnet ended up completing the northern leg of the Grant’s Trail with the property and the City constructed a park around the trail.  Our store is adjacent to the park.  Thereafter, Carla and I became supporters of Trailnet, participating in Trailnet rides and learning about the many projects undertaken by Trailnet.

More recently, as we met the dedicated staff of Trailnet—Cindy, Corrine, Kevin and others—and witnessed firsthand their hard work and dedication, we knew that Trailnet was an important organization to support.  We share its mission…. and over the years we have helped raise funds so that they can continue to make streets and trails safer and available to all.

J: When/How did you open Pedego St. Louis, and how has your business connected you to the St. Louis cycling community?

B: We opened Pedego St. Louis in June, 2019 by rehabilitating an old, run-down building adjacent to Grant’s Trail in Oakland.  From our location, we meet and talk to cyclists and trail users every day.  We have greatly expanded the cycling community by putting people back on bikes that had for one reason or another gotten away from cycling.  We have gently introduced the St Louis cycling community to electric bikes which are now widely used for commuting,  leisure riding, trail riding and for the all around enjoyment of bicycling.

J: Speak briefly about the E-Bike that you are contributing to Trailnet’s upcoming raffle (winner to be announced at the 2023 Paving the Way Soiree)

B: The bike we have donated to Trailnet this year is a Pedego Avenue.  Since this model was introduced a year ago, it has become the number one selling Pedego Electric bike.  The Avenue utilizes a “hybrid style” frame that is familiar to everyone  and is a great bike for riding and commuting on streets and paved trails.  It is quality-designed, lightweight and balanced. Like all Pedego Electric Bikes, it comes with a 5 year warranty that includes the electrical components.  Everyone loves this bike.

2023 Q1 Crash Report

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For the third year, Trailnet is releasing a first quarter Crash Report, which compares the number of bicycle, pedestrian, and vehicular crashes from January 2023 to March 2023 to the same time period in 2022 within the City of St. Louis and St. Louis County.

There are a few trends worth noting:
  • 12 people were injured while walking or biking on Grand Blvd in the City of St. Louis in Q1.
    • Gravois Ave was the next highest crash corridor in the City. 8 people walking were injured. There were zero fatalities on Gravois in Q1.
  • A new high crash corridor emerged in St. Louis County. Clayton Rd, which was not a top crash corridor in either of our last two annual reports, has already been the site of three crashes in the County.
  • The Governors Highway Safety Association recently reported that, in 2022, the nation notched its highest number of pedestrian deaths since 1981. In St. Louis those numbers have continued to rise in 2023, with crashes in most categories increasing or holding steady in Q1.

The City of St. Louis’ BB120 funding has focused some of its attention on Trailnet’s previously-named high-crash corridors, which is a good start. We want to acknowledge the City for dedicating resources to this epidemic. Trailnet looks forward to learning more about how we can support the design and review of these infrastructure plans to help expedite the process towards construction.

In addition, we encourage both City and County officials to supplement infrastructure improvements with more urgent measures, including quick-build solutions, equitably implemented traffic enforcement and improved drivers education.

Trailnet will continue tracking this crash data—and regional leaders’ response to traffic violence— throughout 2023.

Trailnet Applauds County Councilmembers, County Executive as BB#86 Veto is Sustained

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BB#86 would have unfairly targeted pedestrians, residents with disabilities, unhoused people and other vulnerable road users.

On Tuesday evening, the St. Louis County Council sustained County Executive Dr. Sam Page’s veto of County Council BB#86. This bill, introduced by Councilmember Trakas, would have made it “unlawful for any person to walk or otherwise move along and upon, stand upon, or sit in an adjacent roadway,” where sidewalks are provided.

Trailnet wishes to thank the members of the County Council who voted down this bill, and in doing so, protected the interests of people walking, people with disabilities, people using mobility devices, runners and all others who are forced to make strategic decisions with every step they take along our unsafe streets and sidewalks.

We also acknowledge and thank the many advocates—both individuals and organizations—who collaborated with us in writing to councilmembers and the County Executives’ office, strongly objecting to BB#86. While we did not know many of you before this effort, we have bonded over our joint commitment to the idea that people ought to be able to move as necessary to get to their destinations safely.

Trailnet recommends the County Executive and Council reopen the County’s 2019 Action Plan for Walking and Biking to address some of the issues Councilmember Trakas discussed. In addition, although it is outdated, the County passed a Complete Streets Ordinance in 2014 which sets out the general principles for accommodating all users when streets are designed, maintained or repaired. Together both of these documents provide a good starting point for discussions on pedestrian, sidewalk and road safety. 

Again, our thanks to the many partners and we look forward to future collaborations.

Signed,

Cindy Mense

The Street Project Screening + Panel

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In the heart of National Bike Month, Trailnet is hosting our second FREE public screening of The Street Project—an inspiring documentary about the global, citizen-led fight to make our streets safer.


This event will take place at the SLPL Central Library Downtown from 6-8 pm on Wednesday, May 10.

We will air the full 52-minute documentary followed by a panel on the state of our streets in the St. Louis region. More details to come. Pre-register today: https://runsignup.com/TicketEvent/TheStreetProject

Trailnet’s Position on County Bill #86

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As written, St. Louis County Council Bill #86 conflicts with various aspects of the 2021 St. Louis County Action Plan for Biking and Walking, and falls short of the guiding principles and practices set forth by the St. Louis County Complete Streets Ordinance, adopted in 2014.

Trailnet and our partners strongly recommend that St. Louis County officials avoid taking steps in the wrong direction in 2023. Instead, we encourage the County to work with us to develop strategies that keep the safety and interests of vulnerable road users at the forefront.

See Trailnet’s full position below: