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Mapping out a bright future for students in Dutchtown

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SRTSWard20CroppedTrailnet 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.

SpencerGroupCroppedStudents 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 FroebelStory2sidewalk 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.

 

 

Trailnet trains twelve Walk Bike Ambassadors

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GroupCroppedTrailnet’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.

Alderman visits Froebel Elementary’s Walk Ambassadors

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SpencerGroup copyThe 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.”

The speed cushion: one of many great traffic calming tools

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The Plan4Health project has proven to be an asset in creating important conversations around traffic calming. It has also helped the Healthy Eating Active Living Partnership strengthen relationships with other stakeholders in the St. Louis region.

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Among other opportunities, the Plan4Health project lead to a renewed connection between Trailnet and local bicycle advocate Martin Pion. Martin has been working hard to create dialogue around effective measures for traffic calming. He was very generous in allowing Trailnet to use his temporary speed cushion at one of our four traffic calming demonstrations.

Speed cushions are similar to speed humps, but they have a smaller surface area and can be offset with wheel cutouts, allowing larger vehicles (like emergency vehicles) to pass through without reducing their speed.

Trailnet thanks Martin for the donation of his speed cushion and for sharing his resources with us. To learn more about Martin’s work please read this article he posted on traffic calming.

Traffic calming: a lighter, quicker, cheaper way to policy change

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St. Louis’ most recent effort toward creating safer streets consisted of brightly painted tires, colorful cones, plants, and signs. The Healthy Eating Active Living (HEAL) Partnership in the City of St. Louis is using pop-up traffic-calming demonstrations to raise awareness on how to create safer streets. The materials from the demonstrations will be used to develop a traffic-calming lending library.

Please watch this exciting recap that highlights the positive effect the Plan4Health grant has brought to the community.

This new opportunity for the City comes from a Plan4Health grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in partnership with the American Planning Association (APA) and American Public Health Association (APHA). The objective of the grant is to bring together those who work within planning and public health to improve their communities and make them become more loveable.

The City of St. Louis is like many other cities—built for cars to have the largest advantage in transportation. In the U.S., 12 percent of fatal traffic crashes involve people walking, In St. Louis, however, that figure is 36 percent. In the first six months of 2015, 15 pedestrians were killed in the City of St. Louis, many in hit-and-run incidents. These sobering statistics earned St. Louis a designation as a Focus City by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, joining 21 other U.S. cities in which pedestrian deaths are higher than the national average.

Data has shown that wider roads lead to a faster rate of travel for people driving. The graphic below illustrates how higher rates of speed lead to higher rates of traffic fatalities.

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Many streets in the City of St. Louis were built to accommodate streetcars and high levels of traffic, so some residential streets are as wide as 65 feet. The traffic calming pop-ups have been a great way for the City and residents to start exploring what to do with the extra space.

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Trailnet, a local bicycle and pedestrian advocacy organization and partner within the HEAL Partnership, has been working to address this problem by implementing several pop-up traffic-calming demonstrations throughout the City of St. Louis. The purpose of the events has been to educate community members, elected officials, and city staff on how we can work together to create safer streets. The pop-up traffic-calming demonstrations are less-than-ten-hour events meant to measure the impact street designs have on people driving as well as listen to the community’s suggestions for safer streets.

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The Plan4Health grant also offers a unique opportunity for the HEAL Partnership to develop a traffic-calming lending library so community members who are interested in demonstrating their own pop-up traffic-calming events have the resources and tools to use for free. The lending library will come with a toolkit that will list all available materials with instructions anyone can use on how to create their own pop-up traffic-calming demonstrations.

These lighter, quicker, cheaper tactics have already shown to be a catalyst for change within the City of St. Louis. The demonstrations have aided in creating new traffic-calming policies and the City of St. Louis has begun to use the traffic-calming lending library for community outreach.

These demonstrations are helping the City of St. Louis to create equitable places people love by bringing together planning and public health.

To learn more about the St. Louis Plan4Health project, click here.

2015 Walk and Bike Count Data

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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.

2015 Bike Counts Infographic (2)

 

Froebel Students Celebrate Walking to School

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FroebelWTSDVonWendyGinnyA brisk, sunny Friday morning was a perfect day to walk to school and get a jump start on celebrating Halloween. Kids warmed up with hot chocolate and received “blinkies” to light up their walks.

Froebel Literacy Academy in Dutchtown has partnered with Trailnet for several years, working to make students and community members more aware of pedestrian safety and the benefits of an active lifestyle. Family and Community Specialist Von Smith welcomes students each morning and crossing guard Wendy Campbell helps to ensure the kids’ safety during busy arrival and dismissal times.

Advocacy Alert: Help ensure funding for safe walking and biking for our youth

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IMG_1987smallHelp make sure that Congress doesn’t cut the Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) funding in the next transportation bill. TAP helps local communities build sidewalks, crosswalks, bike lanes, trails and more. TAP funding supports Safe Routes to School initiatives throughout St. Louis City and County.

IMG_2078smallWithout TAP, hundreds of millions of dollars used to improve streets for walking and biking would evaporate. Some of these funds have been used to support youth programs like Trailnet’s “Steps in the Right Direction” at Froebel Literacy Academy to help make walking and biking a way of life in St. Louis.

IMG_1977smallPlease follow the link below to ask Senators Roy Blunt and Senator Claire McCaskill to support bill S. 705, the Transportation Alternatives Program Improvement Act. Thank you for supporting legislation that will keep our youth walking and biking safely.

https://www.votervoice.net/Shares/Be2UOAVgACIsJAh1gpM7FAA

Biking and Walking Makes Cents – February 24, 2015

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kickstand-3647smallTrailnet 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.

kickstand-3664smallThe 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.

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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.

kickstand-3763smallExecutive 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.”

 

Special thanks to our charter business members:

Pedestal Foods, Britt Hunt, CEO

XLR8, Rick Duree, CEO

Duree Center for Entrepreneurship, Rick Duree, Founder

Retro Image Apparel, Michele and Jim Sherman, owners

Confluence Business Advisors, Ron Tanner and Dave Fingerhut, partners

 

Collaborate with us

kickstand-3643smallAs 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 – kbarnes@trailnet.org, 314.436.1324 x 104

Thanks to everyone who made the event a success:

Kaori Yazawa and the Venture Cafe team, Dennis Lower and the Cortex Innovation Community, and Pedestal Foods.

Visit our Facebook page to view more photos from the event.

Special thanks to our photographer, Kelly Sleeper.

Stay tuned for our next Business Membership Event – coming this Summer!

City Complete Streets bill passes unanimously!

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Trailnet’s Manager of Policy and Advocacy, Rhonda Smythe with Alderman Scott Ogilvie, and Trailnet’s Executive Director, Ralph Pfremmer

An update to St. Louis City’s Complete Streets policy passed on January 30, 2015 with unanimous support from the Board of Aldermen. Every aspect of our lives are impacted by the way our streets are designed and built.  The comprehensive and collaborative approach laid out in this bill will have significant impacts on the quality of life for St. Louisans.

Major updates include:

  1. A new framework for collaboration between City departments will be developed. The Departments of Health, Parks and Recreation, and Office of the Disabled will now have a formal seat at the table for the planning and implementation of future transportation projects. This means that air quality, public health, public safety, ADA improvements, and safe connections to major destinations will have a higher priority than in years past.
  2. Street design standards will be updated to reflect the most current best practices, guidelines, and recommendations issued by the USDOT. This means no more bike lanes in gutters and appropriate pedestrian signals!
  3. A targeted, data-driven approach to high crash intersections and corridors with prioritized improvements. Trailnet recently partnered with OpenDataSTL and Walker Hamilton to create an interactive map of bicycle and pedestrian crashes at http://bike-ped.confluencecity.com/. Tools like this enable data-driven decision making.
  4. Performance measures and benchmarks will be identified and assessed annually.

Alderman Ogilvie sponsored this important piece of legislation and continues to be a strong advocate for pedestrians, bicyclists, and people with disabilities. Many partners joined Trailnet in advocating for the Complete Streets update, including Paraquad, American Heart Association, AARP, YMCA, and numerous neighborhood advocates. Our deep and sincere thanks for the valuable work they do to support a more livable St. Louis!

 For more information on Complete Streets, click here.