Trailnet Announces Effort to Build Protected Bike/Ped Network in St. Louis

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In what represents an important and significant pivot of bicycle and pedestrian advocacy in St. Louis, Trailnet announced at its 2016 gala that it is focused on bringing a protected on-street bicycle and pedestrian network to the city. Modeled on the 8mi Cultural Trail in Indianapolis, the network would aim to connect the city via east-west and north-south routes.

Though a preliminary route is being explored by Trailnet and project partners, no decisions have been made as the effort goes public and seeks community engagement and support. The project will have three specific impact aims, economic development, wellness and health advocacy, and equity and access. Two renderings produced by HOK show a trail on the north side of Olive Street near T.E. Huntley Avenue and a trail on Vandeventer crossing St. Louis Avenue.


The project is the result of a multi-year effort to determine a strategic vision for Trailnet’s advocacy that would create transformative impact. The organization was instrumental in the development of the Chain of Rocks bridge as a bicycle, pedestrian path, the North Riverfront Trail, and Grant’s Trail. Trailnet was also a major force behind the create of Great Rivers Greenway.

The protected trail network may just be the organization’s next big thing. If successful, the project would mark a paradigm shift in bicycle and pedestrian planning in St. Louis. So far, implementation of bike/ped amenities are nearly always followed the path of least resistance. Bike lanes are painted where there’s a surplus of asphalt. Pedestrian crossings are improved when a developer can be made to pay.

nextSTL has advocated time and again for more meaningful bike/ped infrastructure planning and investment. These networks must address intersections that currently act as barriers. They must connect and traverse districts in a linear fashion, allowing access for users to real destinations. This is what Indy’s Cultural Trail does in a way that St. Louis area recreational and park trails do not.

Without the connections across, directly into, and through the places where people want to go, bicycle and pedestrians amenities fall short of their potential impact and ultimately do little to nothing to encourage daily use. This is what must be addressed if Trailnet hopes to fulfill its stated mission: “Our mission is to lead in fostering healthy, active and vibrant communities where walking, bicycling and the use of public transit are a way of life.

While the announcement marks a significant change at Trailnet, there remains significant work to see the plan become reality. Ongoing discussions with potential partners could lead to the first miles of the network to be planned and under construction as early as next year, with additional sections to follow.

Images of the Indianapolis Cultural Trail:

Indy Cultural TrailFEATURE_IndianapolisCulturalTrail2Indy Cultural Trail

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  • tbatts666

    Also I really question the intelligence of using two way bike tracks in any busy areas. It works in Montreal, but it is a design that places bikers in places drivers don’t look.

    Better to have two protected lanes on both sides.

  • tbatts666

    My only critique. We might need a little more defensive architecture to encourage a little seperation of bikes and peds in the beginning.

    Portland used these textured lane markings. Really subtle design. You can’t trip or slip on them, but for some reason people won’t go over them.

  • Dennis Roberts

    Great to see that St. Louis planners are benchmarking Indy as a good example of multi use transportation/recreation facilities. My son goes to college there and I have had the opportunity to use the cultural trail and others that they have. You all should look at the whole infrastructure in Indy. in addition to the cultural trail, they have the Monon and the fall creek trail as well. Using the Just do a quick google bike map comparison between St. Louis and Indy, and you will understand the problem StL has immediately. The solution will take many years of hard work for St. Louis to compete and compare with other Midwest cities. Looking at the Indy map, you can actually see ways to get north/south/east and west by bicycle. I’m a year round bike/bus commuter and I have to go thru a lot of creative route planning to insure that I can get to and from work safely here in St. Louis.

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  • DontHitMe

    The trail needs to connect Kirkwood to Clayton. The utilization rate would be much higher. Those are currently the two most popular walk-able communities in the area.

    • Alex Ihnen

      I’d venture that parts of the City of St. Louis are the most popular walkable areas in the region. A path from Kirkwood to Clayton could be cool, but with such low density development in between, utilization would be a small fraction of what it would be in a more densely populated area.

  • futurevisionstl

    This is an important vision for St. Louis from Trailnet. Trailnet has been the most effective and interesting group for modern infrastructure in this area for over 20 years. Even though the green district has the public money, it doesn’t mean they know how to spend it. They should be doing plans like this one. How do we make sure our voices are heard?

    • futurevisionstl

      I like the Jakeb’s idea of Jefferson being the main north to south phase 1 route because it is wide and cuts through so many neighborhoods in the City and is probably too wide as it is. Similar to Tower Grove, which is becoming our bike highway here in in south City. I also like JCougar’s idea of Olive/Lindell being the east to west route because it goes by Saint Louis University and Washington University and that is so heavily used by all of us who are bike commuters. Jumping onto Forest Park’s trail is okay once you get through the central west end, but east of there is very dangerous especially with all the traffic getting around those big construction projects at Euclid.

  • bikemom08

    Thank GOD someone is finally figuring out that since the new director showed up GRG is NOT doing anything! New trails, trail connections, river ring?! NOPE…our tax dollars doing nothing.

  • lisa c

    How is this different than a greenway that connects neighborhoods/amenities? Won’t this mean that GRG and Trailnet will now be competing for funds?

    • Riggle

      Yes. Grg has basically pulled out of the City. They promised this, and they are bailing. Leaving the City to figure it out on their own. F*** GRG. Great trestle too

      • Emma Klues

        In the interest of clarification, Emma from Great Rivers Greenway here:

        1) We have many active projects in the city, including two extensions of the River des Peres right now, St. Vincent Greenway, the new riverfront, planning improvements to the greenway north of the riverfront, Chouteau Greenway in the Cortex district, etc. But yes, we do have to spread our projects out to our entire tax district, which also includes St. Louis County and St. Charles County, so not every one of our dollars goes to the city.

        2) Trailnet’s project is different, serving a different audience, and there is certainly room in our region for both types of facilities. But there will be some competition for federal grants to implement, or for local donor dollars in fundraising (we are ramping up the Great Rivers Greenway Foundation to let private funds leverage our taxpayers’ investment to be able to accelerate and/or enhance our citizens’ vision).

        • Alex Ihnen

          At some attempt to translate the frustration expressed above…GRG received significant tax payer funding each year, and not more since the Prop P vote. Residents in the city haven’t seen much as a result, with the vision for the north city trestle languishing. Instead of competing, it just seems obvious to everyone outside these two organizations that this should be a collaborative project/process.

          • Emma Klues

            Absolutely hear that sentiment (I assume you meant even more instead of not more?) and I agree completely about collaborations. Happy to discuss the Trestle or any other project – there is more information on our website, or call me anytime at 314-932-4919. We want the Trestle to come to life so badly, and it may seem like it’s laying dormant, but there’s more to that story. I won’t take over this comment thread with every nuance, but I am genuine in my offer to discuss with anyone!

          • Emma Klues

            Also, as a side note, just because the Trestle hasn’t happened yet doesn’t mean the city hasn’t seen its fair share of progress. Those I listed above are just a few active right now. Again, happy to share/explain to anyone interested.

    • Great question. We don’t think so. GRG generates funds through their tax income and their plan to connect the Great River Ring, while every bit as ambitious as Trailnet’s plan, is much larger in geographic scope. The Trailnet system will utilize “on-street” right of ways, meaning, the land needed for the trail will make use of the current street system which is widely under capacity. Our goal is to connect strategically to cultural centers, higher education institutions, central business districts and popular venues, an urban trail system that will inspire, build and accommodate urban living. We are a system within a system. Some might consider this competing for priorities, but that is not our intention.

      As far as completing for funds…
      Trailnet feels the need to deliver this vision now, and in the spirit of moving our city forward and with current and progressive standards recommended by NACTO (National Association of City Transportation Officials)–Streets are often the most vital yet underutilized public spaces in cities. In addition to providing space for travel, streets play a big role in the public life of cities and communities and should be designed as public spaces as well as channels for movement. We feel this can serve either as a compliment or an alternative to the best use of funds for infrastructure. We need to compete, now, with other cities building these systems.

      • tbatts666

        Dude love the new vision for bikin in STL. Looks like a utilitarian way of doing things.

  • Bill O’Dor

    On a somewhat related issue, I would like to comment that the Delmar Loop has instantly, overnight, become one of the most biker UNFRIENDLY and UNSAFE areas in st. Louis with the installation of the trolley tracks in the middle of the the street! The last week of September I wasn’t vigilant enough and took a nasty fall right in the middle of traffic when I wasn’t careful enough to avoid getting my front tire caught in the tracks! And I still have remnants of a scab on my knee that hasn’t completely healed along with a nice scar! It looks like planners went in completely the opposite way of promoting bike traffic to the point of almost discouraging it!

    • Michael B

      It’s likely not a coincidence that Big Shark moved to their Big Bend location. just as these trolley plans came to fruition. The Loop trolley is folly.

      • STLrainbow

        Are you saying it’s a folly trolley?

      • Adam

        Because Big Bend is so much more bike-friendly? Please. Joe Edwards wanted their space for a concert venue.

        • Alex Ihnen

          IMO it had more to do with The Loop trending away from this type of retail. The Loop is successful judging by tax receipts and the lack of vacancy, but for shops like Big Shark, and the kids toy store that left last year (and others, I’m sure), it may not be working. The four years late Trolley and slow construction hasn’t helped. The new Big Shark location is more accessible to more people.

          • Riggle

            Its more accessible to suburbanites with money, the loop is vastly more accessble to much larger numbers of people (maybe not their customer base)

          • Alex Ihnen

            The new location is accessible to many more people. It’s also more accessible to residents of mid-county inner ring suburbs and anyone traveling I-64.

      • tbatts666

        I heard it had more to do with mismanaged parking. Parking in the loop is under charged, and the larger venues in the area were eating up Big Shark’s street parking.

    • tbatts666

      Too true. We should bike swarm it until they build a safe place to ride there.

  • JCougar

    Great location. Olive/Lindell already is in need of a road diet. North/South wise, either Vandeventer or Jefferson would work.

  • Jakeb

    Running from Olive at Tucker to Lindell to Wash U would be a great start. Perhaps this would demonstrate to doubters that such bike/pedways are added value to City living.

    • Jakeb

      I think Jefferson is a better early project — even if only marginally — because it goes into the heart of the vibrant Benton Park neighborhood whose inhabitants would make great use of the bike/pedway.

      • Riggle

        And laf sq and mckinley heights and fox park…

  • STLEnginerd

    Is the ANY proposal in the pipe line that actually includes a large 6-7 story modern office building on the grassy expanse between Wells Fargo and Harris Stowe?

    I am fine with dedicated bike lanes, particularly on Olive which is ridiculously over wide, but these renderings are a little Un-realistic in the near term.

    • STLrainbow

      While I don’t know of any plans in the works, that parcel seems ripe for development though… it is owned by Sigma-Aldrich and it would be awesome if they partnered with Harris-Stowe (and maybe SLU) on a project that could serve everyone’s interests.

    • futurevisionstl

      I ride by this almost everyday and keep thinking someone should build here. Good idea to give someone whose business this is to do this. It seems like there might be some real estate agents or builders who would read this site.