Karen Karabell gives a left turn signal while waiting at a stoplight on Brentwood Blvd. She is preparing to turn left onto Eager Rd. on her way to Trader Joe’s after taking the Metrolink from home to Clayton.
Photo by Robert Cohen, firstname.lastname@example.org
St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter, Steve Giegerich, posted a story on-line following the county council meeting on Tuesday evening. His report featured the above photo of Karen Karabell and can be found here:
Controversial Complete Streets bill moves toward approval in St. Louis County
The story was also published in the following day’s newspaper. Below in blue are some quotes from the article. I’ve also included an italicized correction from Nick Kasoff which he posted as a comment on-line following the article:
“It’s a step in the right direction,” Nick Kasoff told the council on Tuesday about the amended measure.
Nick Kasoff: “(Reporter) Steve (Giegerich), your quote of me is misleading. I said it’s a step in the right direction in that it is less bad than the previous bill. But my testimony, and that of other opponents, went on to discuss the serious problems which remain.
First and foremost is the continued presence of the Peer Advisory Committee, which is nothing less than an opportunity for Trailnet to take money from the county highway department. Everybody denies this. Yet, when I suggested the bill be amended to prohibit members of the Peer Advisory Committee from being compensated by the county for any work pertaining to Complete Streets, that request was ignored.
And you completely missed the big lie from Rhonda Smythe, who in responding to accusations that Trailnet is in it to secure public money, asserted that they “fundraise every penny that comes through the door.” According to Trailnet’s 2011 IRS Form 990, they received more than $433,000 in government money that year, nearly double what they received in membership dues. If Trailnet is willing to lie about such a basic and verifiable fact, why is the council trusting them on so many other things, and giving them a statutory position to influence county highway policy?”
Complete Streets, a nationwide initiative aimed at expanding bicycle and pedestrian access on current roadways, has been adopted by 600 communities across the U.S. including, locally, St. Louis City, Clayton and Ferguson.
Critics, including Kasoff, maintain that the main focus of the initiative — the addition of bike lanes to current roadways — is costly and unnecessary.
Dedicated lanes for bicycles, opponents further argue, pose more of a danger to cyclists than traveling with the normal flow of traffic.
Councilman Pat Dolan, the bill’s co-sponsor, said the amended legislation cleared up many of the “misconceptions” about the county’s intent.
“There was never any intention to put a bike path on every county road,” said Dolan.
The final bill, he added, was crafted in consultation with the county division of Highways, Traffic and Public Works — a department that also raised concerns about the previous Complete Streets proposal.
“If it’s cost prohibitive then they won’t put in a bike path,” the councilman said.
Seven people spoke against the Complete Streets bill during the Public Forum at this evening’s county council meeting, while five spoke in favor.
According to the on-line Journal of the County Council for January 14, 2014, the following was the tally:
The following individuals expressed opposition to the proposed “Complete Streets Policy”:
Mr. Harold Karabell, 4147 West Pine;
Ms. Jennifer Bird, (Crestwood) 63126;
The Honorable Tony Pousosa, Alderman for the City of Green Park, 9700 Antigo Drive (63123);
Mr. Nick Kasoff, 125 Royal Ave., Ferguson, MO, 63135;
Mr. Martin Pion, 6 Manor Ln., Ferguson, MO, 63135;
Mr. Damien Johnson, 4707 Lindenwood, Apt. 20; and
Mr. Francis (Frank) Halasey, 9442 Tealridge, Crestwood, MO.
The following individuals expressed support for the proposed “Complete Streets Policy”:
Mr. Paul Wojciechowski, 16939 Westridge Oaks Dr., representing the Missouri Bicycle & Pedestrian Federation;
Ms. Karie Casey, 6246 Northwood, 63105, who rides 7.5 miles for work each day;
Ms. Ellen Bern, 7001 Washington,
Ms. Rhonda Smythe, 411 N. 10th St., Ste. 202, Policy and Advocacy Manager, representing Trailnet; and
Mr. Matthew Wyczalkowski, 4106 Wyoming St., St. Louis, MO.
Mr. Joe Passanisi was not included in the above supporters list in the Journal but didn’t oppose it, and merely suggested two additions to the bill.
The bill’s sponsor, Councilman Dolan, noted that he was introducing Substitute Bill #2 to replace his original 4-page version.
This new 3-page substitute dropped some of the previous objectionable language. However, it retained the unique and undesirable requirement for a Complete Streets Peer Advisory Committee, on which both Trailnet and Great Rivers Greenway would serve, as well as specific references to “bicycle facilities” and “appropriate accommodations for bicyclists.” Those descriptions are typically code for bike lanes, which have full bore support of both Trailnet and GRG.
For everyone testifying for whom I had an e-mail address, I requested their written testimonies, and received positive replies from almost everyone, to whom I’m grateful. Rhonda Smythe, Trailnet Policy and Advocacy Manager, is the only exception but I subsequently transcribed her testimony from the publicly available on-line video recording of the proceedings at www.gtntv.com. Where testimonies have been provided, or in the case of Rhonda Smythe, transcribed from TheGatewaytvnetwork web video recording, they are pasted below in their entirety in the order presented. Others are excerpts from notes made from viewing TheGatewaytvnetwork web video recording 1/14/2014 STLCC.
Please mouse click any image to enlarge it. Use the back arrow top left to return to this page.
CON: Harold Karabell, St. Louis
Harold Karabell: “With that incident, Susan became Exhibit Number One in exposing most of the hidden dangers of bike lanes”
Image from TheGatewaytvnetwork
Distinguished Members of the Council: I have been a bicycle commuter on-and-off for over 40 years and a religiously devoted one for the better part of the past 20.
I also am in the unique position of being on very good terms with many of the people from whom you’ve already heard, on both sides of the bicycle component of the Complete Streets controversy.
I am friends with Martin Pion and Nick Kasoff. And for three decades I’ve been Karen Karabell’s partner and husband. Eli is the youngest of my three sons. (I trust that Karen’s charismatic presence and her impassioned statements in this eminent forum remain unforgettable, as does Eli’s own testimony.)
And for the past several years, I’ve also designed and led interpretive bicycle tours of historic neighborhoods and other places of historic importance in the region for Trailnet. As a result, I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know on a personal basis many members of Trailnet’s outstanding and highly dedicated staff, including Rhonda who’s here tonight.
You’ve also heard testimony about the experiences of two veteran bicycle commuters on the “new, improved,” and allegedly bike-friendlier Manchester Avenue west of Kingshighway.
Although my wife had used Manchester for many years as her preferred and very enjoyable route to Maplewood and points west, the very first time that she rode in the bike lane she barely avoided being right hooked three times by motorists.
My friend Susan Herzbeg was not nearly so fortunate. After almost three years of trouble-free commuting on Manchester, she WAS hit by a right-turning motorist.
With that incident, Susan became Exhibit Number One in exposing most of the hidden dangers of bike lanes: the near-invisibility of bicyclists riding on the edge of the road; involvement in curb-cut and intersection conflicts; an absence of room to maneuver; and the inability of motorists to judge properly the speed of a bicyclist. Of all the major problems associated with bike lanes, only “dooring” was absent.
If Complete Streets were to mean in the County what it’s so frequently meant in the City, then its implementation would be problematic indeed for bicyclists.
This controversy is a tragedy of good intentions. Everyone whom I know, including Alderman Ogilvie, wants safer streets for bicyclists and more riders on those streets. But the genius is in the details, not in well-intentioned mission statements with which no one disagrees.
What might be the details of a “Complete Street” that avoids the hidden dangers of bike lanes, is cost-effective for the taxpayers, and is even more welcoming to bicyclists?
One part of the answer is right outside the front door of this building. Instead of a conflict-ridden bike lane, there are shared lane markings, known in the bicyclist’s and traffic engineer’s lexicon as “sharrows.”
Another indispensable part of the answer comes from Martin Pion’s good work in his home town of Ferguson, where he successfully persuaded the City Council to install not only sharrows but signage on South Florissant Road, Ferguson’s main street:
“Bicycles May Use Full Lane. (Motorists)Change Lanes to Pass.”
And last but certainly not last, there needs to be a major emphasis on education. While the County can’t teach Cycling Savvy, it can mount a campaign with billboards and posters that inform and enlighten both bicyclists and motorists:
“Motorists: Bicyclists are allowed Full Use of the Lane. You must change lanes to pass. If you harass or otherwise threaten a bicyclists, you will face serious legal consequences. If you hit a bicyclist who is riding lawfully, you will face a huge fine as well.”
“Bicyclists: You have the same rights to the road as do motorists. You also have the same responsibilities. You are obligated to follow the same laws. If you run red lights and stop signs, ride the wrong way, or ride on the sidewalk in a central business district, you are breaking the law and will be ticketed.”
Some friends have told me privately and even stated publicly that mine is a minority position, even among bicyclists. I have no idea whether or not their assessment is true. But I do know this: Truth is not a numbers game.
Joe Passanisi, Creve Coeur
, and former St. Louis County Highways & Traffic Dept. planning engineer for ~30 years, suggested the county council consider two items to put in the Complete Streets bill:
When there’s a bond issue for a particular road there’s a public hearing on just that one roadway to get public reaction. Transparency comes from Highway Dept. public presentation of cost based on design ito bike paths, sidewalks, or maybe even additional traffic lanes. “It’s important that citizens hear the whole picture and have an opportunity to respond to the whole picture.”
CON: Jennifer Bird, Crestwood
“Councilman Dolan has still not refuted the Post-Dispatch figure of $300 million estimated to cover just 15% (of bike lane construction) of the county, which translates to $1.9 billion with a “B.” (MP: Actually, $2 billion if you prorate.)
“I think that’s an exorbitant amount of money that I don’t really see a defined or real need. … And as far as really needing: we’ve got sidewalks and streets that seem to be in good order. … We just passed Prop P, which I fought, for a sales tax which gives us a tremendous amount of money to Great Rivers Greenway to do bike trails. And we do have a lot of bike trails, so again I’m not understanding. It’s my understanding we’ve got 0.2, not 1%, 0.2% of the commuter population is commuting to and from work on bicycle, so again I’m not finding that there’s a real need here.
I do see eminent property violation and eminent domain abuse.”
CON: Tony Pousosa, City of Green Park
Ald. Tony Pousosa
“Tony Pousosa, Ald. for the City of Green Park and candidate for County Executive and I’m here to oppose Complete Streets. My muni is surrounded by some major streets: Lindbergh, Tesson Ferry, and then Union to the east. This project: $300 million for just 15% of the roads; 1.6 billion for everything. Councilman Dolan, you were quoted in the newspaper as saying that we need to rethink this. And Councilman Stanger, you were quoted as always planning to have changes to the bill. I can’t see an elected official as you are trying to pass legislation without knowing the final details of the plan. That’s not fair to your constituents and I think it’s very arrogant to try to do so, especially when you plan meetings that are at 3 o’clock in the afternoon when most of your hardworking constituents who are going to pay for this are at work. I think this is related to special interests. I mean, who wrote this bill? Why can’t we have a fiscal note attached to this bill?”
CON: Nick Kasoff, Ferguson
After weeks of exposing the huge problems with the Complete Streets bill, substitute bill 2 looks like a step in the right direction. From a first reading, it seems that the new bill makes a little progress toward rectifying the safety, operational, and fiscal problems of Substitute Bill 1.
Unfortunately, we just saw a draft of the bill yesterday. I think we can all agree that there is no emergency which requires that the bill be passed today. I am therefore asking that somebody on this council stand up now, and commit to regular order on this bill. That would ensure that the public has time to review the bill, and to discuss any concerns with the council. Since suspending the rules would require unanimous consent, any one of you can stand up for public accountability at this moment.
Having reviewed the draft of substitute bill 2, I already have a few concerns. First, it preserves the peer advisory committee. While the purpose and authority of the committee has been blurred, it remains as an unprecedented and unnecessary statutory injection of private interests into public decisions. There is nothing preventing Trailnet, or anybody else, from providing information to the highway department regarding their preferences for road development. But establishing an official body with a specially anointed mission to do that is courting trouble.
I am also concerned that the peer review committee is charged with benchmarking and performance monitoring. As I understand it, the department of highways and traffic is already well equipped to do that, with an entire department dedicated to that sort of work. We should let them do their job, rather than assigning it to outside special interests, who I’m sure plan to be paid for their work.
The Indianapolis ordinance, on which this bill is based, does not contain such a committee. Even the policy elements proscribed by the extremist group “Smart Growth America” do not include such a committee. The committee will be nothing but an opportunity for mischief – and of course, an opportunity for Trailnet, the only local Complete Streets consultant, to charge taxpayers for work which it will do for the committee. The peer review committee should be eliminated, with responsibility remaining with the highway department.
PRO: Paul Wojciechowski, Wildwood
Paul Wojciechowski, President, Missouri Bicycle & Pedestrian Federation
I am speaking as President of the Missouri Bicycle and Pedestrian Federation. Our Vision includes the following:
Improved safety for all road users
Creating a world class bicycle and pedestrian network
Encouraging bicycling and walking
Building a movement around bicycling and walking
Seeking funding to accomplish the vision
Complete Streets accommodates all users — from motor vehicles to transit, bicyclists, and pedestrians, and Missouri is a leader in that, as of 2012, we have over 22 policies and ordinance documents throughout the state. Even the House and the Senate in Missouri passed a resolution supporting complete streets policies at all levels of government. This was adopted in May of 2011.
As an engineer and planner with 30 years of professional experience with MoDOT, City of Clayton and consulting firms, I am cognizant of costs, and also understand that engineering design of streets takes the effective use of design guidance and standards such as the AASHTO Green Book, AASHTO Bicycle and Pedestrian Guidance, MUTCD and yes even NACTO, and local standards such as County standard drawings in concert with public engagement and engaging discussions with stakeholders in finding the best solution for the community.
Complete Street projects range from one-block segments to arterial corridors, and from to freeway interchanges to neighborhood streets, or to integrated light rail transit-bus-bicycle-pedestrian design.
This is not a new concept. ISTEA, in 1991, presented an overall intermodal approach to highway and transit funding with collaborative planning requirements, giving significant additional powers to metropolitan planning organizations. The bottom line is that it takes multiple disciplines to create a holistic solution to transportation corridors. In St. Louis we have call this a Great Streets approach. The traffic engineers and transportation planners at St. Louis County are fantastic staff and will work to help make sure that all modes are considered, using the latest models and methods, and seek to maximize capacity and service quality for all modes.
I encourage the County Council to take the step of passing this ordinance that provides the next step in working towards a truly vibrant community we call St. Louis County.
CON: Martin Pion, Ferguson
Martin Pion holding up St. Louis Post-Dispatch article featuring Karen Karabell
Madame Chairman, Council members, and County Executive: first, my thanks to Councilman Dolan for meeting with me, Karen Karabell and Nick Kasoff recently, despite our being strong opponents of his bill. While we met physically, unfortunately there was no meeting of the minds, as witness his SB #2 for Bill No. 238.
The bill has been downgraded from a catastrophe: now it’s merely terrible. It still pushes bike lanes, which are both dangerous and unnecessary. Cyclists, motorists, and taxpayers deserve better than a blind and single-minded promotion of trendy but dangerous bike lanes.
Last Sunday’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch story about the difficulties facing the Complete Streets bill featured Karen Karabell using her bicycle as she normally does: for transportation on existing so-called “incomplete” streets. She described it as uneventful, except for having a Post-Dispatch reporter and photographer along for the ride. I’ve spent decades as a transportation cyclist and educator, and can confirm her experience.
A friend of mine has described bike lanes as “bike ghettoes.” When I first heard that I thought it a bit extreme but I’m warming to it. Bike lanes make it much harder for competent cyclists like me to control the lane on a multi-lane road like the one Karen Karabell was using as she cycled past the Galleria on her way to Trader Joe’s last week. Novice cyclists will believe a bike lane makes on-road cycling safe. But that false sense of security leads to death or serious injury due to car-bike collisions with turning motorists, and from dooring, when the bike lane is alongside on-street parking. Both of these problems exist on the newly restriped MoDOT Manchester Ave.-MO Route 100, following recommendations by Great Rivers Greenway and others in St. Louis City.
The council has also failed to consider the cost of bike lanes. Much has been made of the construction cost, which could be as much as two billion dollars. But bike lanes have higher maintenance requirements than traffic lanes. The Long Beach California bicycle master plan estimates maintenance costs of $2,000 a year per mile of bike lane. (Ref. below)
Adding bike lanes on each side to just 250 miles of road would cost the county a million dollars a year in maintenance costs. Is the council prepared to divert a million dollars from road maintenance in order to maintain dangerous bike lanes?
If not, this bill should explicitly state that bike lanes are NOT a required element of Complete Streets as adopted by St. Louis County.
For reference, please see page 124 of the Long Beach Bicycle Master Plan, on-line at:
PRO: Karie Casey, St. Louis
“I’m here to support Complete Streets. I live in the DeMun neighborhood in Clayton and I work in Evans law firm downtown. I have been a bike commuter for a good 20 years. I have seen the evolution of cycling in St. Louis and more and more commuters out there. Have been hit by a truck while driving my bike home from work on Lindell Ave. where there’s no bike lane.
First of all, I don’t think Complete Streets equals bike lanes so that’s a misconception that we have to get out of our heads. Complete Streets is a plan to make our community more livable and brings lots and lots of benefits.
We want people to feel safe. We want drivers to realize that cyclists have a right to the road. Just because we have a right to the road doesn’t mean we want a bike lane. And it doesn’t mean the opposite: that we’re not safer. I think it encourages people who aren’t as “Cycling Savvy” as some of the people who’ve spoken today to get out and ride their bikes to work; to ride to the grocery store; to church or around the community. It makes parents more willing to let their kids go out and ride their bikes: to go up to the swimming pool or something. So this is about a vision. It’s about health of the community.”
CON: Damien Johnson
“I have been riding both in the city and the county for a variety of reasons. The Post-Dispatch mentioned the bike lanes on Chippewa: I found them unnecessary. Bicyclists can ride on the side streets. The main roads are better for motorists. I think if cyclists want it there could be a tax applied when they go buy their bikes so they can pay for this and pay for the safety. There should be enforce(ment of) the safety rules, particularly when they run a red light or when they ride on the wrong side of the street. I also call for more transparency. If we have an initiative dealing with bike lanes and roads maybe it should be a standalone bill so we can debate it by itself.
When I visited the Netherlands I saw streets where it was cars in the middle, it had bike lanes, and then pedestrians off to the side, but then you didn’t have parallel parking. That’s one idea but it may not be good for the whole county.”
PRO: Ellen Bern, University City
“I live in University City and I want to strongly encourage the county council to plan for our future and to pass this Complete Streets ordinance. And I ask you to do this for a few reasons:
Mainly, we need to raise the bar, and plan for the kind of community we’d like to have, and to improve the communities we do have. Talking about the money is a bit of a smokescreen. At this point we’re talking about a concept.”
(Ended by advocating for bike lanes everywhere.)
CON: Francis “Frank” Halasey
Francis “Frank” Halasey
Began by complaining about the meeting time. Thinks Complete Streets is a waste of a lot of tax dollars for bike lanes.
“It gives a false sense of security when there’s a painted line between the car and the bikes. I’m a relatively new driver and it drives me crazy when there are bikes right next to me.”
Despite repeated phone and e-mail requests for a copy of her testimony, regrettably no response was received from Rhonda Smythe, Trailnet’s Policy & Advocacy Manager. However, I transcribed it from TheGatewaytvnetwork on-line and have pasted it below for information and completeness.
PRO: Rhonda Smythe
Rhonda Smythe, Policy & Advocacy Manager, Trailnet
“Good evening council members, my name is Rhonda Smythe. I’m the Policy and Advocacy Manager over at Trailnet. I want to thank you again for the, um, the whole of the time that you’ve spent on this issue and all of the perspectives that we’ve heard thus far. Tonight I simply come to you with some facts, the first one being that Trailnet is a non-profit. We raise every dime that we bring in the door and have been able to maintain a staff of 20 St. Louis residents, um, even through the economic downturn.
The second is that the recent MoDOT Missouri on the Move sessions, they gave out a survey asking what the top priorities for each region were. The St. Louis District reported that, in order, their priorities were:
Number 1: Structurally sound bridges and overpasses
2: A robust public transit system
3: Safe spaces for bike riders
4: Smooth roads, and
5: Improving highways
So that was a MoDOT survey asking their constituents what was important to them.
The second fact I’d like to present is pulled from the 2013 National Association for Realtors survey showing buying preferences that support Complete Streets. Showing that recent movers support the walkable community by 58%. That a neighborhood with a mix of houses, stores, and businesses that are easy to walk to is preferred over a neighborhood that only require driving to stores and businesses. This survey also showed that there is also a need for more safe routes for riding bikes to work and shopping. 48% of participants said that there was too few safe bike routes compared to 41% who said that there was the right amount, leaving only a few to say that we didn’t need them at all.
The third fact I’d like to present is the AARP Policy Position which states America needs streets to be designed to be safe and convenient for travel by automobile, foot, bicycle, and transit, regardless of age or ability. As the nation ages Complete Streets planning presents an opportunity to increase the safety and availability of older adults travel options.
Fourth, in the St. Louis County’s Strategic Plan, it clearly delineates an investment in pedestrian and bicycle facilities to increase mobility, promote physical activity, and encourage social interactions for people of all ages and abilities.
The UDSOT policy is to incorporate safe and convenient walking and bicycling facilities into transportation projects.
The FHWA policy is that bicycle and pedestrian ways shall be established in new construction and reconstruction projects in all urbanized areas unless one or more of the three following conditions are met:
And I’ll have to e-mail that to you.
The recent American Community Survey for St. Louis County shows that about 10,000 people take transit to work every day, about 7,000 walk to work, and about 1,000 bike to work.
Complete Streets is looking at all those modes of transportation. It’s not a solution for athletes who are able to keep themselves safe, or who are willing and able to ride in traffic that is 35 mph, 40 mph, or 45 mph. It’s for everyone else. For people who have a hard time crossing the street. For kids walking to school.”
Chairwoman Hazel Erby: Please wrap your comments up.
“Thank you for your time and support this policy.”
Dr. Matthew Wyczalkowski
PRO: Matthew A. Wyczalkowski, St. Louis City
My name is Matthew Wyczalkowski and I would like to thank you for the opportunity to speak in support of the Complete Streets proposal. I am a resident of St. Louis city, and have been for over a decade. After finishing my PhD in Biomedical Engineering at Washington University, I had the opportunity to relocate to a variety of cities, and an important consideration was the quality of life.
I am an experienced cyclist – I rode as a kid, raced in college, and commute by bicycle every day – and having the option to ride to work was a definite consideration when I chose to remain in St. Louis. (I now work as a scientist at the Washington University School of Medicine.) Cycling gives me exercise, clears my mind, saves money, and connects me with the community. I have many friends and co-workers who feel this way too.
About a year ago, poorly planned construction along my daily bike ride created serious hazards for cyclists. That road – Tower Grove Avenue – is the busiest bicycle corridor in St. Louis. Sparked by frustration and fear for my personal safety, I started the http://SafeTGA.org blog (which stands for Safe Tower Grove Avenue) to advocate for safer bicycle infrastructure and to encourage a dialog with other cyclists. I have learned a lot about the state of cycling in St. Louis since, and I welcome you to visit the blog for more details.
One thing I learned is that the overwhelming majority of cyclists I spoke to — and I’ve talked to many of them — believe just like me that bike lanes and other infrastructure make cycling safer and encourage more people to ride. My next door neighbor, for instance, started riding his bike to work only when bike lanes were installed on a stretch of Tower Grove Ave — he told me he he had never considered riding to work before those lanes gave him a place on the road.
I also learned that there is a small but loud community of cyclists who oppose most if not all bike infrastructure. I am a fair minded person, and to learn more about their perspective I attended the Cycling Savvy course taught by Karen Karabell, who I understand has testified here in the past. I found that the course is useful for novice riders and teaches basic urban cycling tactics. The course does not, however, provide any sort of guidance or vision for how to build roads which are safe for cyclists, any more than knowing how to drive makes you a civil engineer.
I do have degrees in engineering, and have tried to put them to use by riding, photographing, and writing about new bicycle infrastructure being installed in St. Louis. Designing good infrastructure is hard, and my aim is to provide feedback to help make it better. I recognize some mistakes will be made now and again, but that is no reason to stop trying to make our roads safer for cyclists. The return on investment is simply too great.
People have a real desire for alternatives to the car – to walk, ride their bike, to take public transit. I feel that way, and I know I’m not alone. All too often, though, we live in a built environment which makes anything but driving inconvenient, uncomfortable, or unsafe. Complete Streets recognizes that roads are not just for cars, and driving is not the only way to get around. It offers the prospect of real choices in how we travel and live. Complete Streets may not be perfect, but it is a step in the right direction. I urge you to support it.