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There’s been a flurry of published Letters to the Editor on SB 1 for Bill. No. 235, aka “Complete Streets.” This followed the recent spate of articles about it in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch by reporters Margaret Gillerman and Steve Giegerich and the editorial “St. Louis County should drop the kickstand on ‘Complete Streets’ bill” opposing the bill. Below are Letters published to during December 2013, in chronological order, both pro and con.

I might mention that I know two of the letter writers favoring the bill and like and respect them. The first is Linda Goldstein, former mayor of Clayton, who was very health-conscious in that role and spearheaded progressive smoke-free air ordinances. The second is David Henry, who has over the years been actively promoting walking to school. It’s unfortunate having to disagree with either of them but I don’t perceive so-called Complete Streets legislation as necessary or desirable if it prevents trained traffic engineers from making informed and desirable decisions, and messes up the road for competent cyclists. Public input on decision making is desirable but not by fiat, as the proposed legislation would require.

I also perceive many of the supporters of this bill to be ill-informed, especially when it comes to on-road bike transportation and what makes it truly safe. Bike lanes don’t make it safer: they actually make a car-bike collision more likely at intersections or in the door zone of parked cars, while confining the cyclist to the area near the gutter, which is typically the worst part of the road. It’s also impossible to make a safe left turn in traffic from this position.

Please click any Letter to the Editor title to go to original web post.

Martin Pion

Martin Pion

Nick Kasoff

Nick Kasoff

Follow Ferguson’s lead to promote safe bicycling
Martin Pion • Ferguson
Nick Kasoff • Ferguson

December 03, 2013

Trailnet’s effort to enact “Complete Streets” legislation (Bill No. 238) in St. Louis County rests on misinformation and false premises. Trailnet claims Complete Streets leads to “increased property values, increased retail sales, and attraction of new business” in cities, including  Ferguson, where we live. We have seen no evidence of that.
         Trailnet claims Complete Streets encourages safe bicycling, achieved primarily by painting bike lanes along major roads. Relevant research shows bike lanes actually increase car-bike crashes, particularly at intersections. (Risk Factors for Bicycle-Motor Vehicle Collisions at Intersections, Wachtel & Lewiston, 1994 ITE Journal.) 

Bike lanes also require cyclists to ride dangerously close to parked cars, another leading cause of bicyclist injury or death.
         The safest way to bicycle on any road is with techniques taught in classes such as Cycling Savvy (http://tinyurl.com/9ls8wor), and not by striping bike lanes.
         Last year, Ferguson approved a first-in-Missouri ordinance giving bicyclists the choice of controlling or sharing the curb lane, repealing its discriminatory “far to the right” ordinance based on Missouri law. This reflects the best practices taught in Cycling Savvy.
         Rather than Complete Streets-dictated bike lanes, our county and local governments would be wise to follow Ferguson’s lead, ensuring bicyclists equal use of traffic lanes.

Linda Goldstein

Linda Goldstein

Complete Streets benefit many groups, including bicyclists
Linda Goldstein • Clayton
December 18, 2013

When the city of Clayton passed its Complete Streets ordinance in January 2012, we joined numerous other municipalities, counties, states and regional planning organizations across the country that are committed to providing safe, accessible and convenient modes of travel for all users through Complete Streets policies.
         The Post-Dispatch published an editorial (“Drop the kickstand,” Dec. 13) focused primarily on Complete Streets’ bicycle accessibility, but it’s important to consider other features of effective Complete Streets legislation as well. Through the planning, design, building and maintenance of streets, the goal is to provide safe access for all users: pedestrians of all ages and abilities, motorists, public transportation vehicles and their passengers, and, yes, bicyclists.
         What this means is that a Complete Street could provide people with physical disabilities better wheelchair accessibility, and those who are visually impaired could safely cross streets with the help of audible crosswalk signals and textured walkways. Seniors could benefit through more walkable communities and greater access to public transportation. And, children who want to bike to school could do so on dedicated bike paths.
         Complete Streets provide health and fitness, environmental, safety and quality of life benefits to a community and can be implemented in a systematic and fiscally responsible manner. I urge St. Louis County to continue its efforts to craft legislation that benefits our citizens and makes sense for our community.

People want more transportation options
David Henry • Webster Groves
December 19, 2013

The editorial “Drop the kickstand” (Dec. 13) opposes the proposed Complete Streets bill being considered by the St. Louis County Council because the bill “would give a small number of people a claim on a disproportionate share of public dollars.” I question how the editorial’s author can support that claim.
         Based on the results of the Future of Transportation National Survey from 2010, most people support improved options for walking, biking and transit. Here are a few relevant results from that survey:
(1) 55 percent of Americans would rather drive less and walk more;
(2) 73 percent said they have no choice but to drive;
(3) 66 percent want more transportation options so they have freedom to choose how to get where they need to go.
         Furthermore, about a third of the population cannot drive because they are underage, physically impaired, or because they cannot afford to drive.
         By denying accommodations for transportation other than automobiles, the St. Louis County Council would be advocating an automobile-only transportation policy. Such a policy would be clearly denying the needs of citizens.

Street plans should consider young folks and seniors who don’t drive
Laura Barrett • St. Louis
Director, Transportation Equity Network

December 20, 2013

The Post-Dispatch editorial “Drop the kickstand” (Dec. 13) about the pending Complete Streets policy was just plain wrong.
         These policies save money. Fewer cars on the highway mean less pollution, fewer pothole repairs and more people using transit — all of which save taxpayers money. But an even more glaring mistake in this editorial was its lack of concern for low-income people and people with disabilities.
         State and local officials have spent time and money creating access to bus shelters on South Lindbergh Avenue after a campaign by Metropolitan Congregations United. Among the issues: People with disabilities could not access a bus shelter with steps.
         Any parent whose child goes to Lindbergh High probably shares my feeling of fear every time I see the river of children walking to school each morning without the benefit of a sidewalk.
         All of these South County problems could have been prevented with better planning and policies. It just makes sense to plan for young folks who don’t drive, seniors who can’t drive and the thousands of transit riders who take Metrolink buses and light rail every day.

Nick Kasoff

Nick Kasoff

Nick Kasoff posted this reply on-line:

Street plans already do consider those who don’t drive. And Complete Streets won’t mean fewer cars on the highway. Recreational riders will still be driving to work and on errands. But they’ll be doing so on more congested streets, as the Complete Streets conversions reduce the number of traffic lanes. That means MORE gas and pollution.
         I am all for good sidewalks and accessible bus shelters. And if you want to cycle for recreation and exercise, I applaud you. There are numerous bike trails throughout the county, and we build new ones every year. I am a daily transportation cyclist. I safely and comfortably use the existing roads, and do not want to be forced into the segregated bike lanes which Complete Streets prefers.
         If you’re a driver, and you want to spend more time sitting in traffic, and pay higher taxes for the privilege, then Complete Streets is something you’ll love. For the rest of us, it’s nothing but bad.

‘Complete Streets’ creates hazard on Chippewa
Raymond F. Buckley Jr. • St. Louis
December 20, 2013

I read your editorial “Drop the kickstand” (Dec. 13), and I wanted to point out that the reduction from four lanes to two lanes creates a hazard at the QuikTrip exit on Chippewa Street at the intersection with Gravois Avenue.
         Because there is now only one eastbound lane on Chippewa, cars frequently back up past the QuikTrip exit. If the cars create a break, vehicles exiting QT to the left — or west — on Chippewa often have impaired visibility and cannot see westbound cars. By the same token, cars traveling west on Chippewa often cannot see the vehicles turning left out of the QT parking lot, and must proceed with caution if there appears to be a gap in the line of cars backed up at the intersection. This is [a] particular problem at rush hour.

‘Complete Streets’ is an affordable evolution
S. Burns Kessler • Kirkwood
December 22, 2013

We have a “Complete Street” in front of our house in Kirkwood. At first I thought it was too dangerous for all concerned, as the street suddenly seemed too narrow. A parking lane, bike lane and road lane heading west, and a road lane and bike lane heading east. I was surprised to see that cars, bikes, joggers and pedestrians co-existed in the space. And while accidents can happen, to date I have not seen one on our street. But the greater surprise is that people slowed down, watched out for each other and shared the roadway.
         The negative editorial (“Drop the kickstand,” Dec. 13) on Complete Streets misses a very important reality: Cultures must evolve. And if a city and its community do not evolve, they decay. Complete Streets is an affordable evolution for our cities and our region.          It is a considered, humanistic approach to urban living. Streets teeming with life again are great to see. It brings all of us together in a common purpose to enjoy the outdoor world that is our home as well.
         I urge the council to vote for the future of our region and not just for Complete Streets, but vote for a new path into our future as it is also a vote for the people who have voted for you as well.

Building a biking infrastructure will attract riders
Chris Krusa • Glen Carbon
December 24, 2013

I am an officer of the Sierra Club in Illinois in the Metro East and have been strongly promoting improvements in bike and pedestrian access. Here we have great bike trails but limited access to markets and local services such as restaurants, movies, bookstores, etc. Implementing substantial access is a long-term deal and requires long-term planning.
         Your editorial on “Complete Streets” smacks of ostrich-like mentality (“Drop the kickstand,” Dec. 13). The biking success in Europe came with bike access and related infrastructure first; the bikers, including huge numbers commuting, came in time. Build it and they will come.

Need safe places for walking
Natasha Simms • St. Louis
December 24, 2013

The editorial “Drop the kickstand” (Dec. 13) in its zeal to condemn cyclists seems to have chosen to ignore that the “Complete Streets” program helps pedestrians, too. Much of the county and even parts of the city are completely unsafe to walk. There are few sidewalks and crosswalks even at residential streets. There may not be many people commuting on bikes, but there are plenty of people who use the buses and train.
         Safe walking should not stop in Maplewood like it does now. I should not need to get in a car to drive a few blocks to get from one business to another in the same area. I can understand traffic frustration because of bike lanes, but we need more safe ways for people to walk in the county.

Karen Karabell

Karen Karabell

Bike lanes are more dangerous than regular traffic lanes
Karen Karabell • St. Louis
December 27, 2013

As a cycling educator, I oppose the Complete Streets bill before the St. Louis County Council. What we’ve discovered about bicycling in traffic is that cyclists should be in the flow, rather than shunted off to one side of the road in a bike lane or cycle track. Why? Because cyclists who are “in the way” are seen. On straight roads, you can see cyclists from over a quarter-mile away. Motorists have plenty of time to prepare, either by slowing down or changing lanes to pass. This is safe. It also is counterintuitive — which is why we teach safe traffic cycling!
         Few realize that bike lanes are much more dangerous than regular traffic lanes. Because bicycling is very safe, accidents are rare, even in bike lanes. But when accidents do happen, they can be heartbreaking. Pay attention to news reports about cyclists hit by motorists: Where was the cyclist on the roadway? If the cyclist wasn’t breaking the law by riding against traffic, disobeying signals or riding at night without lights, he or she typically was in a bike lane or on the right edge of the road.
         We all want safe roads, but the county’s Complete Streets bill won’t accomplish this. A cultural shift will. People will choose bicycling when they discover how to control their own safety, and when they feel respected and expected as a normal part of traffic.

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