After learning of the recent effort to enact a Complete Streets ordinance in St. Louis County, several opponents attended St. Louis County Council’s regularly scheduled weekly meeting on Tuesday, December 3rd. I was called first and spoke against Substitute Bill #1 for Bill # 238, aka “Complete Streets.” All those called after me also spoke out against this bill for one reason or another, all of them cyclists bar one lone motorist.
On the calendar that evening was a Perfection vote on this bill, which was expected to pass unanimously. Instead the bill was held over by its sponsor, Councilman Pat Dolan, the second time in as many weeks. The first time it was put on hold after serious cost concerns were raised by the St. Louis County Highways and Traffic Department.
It could come up again for a vote as early as next Tuesday, December 10th. In the meantime, below are those testimonies I’ve received from speakers on Tuesday, in chronological order, starting with my own.
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Martin Pion, Ferguson
Mr. Chairman, Council Members, and County Executive:
I oppose Substitute Bill #1 for Bill # 238, aka “Complete Streets.”
I’ve been using a bicycle for transportation for the past 43 years, the last 16 years teaching hundreds of adults and some children bike education as a certified League of American Bicyclists Cycling Instructor.
I’ve learned that roads work well for cyclists who acquire the basic skills and knowledge to drive cooperatively with motorists. And it’s not difficult, dangerous, or time-consuming [to learn how].
“Complete Streets” has laudable goals, but is tarnished by its embrace of junk science. And that junk science really does kill people. A lot of people.
John Schubert, an experienced cyclist and Technical Editor of Adventure Cycling, just e-mailed me that many car-bike collisions causing cyclist fatalities due to bike facilities go unreported, both here and in Europe.
He mentioned that Copenhagen, Denmark, has had seven so far in 2013, Portland has had three, Minneapolis two, and so on.
Bike lanes may attract novice cyclists, whose main fear is being hit from behind by a faster motorist. However, bike lanes actually increase the likelihood of a car-bike collision, which occur primarily at intersections. A leading cause is a right hook when a tractor-trailer passes a slower bicyclist riding near the curb and turns right across his or her path.
In contrast, last June Ferguson repealed its so-called “Far To the Right” language, which was modeled after Missouri’s law requiring a cyclist to generally stay as far right “as safe.” Ferguson now allows a cyclist to optionally control the curb lane. This works well.
Finally, what about Paraquad, which supports this bill because it addresses disability issues? The federal Americans with Disabilities Act already requires significant accommodations for disabled persons, but a local ordinance may well help, so I support that effort. However, it should be dealt with separately.
Nick Kasoff uses his bike primarily for transportation but also for recreation. After purchasing a higher-end bike earlier this year from the Ferguson Bicycle Shop, he started working up to longer distances, recently bicycling to a client living 30 miles away. He has told me that, while not having attended a CyclingSavvy or similar class, he is still quite comfortable bicycling on any local roads with the exception of the most congested parts of Lindbergh, like those in North County.
Nick Kasoff, Ferguson
St. Louis County has a highway department full of trained professionals, with an intimate knowledge of the transportation needs of our county. Complete Streets would take control of county roads out of their hands, and give that control to a small group of special interests who wrote the very bill you are considering.
Complete Streets will cost our county hundreds of millions of dollars. But a lot of that money won’t be spent on maintaining and improving roads. Instead, we’ll be spending it on consultants and reports, on board meetings and staff time, to meet the complicated requirements of this law. We’ll also be spending it on lawyer’s fees, because a legislative commitment to Complete Streets will lead to endless claims by those asserting their rights under this bill. If you don’t build a bike lane where I want it, I can sue you and claim you’re violating my rights under Complete Streets.
Complete Streets will also slam on the brakes for private development. That’s because the bill applies to private streets and parking lots as well as county roads. Forcing every development to comply with these complicated rules will drive up costs, and drive development out of the county.
Supporters say that we don’t have to do every street right away. I guess they’re hoping you’ll pass the bill without finding out what’s in the bill. This bill requires that Complete Streets standards be met on every street when it is restriped or resurfaced. So we’ll be getting a big bill, and we’ll be getting it in a hurry.
The bill also requires coordinating and receiving approval of all road plans from a bunch of entities. This includes municipalities, schools of all sorts, civic centers, Metro, unspecified “other high visitation facilities” … and of course, Great Rivers Greenway, one of the groups pushing this bill. How many county staff people will it take just to satisfy this one requirement?
If you want to handcuff our county highway department and bankrupt our county government, this is a great bill. If not, you should vote NO. Passing Complete Streets would be a complete catastrophe for St. Louis county.
When she’s not running a guest house and other businesses, in her spare time the next speaker, Karen Karabell, runs CyclingSavvy St. Louis. This is the local affiliate of CyclingSavvy based in Orlando, FL, with an increasing number of such affiliates throughout the U.S. She and husband Harold and 15-year-old son Eli biked to the county council meeting, hitching a ride on Metrolink from their Central West End home.
Karen Karabell, St. Louis
I rode my bicycle here. It was easy! And imagine: Not a “Complete Street” on the route.
I teach safe traffic cycling. This is not an oxymoron. In the two years that we’ve offered CyclingSavvy in St. Louis, we’ve taught more than 100 people how to ride anywhere safely, courteously and with ease. I wish I could report that we’ve taught 10,000 how to do so. I would love for our roads to be filled with educated and confident cyclists.
You might think that I would be all over the idea of “Complete Streets,” right? Wrong!
It sounds like a great idea on paper—and I support the pedestrian components. But for bicyclists? Complete Streets is not such a great idea.
Why? For one thing, channelizing drivers by vehicle type does not work. I bet each of you is a motorist. I bet each of you would be quite happy to have cyclists “out of the way” in their own space on the road. Well, cyclists using “Complete Streets”-mandated facilities are “out of the way”—until they’re not. Perhaps you’ve heard of “doorings” and “right hooks.” If not, you will.
As our streets are being “Completed,” these phrases are becoming part of our common lexicon. As is this statement, from motorists: “I didn’t see her.” That would be the cyclist whom they just hit. And you know what? They probably did not see her.
This is because bike lanes and cycletracks “hide” cyclists in places where motorists don’t expect to see them. Now we get to witness totally preventable injury and sometimes even death, all in the name of a misguided zeal to “Complete” our streets.
Complete Streets will reduce capacity for motorists. Do you really want to do this? Do you really want the St. Louis County Director of Highways and Traffic to field the same calls now being heard by the city’s Director of Streets? At an event last month to “Take Bicycling To The Next Level,” the city’s Director of Streets said this: “Every happy biker generates a dozen pissed-off motorists.”
St. Louis County does not need that. No community does—especially now, now that we know how to teach regular people how to safely ride as a normal part of traffic.
Bike lanes and attempts at segregation give us more vitriol and more animosity. Cyclists in “bicycle friendly” communities—that would be those with lots of bike lanes on their roads—commonly report experiencing even MORE conflict between cyclists and motorists.
We can do better in St. Louis.
Here’s the truth: There is plenty of room on our roads for all, until we start mucking them up with mandates.
Stephen Baker spoke next.
Stephen Baker, Wildwood
I am here to speak on Bill 238, St. Louis County’s Complete Streets Policy.
On its surface Complete Streets sounds like a wonderful idea – 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. I am all for safety and comfort. But this lofty goal comes at an expense.
Every update to a street, private road or business will require design rework according to the Complete Streets Policy. This will in turn delay the resurfacing of degrading roads and increase the costs to the state, the county, cities, private road owners, and businesses for maintaining the existing infrastructure. It will also increase the cost to new infrastructure.
No estimates have been made for the costs that will be incurred by the Missouri Department of Transportation, the county streets department, the city streets departments or the multitude of private road owners and businesses that will be impacted by this regulation requiring design and implementation of specific constructs to meet the goals of the Complete Streets Policy. Neither were there estimates for the costs incurred to increase the roadway easements necessary to implement the bike lanes and sidewalks mandated by this policy. The unknown financial burden of this bill should be unsettling to every one of you Council Members. And for this reason alone, it should not be passed.
The Complete Streets Policy also explicitly grants power to organizations whose stated objectives include increasing lane-miles for specific modes of transportation, sometimes at the expense of other modes, believing that dedicated infrastructure can be equated to safety. There are no studies that show that dedicated infrastructure results in fewer accidents and deaths. These interest groups seek to institutionalize their ideals about the transportation system without regard for cost, safety, or applicability to its users. In the last County Council meeting you heard from representatives of some of these organizations. They have a vested interest in codifying their power. This codification of power does not serve all the users of the transportation system equitably. And this is another reason that the Complete Streets Policy should not be passed.
There are competing organizations that believe the creation of dedicated lane-miles for specific road users is a safety hazard, which will lead to increased injuries and deaths. You will hear from some of the adherents of this system in this meeting.
The disagreement between these recognized organizations as to what constitutes safety gives rise to ambiguity within the Complete Streets Policy.
The viewpoint that I have not heard expressed in public meetings is that of the property owners whose road easements will increase, or the private road or business owners who will bear financial burdens of implementing this bill, if it is passed. Having opened a small business in St. Louis County, I know of the burdens that are already placed on business owners. The Complete Streets Policy will become another reason for business owners to seek other jurisdictions for their establishments. Do you want to implement this Complete Streets Policy and give business owners another reason to go elsewhere?
The performance measurements of the Complete Streets policy is a checklist of items. It does not indicate whether a greater or lesser number of a particular category is desirable. Nor does it give any indication as to the desirable quantity of a category. There is no feedback mechanism to the policy implementers by which excess or lack of a category can be used to adjust the objectives of the policy. The Complete Streets Policy bill is an open invitation for special interest groups to spend taxpayer money on their narrow objectives. If St. Louis County were a business attempting to implement process improvement, this policy would not meet those requirements. This lack of accountability is further reason not to pass the Complete Streets Policy bill.
Several more people spoke in opposition to the proposed Complete Streets bill but I don’t currently have their names or testimony.