St. Louis Residents Call for Better Bike Infrastructure

St. Louis Residents Call for Better Bike Infrastructure

Late last summer, I proposed that the city implement a city-wide bike network using recently awarded Rams Settlement Funds. Eventually, this idea was included among 20 other finalists, rising up as one of the more popular possibilities for use of the windfall, among hundreds of citizen proposals initially submitted.

In anticipation of the informal public vote on what St. Louis should prioritize, I created an Instagram page in November and I eventually started a petition in April urging the Board of Aldermen to work toward a vision for a 2040 bike network in the city. These helped me connect with other individuals who also longed for better bike infrastructure, and has led to great conversations, including a series of more formal discussions with various individuals.

Here, I share the perspectives of five cyclists who long for a city-wide bike network for St. Louis.


Mike

Mike McCubbins grew up in rural Missouri but now lives in the Shaw neighborhood. He dreams of biking more than he does these days.

“If there was infrastructure where I felt safe, I would bike more,” he said.

McCubbins is the creator behind Civic Graphics, where he uses graphic design skills to “create and promote work that serves the greater public.” Picturing what could be comes pretty naturally for him.

He noted that even in places where protected bike lanes are the norm, cyclists still interact with vehicular traffic at intersections. He’d love to see St. Louis think bigger.

For example, because infrastructure already exists to separate rail from traffic, McCubbins suggested it makes sense to include pedestrian and cyclist paths alongside existing rail infrastructure. As a matter of fact, one of McCubbins’ personal projects with Civic Graphics focused on the creation of bike and pedestrian greenways along underutilized rail corridors. He has shared more on this vision in his NextSTL article “Rail + Trail: Imagining a Greenway Through the Heart of STL.”

Ally

Ally is a Downtown neighborhood resident who, like McCubbins, grew up in rural Missouri.

“When I think of a downtown, I think of active transportation,” Ally, who asked that her last name be withheld, shared, adding that this includes the ability to walk, ride public transit, and bike safely and efficiently.

In downtown St. Louis, unfortunately, Ally doesn’t currently see opportunities for that. Instead, she said, drivers visiting Downtown run traffic lights, drag race, and block bike lanes with their vehicles. She’d love to see that change.

Growing up, Ally could bike to school, and she wishes her daughter could do the same to get to her school in another nearby neighborhood; however, she noted many concerns with biking in the city.

Biking through different neighborhoods “feels very disjointed,” she shared.

For instance, on a recent bike ride to the Grove from Downtown, Ally used the bike lane on Chouteau Avenue. However, the lane suddenly disappeared, and she had to share the road with speeding vehicles. This made her nervous.

Ally wants infrastructure that gets her to “everyday destinations,” while making her and other
riders feel confident and safe.

Matt

Matt Steward resides in the Southampton neighborhood. He regularly rides his daughter to her school in the Tower Grove area on his cargo bike. But even with his daughter in tow, reckless drivers honked at him and told him to get off the road, despite riding on the neighborhood road, Brannon Avenue.

“We’re on a neighborhood road,” he said. “If you want to go fast, use Kingshighway.”

Steward wants to see a network of protected bike lanes, but he also shared that any progress is good.

“Any money put toward pedestrian infrastructure will benefit cycling,” Steward said.

While he believes existing bike paths are useful, they must be protected with more than just street markings to promote cyclist safety.

“I don’t feel like paint is infrastructure,” he said.

Kevin

Kevin Hahn-Petruso, a resident of Tower Grove South, grew up in a suburban neighborhood in Peoria, Illinois. It took moving to Missouri for him to view riding a bike as a viable form of transportation. But it was his pursuit of a master’s degree at the University of Stavanger, in Norway, that had the biggest impact on his perspective.

While living abroad, Hahn-Petruso witnessed first hand the dedicated infrastructure both pedestrians and cyclists enjoy in Norway.

“Having dedicated spaces for people biking, walking or using a wheelchair creates closer connection for community, better air quality, and more active community,” Hahn-Petruso said.

His studies in the fields of energy, environment and sustainability deepened his awareness of the climate impacts of car dependency. This influenced his decision to prioritize biking to get around.

He noted that St. Louis bike infrastructure should integrate better with the MetroLink and MetroBus system to decrease the city’s car dependence.

According to Hahn-Petruso, a bike network should be “working for everyone in the city, respectful to neighborhoods, equitable, and safe.”

Carmen

Carmen Azevedo is a graduate student at Washington University in St. Louis. She lives in the Forest Park Southeast neighborhood.

Azevedo originally lived in California, where she commuted predominantly by bike and train. St. Louis’s bike infrastructure made her feel both excited and nervous especially after she heard mixed reviews from her peers. In the end, the lack of substantive alternative transportation infrastructure led to her eventual decision to get a car.

“I hate to drive,” she said. “I would bike a lot more around the city if the infrastructure was better.”

Azevedo points to poor road quality, a lack of bike lanes, and driver hostility toward cyclists as
contributing to the overall lack of safety.

“The only time I feel safe is [riding] with a group or on the greenways,” she said.

She currently bikes with groups at Southside Cyclery’s Girl’s Night Out and The Monthly Cycle, which both focus on empowering cyclists who are women or members of other marginalized genders.

“I love biking around St. Louis, and I found a really strong sense of community in biking,” she said. “When considering whether to stay in St. Louis longer, this influences my decision.”


Conclusion

In conducting these and other conversations on this topic, I noticed many interviewees recognized that St. Louis leaders face a multitude of problems in addition to lacking infrastructure for cyclists. They were consistently quick to acknowledge that this is one of many challenges our city is facing.

Still, as Hahn-Petruso noted, the lack of bike infrastructure connects to other issues in the city, and he suggested that the Board of Aldermen start to see more of those connections in an effort to make change.

“For example, increase bike infrastructure around schools,” he said.

These St. Louisans were also quick to point out that there is no excuse not to act. Azevedo shared that if the city can attract developers to construct buildings, they surely should be able to do the same for a bike network.

“You know that’s not a priority of the city because they’d get it done,” she shared.

Since these interviews, Mayor Tishaura Jones’s administration announced that the city would develop a Transportation and Mobility Plan to address many of the issues related to streets and transportation.

Alderwoman Cara Spencer announced that she would run for mayor for a second time. On her Instagram announcement, she highlighted road conditions and the reckless driver behaviors in the city.

Alderwoman Anne Schweitzer’s Complete Streets Bill, finally passed on June 28. This bill includes considerations for bike infrastructure within the city’s transportation related projects.

The mayor and multiple city aldermen have even engaged in various bike rides around the city.

However, if the over 200 city residents who currently signed on to the petition are anything like me, they won’t believe it until they see it.

It is time to get it done.

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