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Today’s public testimony before St. Louis County Council against SUBSTITUTE BILL NO. 1 FOR BILL NO. 238 (aka “Complete Streets”) was almost unanimous, only Alderman Scott Ogilvie from St. Louis City speaking in favor. He’s worked in a bike shop and described helping numerous customers become comfortable riding on the road. And while he mentioned bike lanes there was never a whisper of bike education playing any kind of role.

The testimony I’d already prepared went out the window when I learned yesterday morning of a car-bike collision with a female cyclist riding in one of the newly-painted bike lanes on Manchester Rd. It was a classic right hook by the motorist, and could have cost the cyclist her life or led to serious injury. The news spread once the cyclist posted about her close encounter on Facebook, as follows:

Susan Herzberg with daughter Gretchen

Susan Herzberg with daughter Gretchen

Susan Petsche Herzberg
Monday, December 16, 2013 @ 9:54 am near St. Louis, MO

Just had a collision with a car this morning on Manchester. Was riding my bike in the new bike lane and someone cut right in front of me to get to the gas station @ Kingshighway and I couldn’t stop. Took out her sideview mirror with my arm. ouch. I’m fine, will be bruised tomorrow and bike is fine, rode in the rest of the way to work, but I sure miss having 2 regular traffic lanes both ways on Manchester. I had 2.5 years of safe riding without the bike lane. So…be careful cyclists, bike lanes are really a much more dangerous place to be than in with the flow of traffic.

Later Susan added:

Yes Gretchen was safely at school. I was westbound on Manchester just after crossing Kingshighway and she was turning right into the gas station. I feel very lucky, it was a slow speed crash and no, I didn’t get to keep the mirror.

Susan has actually done a nice job of summing up the problems with bike lanes: they may encourage more cyclists to ride, although the numbers may be exaggerated, but they also lure novice cyclists into dangers of which they are totally unaware. At the same time they create potentially serious problems for informed and skilled cyclists who know how to bicycle safely. Below are copies of the two currently available testimonies presented at the council meeting opposing this bill:

Martin Pion

Martin Pion

Martin Pion, Ferguson

In past weeks, you’ve heard from cyclists who say bike lanes are dangerous. Trailnet says you should pass this bill because it makes cycling safer, and certainly some cyclist do believe so. Today, I was going to tell you about some bike lane crashes in other cities. As it turns out, I didn’t have to go so far away.
         In October, after MoDOT resurfaced Manchester Road/State Route 100 in St. Louis City they re-striped it to comply with the city’s Complete Streets ordinance. The previous four-lanes have now been reduced to three with the addition of bike lanes in some areas, These bike lanes are “by the book” – having an extra 2 ft buffer lane alongside parking lanes to mitigate a bike collision with an opened car door, and they are striped by today’s bike lane standards.
         A fellow cyclist, Susan Herzberg, uses this route every day, to commute from her home in south St. Louis to her work in Maplewood. She has done this for two and a half years, without incident.
         Yesterday, that long run of safe riding came to an end.
         Susan was riding westbound on Manchester Road, and had just entered the new bike lane after crossing Kingshighway. A woman entering the gas station turned directly in front of her. Because of the bike lane, Susan was in the driver’s blind spot. That is a problem with every bike lane, which can’t be avoided.
         Susan hit the car with such force that she tore off the righthand exterior mirror. Thankfully, Susan’s injuries were minor. She quite easily could have been dead.
         Accidents like this happen every day in bike lanes all over America. That’s why the way to make cyclists safe is to provide them with education in using the roads safely, and demand that they obey traffic laws just like other drivers.
         In their recent editorial opposing this bill, the Post-Dispatch said, “At the very least, the council should know whether the bill will kill people.” Given the time for research, I could provide numerous examples of cyclists who were killed, in bike lanes, by crashes just like this. That is why as a cyclist, with a concern for bike safety, I ask you to VOTE NO on this bill.

Below is a photo accompanying my printed testimony. A motorist is waiting to exit the entrance to the BP gas station where Susan was right hooked by the turning motorist just west of the intersection with Kingshighway. The photo shows Karen Karabell following me along Manchester Rd. before it was re-striped with bike lanes, so that we could readily control the lane when necessary for safety. At this location there is now a bike lane alongside the curb which prejudices such cyclist behavior. Susan estimated that Karen is about 10 ft beyond the point of impact.

Karen Karabell cycling along Manchester before restriping, just about 10 ft. beyond the point where Susan was right-hooked

Karen Karabell cycling along Manchester before restriping, just about 10 ft. beyond where Susan was right-hooked on Monday morning, December 16th, 2013

Note: Please click above photo to enlarge it. Use back arrow (top left of window) to return to this page.

Nick Kasoff

Nick Kasoff

Nick Kasoff, Ferguson

Trailnet and other advocates for the Complete Streets bill have presented this as a popular measure that your constituents support. Would it make a difference to you if I showed you that they were lying? Well, see for yourself. On Trailnet’s website, they cite a 2010 MoDOT study showing 53% support such programs:
The same claim appears on the website of the “Missouri Complete Streets Information Center”:
(Source: center)
         So it looks like a slim majority supports Complete Streets. But it just so happens that Trailnet is misleading the council in a very serious way.
         You see, this 2010 survey wasn’t just a one-time thing. MoDOT asked the same question every year since 2008, and 2010 was the only time it received majority support. I’ve provided the council with the relevant pages of the MoDOT surveys that Trailnet DIDN’T bother to tell you about.
         And if you look at them, you’ll find that in the latest survey, from 2012, Complete Streets received the lowest level of support ever: 63% of those surveyed were OPPOSED to diverting road funds for Complete Streets. In the St. Louis district, 60% were opposed to diverting road funds. And in a 2009 survey for St. Louis county, more than 80% opposed more spending on bike trails in every council district except Mr. Dolan’s. In Dolan’s district, only 60% were against it.
         Now, you might say that accusing Trailnet of lying to the council is an overstatement. Maybe they just haven’t updated that web page in a long time. Well, if only it were so. In fact, that very same page was updated with an alert asking members to come speak at the council meeting last week:


Attend the St. Louis County Council meeting on Tuesday, December 10th at 5:45pm and show your support. You are free to give testimony, or just observe the process. Every person counts! The meetings are generally 30-40 minutes long.

         So now you know. Complete Streets is opposed by a large majority of your constituents. And, the organization which is lobbying you to pass it has knowingly based that lobbying on a lie. That’s why in a recent editorial, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch said, “Complete Streets would give a small number of people a claim on a disproportionate share of public dollars that should benefit the greatest number of people.”
         I hope you’ll take these facts into consideration, support your constituents, and vote no on this bill.

Eli Karabell talking to Councilmember Hazel Erby on 2013-12-10

Eli Karabell talking to Councilmember Hazel Erby after the council meeting on 2013-12-10

Eli Karabell gave impassioned extemporaneous testimony in opposition to this bill. Among his comments was this one:

         I feel 1,050 times safer when there are no bike lanes on the road!

Eli is the son of Karen Karabell who runs CyclingSavvy St. Louis. During both previous county council meetings Karen had also testified against this Complete Streets bill. After the meeting Eli was interviewed outside the council chamber by a reporter from St. Louis Public Radio and again expressed strong opposition to the bill. After we parted in the parking lot Eli cycled back to his Central West End home in St.Louis.

Eli Karabell was followed by Stephen Baker, Wildwood

Stephen Baker

Stephen Baker

Dear Council Members,

On its surface Complete Streets sounds like a wonderful idea. But there’s much more to it than safety and comfort for all users.
         Complete Streets creates division among road users, then attempts to mete out resources to accommodate the self-proclaimed entitlements for a minority. These entitlements come at the expense of everyone. Road easements will increase. Number and size of lanes will decrease. And conflicts will be created between classes of road users. The capacity of roads will be decreased.
         This can already be seen in how St. Louis City has already implemented Complete Streets on Manchester Road and on Chippewa Street. There are also studies that show that the number of accidents and deaths increases when traffic is segmented in that way that Complete Streets promotes.
         There is also a real cost to implementing Complete Streets. According to this bill, every update to a road, even private roads, will require design rework according to the Complete Streets Policy. This will in turn delay the maintenance of degrading roads and increase the costs to the state, county, cities, private road owners, and businesses.
         There are incomplete estimates from the county’s Highways, Traffic and Public Works division of the cost increases in implementing changes to a small portion of the county roads. The bill also requires county employees to attend national conferences, which by the way are put on by the same organizations that are promoting this bill. Doesn’t this sound self-serving?
         And, no estimates have been made for the costs to cities, school districts, and businesses for the changes that will be mandated by the Complete Streets Implementation Committee. The Complete Streets Implementation Committee will be overseen by the Complete Streets Peer Advisory Committee, a new committee that will by statute include members of the very organizations that are promoting this bill. Again, is this self-serving and self-promoting?
         Some of the organizations that are promoting this bill measure their success in number of lane-miles of bicycle lanes and cycle tracks without regard to safety or usability. This is not the type of leadership that I want to see directing how the roads that I use will be designed.
         This bill is a bad idea. There are better ways to spend public dollars to incorporate pedestrians, bicycle drivers, motor-vehicle drivers, and transportation drivers on the same roads.
         I am asking you to reject the Complete Streets Bill.

Thank you.

One Comment

    • Melissa @ HerGreenLife
    • Posted December 19, 2013 at 7:59 am
    • Permalink
    • Reply

    So did they vote on Tuesday?

    Martin’s reply: No, the sponsor held the bill over once again after a barrage of testimony opposing it. But the belief is that if we hadn’t shown up he’d have brought it up for a vote and sneaked it through.

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