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: