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Last week, opponents of St. Louis County Council’s SB1 for Bill #238, the so-called “Complete Streets” bill, dominated the Public Forum, with no one speaking in favor. Before this week’s county council meeting, Trailnet alerted the troops, urging them to attend and speak in favor, so I for one expected scores of Complete Streets supporters lining up at the podium.

And some did attend, but those opposing more than held their own, as is clear from the relevant official meeting minutes, courtesy of the County Clerk’s office, and appended towards the end of this blog.

A total of 6 spoke against this “Complete Streets” bill versus only 5 in favor.

There was some surprising testimony from two cyclists among the five speaking in favor:

Chuck Avery of Clayton, describing himself as “biking for over 20 years” and racking up “thousands of miles a year,” stated “We’re all here advocating for what we think is the safest way to get people out riding bicycles”. (My emphasis.)

Mr. Avery should become “Cycling Savvy” by taking a CyclingSavvy course and learn what really makes on-road cycling safe.

Andy Heaslet of St. Louis, another cyclist, also spoke in favor of the bill. I applaud him for how he’s integrated bicycling into his business. For the past three years he said he’s been making his living as the owner of a bike-based restaurant delivery service. According to the minutes: Both Mr. Heaslet and his employees deliver food from restaurants to various customers throughout the region. He stated that he and his employees prefer riding on Complete Streets and those with protected bike lanes and facilities.

He’s relying on paint to think for him, which is dangerous, instead of knowledge of what makes on-road cycling safe. The antidote? He should attend a local CyclingSavvy course and encourage his employees to do the same!

There aren’t any on-road training sessions offered now but anyone can get a taste for what CyclingSavvy is all about by attending a 3 hour presentation in St. Charles in January. Please click the link St. Charles To Host CyclingSavvy In January

Note: Please click any photo below repeatedly to enlarge it. Use back arrow (top left of window) to return to this page.
Acknowledgement: Please note that the photos of Nick Kasoff and Karen Karabell were taken by Harold Karabell.

Nick Kasoff testifying against the bill with (from L to R) County Executive Charlie Dooley, council chairwoman Kathy Burkett, and councilmembers Hazel Erby and Dolan looking on

Nick Kasoff testifying against the bill with (from L to R) County Executive Charlie Dooley, council chairwoman Kathy Burkett, and councilmember Hazel Erby and bill sponsor Pat Dolan looking on

Testimony by Nick Kasoff, Ferguson, at St. Louis County Council meeting, December 10, 2013

The professionals of our highway department have 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 the small group of special interests who wrote this bill. That would be a complete catastrophe.
          Complete Streets will cost us a bundle. And a lot of that money will be spent 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 Complete Streets creates a protected class of minority road users. If you don’t build a bike lane where I want it, I can sue you and claim you’re violating my rights. But it’s not just construction and planning. This bill requires equality in “operation and maintenance.” So now, instead of plowing streets to the side, you’ll have to plow the bike lanes and sidewalks as well, and find another place for all the snow. If you don’t, pedestrians and cyclists may sue you. How much is that going to cost?
          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 get a big bill, and we’ll get 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.

Martin Pion testified next.

Martin Pion testifying

Martin Pion testifying

Martin Pion, Ferguson

The November 19th Minutes recorded that Phil Valko, Director of Sustainability at Washington University St. Louis, spoke in favor of SB1 for Bill #238, which I oppose.
          I knew Phil when he was Trailnet’s Active Living Program Manager in Ferguson, and invited him home to lunch one time. I wanted to explore ways we might collaborate on bicycle transportation issues and the conversation went well until we started talking about North Elizabeth Avenue.
          Phil said he wouldn’t advocate anyone bicycling on that road because there was no room for bike lanes. That’s when I realized that Trailnet and I were poles apart.
          In fact, I routinely bike home along Elizabeth Avenue from downtown Ferguson. It’s a lovely country-like 25 mph road maintained by St. Louis County Highways and Traffic, tree-lined and mainly residential except for Paul’s Market. While it has narrow 11 ft. lanes and barely any shoulder, it’s generally no problem to bike along it.
          One rare exception for me was in 2004 when an aggressive SUV driver insisted on passing within inches in-lane, all the while blaring his horn. Fortuitously, I was wearing a helmet-mounted videocamera and caught him on tape, which allowed me to identify his license plate! I’ve posted a detailed review of the incident on-line, including a clip from the video [at http://cycling.mohiking.com/SUVhorn_movbig.html or tinyurl.com/o68ac6z].
          One of the lessons I learned from that unpleasant run-in was to bicycle further into the lane. Another was to control it when I judged it unsafe for a following motorist to pass, such as when approaching a blind bend, and then move right again once safe. This technique now has a name: “Control-and-release.”
          This past Spring, I bicycled up and down Elizabeth Ave. many times practicing control-and-release while seeking yard sign locations for my run for Ferguson City Council. Never once did I have an unpleasant encounter with a motorist.
          Trailnet’s focus on bike lane stripes both reduces road safety for competent cyclists like me, while giving novice cyclists a false sense of security. It’s the wrong approach and I urge you to oppose it.

Next was Robert Mick.

Robert Mick testifying against the bill without any notes for prepared testimony

Robert Mick testifying against the bill without any notes or prepared testimony

Robert Mick, Ferguson

According to the official minutes, he “stated he drives a car but is a bicyclist and he walks and cycles to work constantly. However, Mr. Mick stated he does not see the advantage of bike lanes. He expressed his agreement with Mr. Pion’s opinion that bike lanes provide a false sense of security and are restrictive. He concluded that he “does not see the need for Complete Streets legislation.”

Next to speak was Karen Karabell, who runs CyclingSavvy St. Louis in her spare time.

Karen Karabell testifying

Karen Karabell testifying

Karen Karabell, St. Louis

I’m Karen Karabell. As you know, I teach safe traffic cycling and stood before you last week. As you also know, I am opposed to your Complete Streets bill. Why did I come back?
         I want to offer some history about Trailnet, the organization that has been diligently working for your support on this bill. For years now, Trailnet has been vilifying the St. Louis County Department of Highways and Traffic. They’ve even managed to cast national aspersion upon the department’s public information spokesman.
         Trailnet did this because Highways & Traffic refused to buy their mantra that “segregated” on-road facilities are the way to encourage people to choose bicycling.
         Years of experience have taught us that segregation does not work. That’s because “separate but equal” is always separate, but never equal—and even dangerous.
         Just two days ago in Los Angeles, early Sunday afternoon in broad daylight, a cyclist was killed by a motorist. The cyclist was a prominent 65-year-old attorney for the entertainment industry—and he was riding in a bike lane. The motorist was a sheriff’s deputy, driving on routine patrol at normal speed. Google it. This keeps happening. It’s incredible that people who should know better are still pushing bike lanes and cycletracks for bicycle transportation.
         Complete Streets is touted as a green initiative. It is not. It creates traffic jams, adds bureaucracy that cripples the effectiveness of your engineers, and increases costs—which results in fewer projects, more unmet needs, and more traffic jams. Green? No way!
         There is an easier way. We now know how to teach anyone how to ride anywhere safely, courteously and with ease. We teach these skills at a fraction of the cost of even the cheapest infrastructure “improvement.”
         Our amazing St. Louis-area team of six trained instructors has offered CyclingSavvy for two years now. I invite Trailnet to take advantage of CyclingSavvy training. I invite this council to do the same. Join us on your bicycles, have fun in our workshops, and experience the epiphany of safe traffic cycling.
         What is our vision—the vision of people who have discovered how to cycle safely anywhere? We believe that you will hop on your bicycles when you truly know how to be safe, when you feel welcome and respected on the road, and when you are not dependent on special infrastructure to go where you want to go.
         We all desire civility and safe passage on our roads. But your Complete Streets bill will not advance these ideals. Please: Don’t muck up St. Louis County roads with mandates.

Following are the testimonies of those speaking for and against the bill, as recorded in the Journal, with those testifying against identified as Con.

Journal of the County Council – December 10, 2013:

PUBLIC FORUM

Chairman Burkett called upon those persons who had signed cards to speak at the Public Forum.

Pro: Ms. Margaret Johnson, 7509 Gannon, University City, MO, 63130, addressed the County Council and stated her support for “Complete Streets” legislation (Relates to Substitute Bill No. 1 for Bill No. 238, 2013, pending on tonight’s Final Passage Order of Business). Ms. Johnson shared her opinion and information regarding the societal changes regarding biking and walking to work and other destinations. She noted that some roads need to restrict non-vehicular traffic, “but it’s time to adjust our thinking and get on with changing our car culture to one that embraces pedestrians, bicyclists, parents pushing strollers and people in wheelchairs”. Ms. Johnson stated she personally walks and rides as much as possible, for pleasure, exercise and errands. She shared examples of how and where she rides her bike. Ms. Johnson stated her opinion as to why passage of this legislation would provide long-term benefits to St. Louis County and she encouraged St. Louis County to “change to fit the times”.

Con: Mr. Nick Kasoff, 125 Royal Avenue, Ferguson, MO, 63135, addressed the County Council with regard to Substitute Bill No. 1 for Bill No. 238, 2013, and restated his opposition and opinions regarding the proposed Complete Streets legislation. He stated his observations and shared examples as to the possible financial impact this proposed legislation would have for St. Louis County in view of the regulations that would be put in place including slowing the process for private developments, the need to coordinate and receive approval of all road plans “from a bunch of entities” and the increase in County staff needed to meet the new requirements. Mr. Kasoff concluded by stating “passing Complete Streets would be a complete catastrophe for St. Louis County”.

Con: Mr. Gene Hutchin, 9447 Radio Dr., Affton, MO, addressed the County Council with regard to Substitute Bill No. 1 for Bill No. 238, 2013, and restated his opposition to the “Complete Streets” policy for St. Louis County. Mr. Hutchin shared information concerning a recent incident where he nearly struck a bicyclist who was not wearing protective safety gear. Mr. Hutchin encouraged the Council to support the use of safety equipment requirements on bicycles. He further stated the idea of adding more bicyclists with the Complete Streets legislation is ridiculous and “you ought to be requiring these people who want to ride their bicycles like that to have safety equipment and they otherwise be certified like drivers of automobiles.” Mr. Hutchin further stated that he thinks this legislation is a waste of money, noting that you’re not going to replace the automobile and you won’t find thousands and thousands of people riding bicycles to work.

Con: Mr. Martin Pion, 6 Manor Ln., Ferguson, MO, 63135, addressed the County Council with regard to Substitute Bill No. 1 for Bill No. 238, 2013, and restated his opposition to Complete Streets legislation. Mr. Pion shared information with regard to a conversation he had at some point with Mr. Phil Valko, Director of Sustainability, Washington University in St. Louis, and a former Trailnet’s Active Living Program Manager. Mr. Pion pointed out that recently Mr. Valko had spoken in support of Complete Streets legislation and he recalled that Mr. Valko was not supportive of “anyone” bicycling on North Elizabeth Avenue because there was no room for bike lanes. Mr. Pion further shared some of his experiences biking up and down Elizabeth Avenue and stated that “never once did I have an unpleasant encounter with a motorist”. Mr. Pion expressed his opinion that “Trailnet’s focus on bike lane stripes both reduces road safety for competent cyclists like me, while giving novice cyclists a false sense of security.” He stated that this is the wrong approach and he urged the Council Members to oppose Complete Streets legislation.

Con: Mr. Robert Mick, 36 Royal Ave., Ferguson, MO, addressed the County Council with regard to Substitute Bill No. 1 for Bill No. 238, 2013, and stated he drives a car but is a bicyclist and he walks and cycles to work constantly. However, Mr. Mick stated he does not see the advantage of bike lanes. He expressed his agreement with Mr. Pion’s opinion that bike lanes provide a false sense of security and are restrictive. Mr. Mick related his experiences as a biker on today’s roadways and he stated he is as courteous as possible to motor vehicles when riding his bike because he drives also and he understands the situation from that perspective as well. He further stated he is hopeful that motorists will become more understanding and considerate of bicyclists but does not see the need for Complete Streets legislation.

Con: Ms. Karen Karabell, 4147 West Pine, St. Louis, MO, 63108, representing Cycling Savvy, addressed the County Council with regard to Substitute Bill No. 1 for Bill No. 238, 2013, and stated she teaches safe cycling and restated her opposition to the Complete Streets legislation. She shared her observations and some “history” about Trailnet. Ms. Karabell pointed out that this organization has been working diligently for the Council’s support of the Complete Streets legislation. She shared information concerning Trailnet’s purported attempts to negatively portray the St. Louis County Department of Highways and Traffic, stating Trailnet chose this approach because the St. Louis County Department of Highways and Traffic refused to support their recommended provisions for bicyclists on County roadways. Ms. Karabell shared the circumstances surrounding the recent death of a bicyclist “in broad daylight” who was riding in a bike lane in Los Angeles, California, and was killed by a motorist. She proposed that Complete Streets legislation would create traffic jams, adds bureaucracy and increases costs. Ms. Karabell stated, “we now know how to teach anyone how to ride anywhere safely” and stated teaching these skills costs a fraction of even “the cheapest infrastructure improvement”. She invited Trailnet and the Council Members to take advantage of Cycling Savvy training and experience the “epiphany” of safe traffic cycling. Ms. Karabell stated we all desire civility and safe passage on our roads and further stated her opinion that the “Complete Streets bill will not advance these ideals. Please don’t muck up St. Louis County roads with mandates.”

Pro: Ms. Stefany Brot, 8145 Cornell Ct., University City, addressed the County Council with regard to Substitute Bill No. 1 for Bill No. 238, 2013, and stated the University City Council just passed biking and pedestrian improvements to be included in its Comprehensive Plan. Ms. Brot further stated that she sees that the City of Clayton passed the Complete Streets Program and she plans to work to see the Complete Streets Program passed in University City. She shared her experiences while recently chairing a fundraiser, “Bike the Tree Walk”, and stated that they had 36 riders and had such a great time. Ms. Brot stated it was a very great day and she thinks it will be an even better day if the Council votes for Complete Streets in St. Louis County. Ms. Brot shared information concerning a trip to Vancouver, Canada, that she and her husband took with regard to the bikers that she observed using the designated bike paths on the major streets. She stated that she believes “we will be much better off when we have bicyclists, pedestrians and people riding MetroLink all over our County”.

Pro: Mr. Chuck Avery, 315 Kingsbury, Clayton, MO, 63105, addressed the County Council with regard to Substitute Bill No. 1 for Bill No. 238, 2013, and stated he is a bicyclist and has been biking for over 20 years and generally is on his bike at least three or four days a week and that amounts to thousands of miles a year. Mr. Avery pointed out that he is retired and has been very fortunate to be able to travel to different cities around the Country and ride his bike in different cities that have bike infrastructure and bike lanes. He noted that it is really interesting to see how both the motorists and the bicyclists have learned to work with each other and respect their space. Mr. Avery further stated that he strongly believes bicycling is a good form of transportation and he thinks it would be nice if you decide to go somewhere in the County or the City to have bike routes with bike lanes or bike trails. Mr. Avery related that he is here tonight to encourage the Council to support Complete Streets. He stated it is a real concern how dangerous it can be to ride a bike. “We’re all here advocating for what we think is the safest way to get people out riding bicycles”. Mr. Avery noted that he advocates the use of trail systems and bike lanes and therefore, urged the Council Members to support the Complete Streets.

Pro: Mr. Charles G. Wilbur, 5211 Weber Rd., addressed the Council Members with regard to Substitute Bill No. 1 for Bill No. 238, 2013, and stated he is here to advocate for Complete Streets. Mr. Wilbur shared that he has been a bike commuter for about two years and bikes from his home to his office near Lindbergh and Highway 270, with part of his commute on County roads, then Grants Trail and then back onto County roads. He shared he was happy to get off the roads and onto the trail and away from the cars and the crazy drivers. Mr. Wilbur pointed out that he took a safety class and that helped, but he still prefers a bike lane over taking the road to “be separated from the giant SUV than have him sitting behind me, misgauging how fast he’s going and bearing down on my back wheel”. He also shared his experience with walking outings and the choices he and his wife make in this regard.

Pro: Mr. Andy Heaslet, 3540 Juniata, St. Louis, MO, 63118, addressed the County Council with regard to Substitute Bill No. 1 for Bill No. 238, 2013, and stated that he is a resident of the City of St. Louis. He shared his experience with making his living the past three years as the owner of a bike-based restaurant delivery service whereby Mr. Heaslet and his employees delivered food from restaurants to various customers throughout the region. Mr. Heaslet pointed out this delivery service was accomplished via bicycles in the City of St. Louis, and he stated that he and his employees prefer riding on Complete Streets and those with protected bike lanes and facilities. He urged the Council Members to support Complete Streets in St. Louis County.

Con: Ms. Lisa Pannett, 2915 Three Acres Ln., St. Louis, MO, 63125, addressed the County Council … and stated she disagreed with comments indicating everyone was for the Complete Streets plan with regard to Substitute Bill No. 1 for Bill No. 238, 2013, and made reference to the “Sustainability Plan”. She further stated her opinion regarding the proposed plan, made suggestions in this regard and questioned if the Council Members had read the plan.

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