The following story – “St. Louis County is poised to approve measure for bike- and pedestrian-friendly roads” – which appeared below the fold in Sunday’s Community section of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, came as a complete and unwelcome surprise.
The headline obscures the fact that the goal is approving “Complete Streets” legislation. I’ve looked into what Complete Streets means, and for bicycling it appears to boil down to bike lanes on major roads, which pose serious problems for competent on-road cyclists.
I chose to live in Ferguson in 1980, when I started working at McDonnell Douglas Astronautics Co., precisely because, being an older community, it had a good interconnected system of residential and main roads from which I could choose, while having a short commute of no more than 4 miles each way. I biked to work almost every workday, summer and winter, for over 11 years and very rarely had any traffic-related problems. In fact, loose aggressive dogs were probably the biggest occasional problem, resulting on one occasion in a shoulder injury which took 6 months to heal.
On November 18, 2008, Ferguson approved a Complete Streets ordinance. I was shocked to learn of it after-the-fact, given that I’d worked with the city on bicycle transportation issues for many years and to me it made no sense.
In 2012 Trailnet, which is leading this current St. Louis County Council effort, persuaded Ferguson to approve a Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan that envisages most major roads in Ferguson eventually being striped with bike lanes.
That would roll back the significant gains made last year for bicyclists as a result of progressive actions on the part of City Manager John Shaw, subsequently supported overwhelmingly by the city council. The Ferguson ordinance, approved on June 26, 2012, essentially repealed the so-called “Far To the Right” (FTR) language in the old ordinance, replacing it with a new ordinance allowing a cyclist to control or share the curb lane at his or her option. The FTR language, based on Missouri state law, requires a cyclist to stay “as far right as safe” with exceptions, one being the undefined “when the lane is too narrow to share.” This uncertainty in the language is what nearly got me ticketed in February 2012 when I was pulled over by a Ferguson police officer for controlling the curb lane.
The new ordinance removes that ambivalence and puts cyclists on close to a par with motorists. It allows a cyclist to control the curb lane, maximizing cyclist safety, while allowing cooperative use of public roads. This is demonstrated in the following video, shot in Ferguson in August, 2012, with Gerry Noll, owner of the Ferguson Bicycle Shop assisting:
The presence of a bike lane reverses this progress, conveying to both cyclists and motorists that cyclists must again stay far right in the road. This puts a cyclist at considerable risk from turning motorists at intersections and commercial driveways, or from colliding with an opened car door when the bike lane is alongside a parking lane. It also often places the cyclist on the most uneven part of the road, with debris swept there by motor vehicle tires.
What St. Louis County Council is poised to approve is likely to further stall real progress in equality of access to the road system for cyclists.
St. Louis County is poised to approve measure for bike- and pedestrian-friendly roads
16 hours ago • By Margaret Gillerman email@example.com 314-340-8126
CLAYTON • Advocates for more bike-friendly and pedestrian-friendly St. Louis County roads are urging the County Council to pass comprehensive “Complete Streets” legislation similar to ordinances in the city of St. Louis, Ferguson and other cities around the state and country.
A “Complete Street” is “designed with all users in mind — motorists, pedestrians, bicyclists, transit users, the elderly and the disabled,” according to the Missouri Bicycle and Pedestrian Federation.
The bill will be up for final passage this week and appears to have the votes to pass.
Trailnet, a local bicycle and pedestrian advocacy organization, has been lobbying for the ordinance.
“This will make it easier for people to walk or bike to the grocery store, to the park or work or school,” said Rhonda Smythe, Trailnet policy and advocacy manager. “It’s for people from 8 to 80, moms with strollers and people using mobility assistance devices.”
The measure calls for more bicycle and pedestrian lanes, better lighting on roads, crosswalks, street trees, sidewalks, refuge islands, signals, accessible curb cuts, traffic calming and other measures to encourage safer streets.
This doesn’t mean that every St. Louis County road will have a bicycle lane or the other elements.
Backers say the Complete Streets enhancements would come into play when the county is resurfacing or making other improvements on roads or building a new road. No cost estimates are included with the legislation.
Two committees — one made up of county departments and another of residents and advocacy groups — will assist in implementing and monitoring the progress.
Builders of private roads and parking lots in unincorporated parts of county also will be asked to incorporate elements of Complete Streets.
The requirements do not affect municipal or state-owned roads.
Trailnet, Paraquad, an advocate agency for people with disabilities, and municipal leaders have worked with County Councilman Pat Dolan of Richmond Heights on the bill. In addition to Dolan, other sponsors are council members Steve Stenger of South County and Hazel Erby of University City.
Dolan said that Complete Streets would result in more collaboration on paths and trails between county and municipal governments and better connections for trails in different jurisdictions.
Dolan said that the county highway department initially had reservations but now is participating in the planning.
For several weeks, a parade of residents and representatives of organizations committed to walking, bicycling and safe roads have spoken in support of a “Complete Streets” policy at County Council meetings. No one from the public has spoken against it.
Some advocates criticized an earlier version of the bill, which required the county to “consider” Complete Streets elements. A revised version that advanced last week makes that mandatory.
At the council meeting last Tuesday, Barbara Stewart of Chesterfield told the council that voters twice had approved taxes for Great Rivers Greenway because they support a system of connected trails. Great Rivers is a tax-supported agency that is building a series of connected trails around the region.
She said Complete Streets “would promote community, raise awareness and increase property values.
From the safety issue, so many roads don’t have room for both bicycles and cars and even walkers.”
Dolan said that the bill has broad support from municipalities, mayors, businesses and residents.
The trails, he said, could improve local economies and the transportation system.
“The people of St. Louis County have shown us in surveys by the Planning Department that this is what they want,” Dolan said.
Below is the full text of the bill. Eric Fey, Executive Assistant to Councilmember Pat Dolan, the bill’s sponsor, told me it was modeled after language originally approved by the City/County Government of Indianapolis:
Substitute Bill No. 1 for
BILL NO. 238 , 2013
ORDINANCE NO. , 2013
Introduced by Councilmember Dolan
AMENDING CHAPTER 1105, TITLE XI SLCRO 1974 AS AMENDED, “DEPARTMENT OF HIGHWAYS AND TRAFFIC,” BY ENACTING AND ADDING THERETO EIGHT NEW SECTIONS ESTABLISHING ST. LOUIS COUNTY’S COMPLETE STREETS POLICY.
BE IT ORDAINED BY THE COUNTY COUNCIL OF ST. LOUIS COUNTY, MISSOURI, AS FOLLOWS:
SECTION 1. Chapter 1105, Title XI SLCRO 1974 as amended, “Department of Highways and Traffic,” is amended by enacting and adding thereto eight new sections as follows:
1105.250 Complete Streets Policy. -The County shall develop a safe, reliable, efficient, integrated, accessible and connected multimodal transportation system that shall equally promote access, mobility and health for all users, and shall ensure that the safety, convenience and comfort of all users of the transportation system are genuinely accommodated, including pedestrians, bicyclists, users of mass transit, people of all ages and abilities, motorists, emergency responders, freight providers and adjacent land users.
St. Louis County believes inclusion of Complete Streets will help promote healthy, livable communities and further support a variety of mobility goals expressed in the St. Louis County Strategic Plan.
1105.255 Definitions. 1. “Complete Streets” means streets that are planned, designed, operated, and maintained, in a context sensitive manner, to enable low-stress, safe and comfortable access for all users, in that pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and public transportation users of all ages and abilities are able to move safely and comfortably along and across a street.
2. “Pedestrian” means: 2
(a) A person who is on foot; or
(b) A person who is using any means of conveyance propelled by human power other than a bicycle; or
(c) A person who is using an electric personal assistive mobility device; or
(d) A person who is operating a self-propelled wheelchair, motorized tricycle, or motorized quadricycle to act as a pedestrian and, by reason of physical disability, is otherwise restricted in movement as or unable to move about on foot.
3. “Users” means individuals that use streets, including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists, public transportation riders and drivers, emergency responders, freight providers and people of all ages and abilities, including children, youth, families, older adults and individuals with disabilities.
1105.260 Scope of Complete Streets Applicability. -1. The County shall routinely plan, design, operate, and maintain its streets for all users and approach every transportation improvement and project phase as an opportunity to create safer, more accessible streets for all users. These phases include, but are not limited to: planning, programming, design, right-of-way acquisition, construction, construction engineering, reconstruction, operation and maintenance including restriping and repaving. Other changes to transportation facilities on streets and rights-of-way, including capital improvements, re-channelization projects and major maintenance, must also be included.
2. All transportation facilities in the public right of way including, but not limited to, streets, bridges and all other connecting pathways shall be designed, constructed, operated, and maintained so that users of all ages, abilities, and modes of transportation can travel safely and independently. This includes, but is not limited to, the establishment of one or more complete streets features such as sidewalks, refuge islands, bulbouts, pedestrian and traffic signals, accessible curb ramps, crosswalks, bike lanes, cycle tracks, multi-use paths, traffic-calming devices, bicycle parking facilities, signage, street trees and landscaping, and public transportation stops and facilities in conjunction with construction, reconstruction, or other change to any county-owned transportation facility.
3. The Department of Highways and Traffic shall use methods of providing development flexibility within safe design 3
parameters, such as context-sensitive design solutions.
4. Privately constructed streets and parking lots shall adhere to this policy.
5. This policy further requires consideration of complete street elements by the Director of Planning and the Plan Commission through the planning, development review and approval process or in other appropriate circumstances.
6. The County shall create partnerships of open communication and transparency with the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT), neighboring communities and counties, and business and school districts to implement facilities and accommodations that further the County’s Complete Streets policy and continue such infrastructure beyond the County’s borders and within municipalities.
7. The County shall implement and create a system of connectivity throughout the County road network to and between Municipalities, Great Rivers Greenway trails, Metro bus and light rail stations, learning institutions, civic centers and other high visitation facilities. The County shall accomplish this by coordination, and come to mutually agreeable safe solutions with previously named institutions.
1105.265 Implementation. -St. Louis County shall make Complete Streets integral to everyday transportation decision-making practices and processes. To this end:
(a) The County shall establish an interdepartmental advisory committee to oversee the implementation of this policy. The committee shall include Directors or designees from the departments of Highways and Traffic, Planning, Health, and Parks and Recreation Departments that have Complete Streets responsibilities. It shall be called the Complete Streets Implementation Committee and fulfill the following duties:
(i) Meet quarterly;
(ii) Develop an action plan to more fully integrate complete streets principles into appropriate policy documents, plans, project selection processes, design manuals and implementation (construction and maintenance) procedures.
(iii) Assess potential obstacles to implementing Complete Streets practices;
(iv) Propose revisions to zoning and subdivison codes and other applicable law to integrate, accommodate, and balance the needs of all users of the transportation network; 4
(v) Convene the Complete Streets Peer Advisory Committee; and
(vi) Provide an annual written report to the County Council showing progress made in implementing this policy.
(b) A Complete Streets Peer Advisory Committee shall be convened by the Complete Streets Implementation Committee and shall meet biannually to provide input into and review the action plan and implementation timeline, design standard updates, performance measures, exemptions, and annual report. Participants should represent a broad spectrum of users of the transportation system, and shall include members from: St. Louis County Council, East West Gateway, Bi-State Development Agency (Metro), Metropolitan Parks and Recreation District (Great Rivers Greenway), Trailnet, Paraquad, St. Louis Regional Chamber, St. Louis County Municipal League, and the Starkloff Institute. The committee may also include representatives from the walking, bicycling, disabled, youth, air quality, and elderly communities and other advocacy organizations, as relevant.
(c) The Department of Highways and Traffic, Planning, Health, Parks and Recreation, and other relevant departments, agencies, or committees shall incorporate Complete Streets principles into all existing plans, manuals, checklists, decision-trees, rules, regulations, and programs as appropriate.
(d) When available, County staff shall provide and/or attend nationally recognized professional development and training on non-motorized transportation issues for staff through conferences, classes, seminars, and workshops such as those delivered by the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals and Federal Highway Administration (FHWA);
(e) County staff shall identify all current and potential future sources of funding for street improvements and recommend improvements to the project selection criteria to support Complete Streets projects;
1105.270 Design Standards. -1. The County shall adapt, develop, adopt and implement departmental policies, design criteria, standards including subdivision regulations, and guidelines based upon recognized best practices and recommendations in street design, construction and operations including those recommended by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).
2. The County shall create, adopt and implement a Streets Design Manual which shall establish Complete Streets best practices 5
and incorporate the most recent federal standards and recommendations to support implementation of this policy. The design manual shall be created in conjunction with the Complete Streets Implementation Committee and include input from the Complete Streets Peer Advisory Committee.
1105.275 Exceptions. -1.Any proposed exception to this policy, including for private projects, shall be documented with data indicating the basis for the exception. The Complete Streets Implementation Committee shall review this documentation and record each Committee member’s concurrence or non-concurrence with the exception. All details of the exception, including the Committee’s position, will be made part of the public record. The Director of Highways & Traffic will notify the Complete Streets Peer Advisory Committee and the St. Louis County Board of Highways and Traffic (“Board”) regarding details of the exception, including the Committee’s position, within 30 days of the decision. The exception and Committee position shall also be made publicly available on the County website within 30 days. All exceptions must be approved by the Director of Highways & Traffic.
Exceptions may be considered for approval when:
(a) An affected roadway prohibits, by law, use by specified users (such as an interstate freeways or pedestrian malls), in which case a greater effort shall be made to accommodate those specified users elsewhere, including on roadways that cross or otherwise intersect with the affected roadway;
(b) The activities are ordinary maintenance activities designed to keep assets in serviceable condition (e.g. mowing, cleaning, sweeping, spot repair,) and surface treatments such as interim measures;
(c) The application of complete streets principles is inappropriate because it would be contrary to public safety or that the cost is excessively disproportionate to the need or future use; or
(d) Other available means or factors indicate an absence of need, including future need.
The Complete Streets Implementation Committee shall submit biannual reports to the County Council summarizing all exceptions with documented rationale granted in the preceding quarters. These reports shall be submitted during Council 6
meetings and shall be posted on the County’s website.
1105.280 Design Studies and Public Input. -1. All initial planning and design studies, health impact assessments, environmental reviews and other project reviews for projects requiring funding or approval by St. Louis County shall:
(a) Evaluate the effect of the proposed project on safe, convenient, and comfortable travel by all users;
(b) Identify measures to mitigate any adverse impacts on such travel that are identified.
2. During the planning phase of any improvement project requiring an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), the County shall conduct a study and analysis incorporating this ordinance into the public transportation project. The Complete Streets Implementation Committee, surrounding municipalities, and any impacted educational institutions are required to provide input during the planning phase to maximize safe, convenient, and comfortable travel between destinations; input shall be integrated into the project purpose and need. The study and analysis shall:
(a) Include cost estimates for all mode components, safety considerations, the benefit of such improvements or facilities to other public transportation improvements, whether additional property is required, physical or area requirements or limitations, and any other factors deemed relevant;
(b) Be incorporated in the design and planning of each public transportation project; and
(c) Conduct a stakeholder planning meeting that includes but is not limited to pedestrian planners, bicycle transportation planners, public transportation planners, local air quality management districts, disability and senior mobility planners, and advocates for disability, walking, biking, and public transit including Bi-State Development Agency (Metro), and Metropolitan Parks and Recreation District (Great Rivers Greenway), Trailnet, Starkloff Institute, and Paraquad. Comments and recommendations from the stakeholder planning meeting shall be integrated in the project purpose and need.
(d) Conduct a public charrette process in projects requiring an EIS. Context sensitive solutions and recommendations from the charrette shall be genuinely considered in the context of the project design. 7
(e) Draft EIS documents shall be available to the public at no cost for a minimum of 90 days, or as directed by National Environmental Protection Agency (NEPA), before the comment period closes.
1105.285 Performance Measures. -1. Within six months of ordinance adoption, the Complete Streets Peer Advisory Committee shall convene, and within one year create individual numeric benchmarks for each of the performance measures included, as a means of tracking and measuring the annual performance of the ordinance. Annual reports shall include data on the increase or decrease for each performance measure contained in this ordinance compared to the previous year(s) and shall be posted on the St. Louis County website.
The success of this Complete Streets policy shall be measured using, but not limited to, the following performance measures:
(a) Linear feet of new or repaired pedestrian accommodation;
(b) Number of new ADA curb ramps installed along streets;
(c) Crosswalk, intersection, and signalization improvements;
(d) Percentage of transit stops accessible via sidewalks and curb ramps;
(e) Number of transit accessibility accommodations built;
(f) Total miles of bike routes created, improved, and maintained; including mileage of sharrows, bike lanes, bicycle boulevards, cycle tracks, buffered bicycle lanes and multi-use paths;
(g) Number of people of walking and biking;
(h) Mass transit ridership per transit stop;
(i) Number of crashes, injuries, and fatalities by mode;
(j) Number of children walking or bicycling to school;
(k) Miles of connection added to and from multi-use trails such as those in the River Ring;
(l) Miles of connection added that fill gaps in the existing non-motorized transportation network.
APPROVED: CHAIR, COUNTY COUNCIL
ADMINISTRATIVE DIRECTOR COUNTY EXECUTIVE 8
APPROVED AS TO LEGAL FORM: