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The headline in the printed St. Louis Post-Dispatch was:

After months, county gives OK to Complete Streets policy
Goal is better access for cyclists, pedestrians

The on-line headline was:

Better roads for bicyclists, pedestrians the goal of bill OK’d in St. Louis County

But HOW will roads be better? Bike lane advocates argue that this is accomplished by re-striping roads to accommodate bike lanes, as MoDOT has done recently on several St. Louis City streets after resurfacing. However, there’s no reason to believe that roads with bike lanes WILL be better for cyclists and every reason to expect the opposite. While more cyclists MAY be encouraged to bike on such roads, car-bike crashes will increase at a faster rate than usage rate.

That is not based only on expectations, including cyclist “dooring” with parked cars, and car-bike collisions caused by turning movements when bike lanes are present. A 2007 published Danish paper by Jensen Bicycle Tracks and Lanes: a Before-After Study, includes data showing such road treatments significantly increased crashes due to turning movements. This will be a later subject, following a blog featuring testimonies I’ve received to date from those both opposing and supporting this bill is published.

Karen Karabell at MetroLink with groceries

Karen Karabell at Clayton MetroLink station on return home with groceries
photo by Robert Cohen

Better roads for bicyclists, pedestrians the goal of bill OK’d in St. Louis County
Steve Giegerich 314-725-6758

CLAYTON • More than two months of polite but contentious debate drew to an end Tuesday evening with a near-unanimous vote by the St. Louis County Council to adopt a Complete Streets policy that will eventually make it easier to bicycle and walk along county roads.
         The vote, 6-0 with one abstention, carries the potential to alter the transportation landscape in St. Louis County and across the region.
         “I do believe the future dictates that we become more friendly to bicycling and walking,” said Councilwoman Kathleen Kelly Burkett, one of the six to cast a vote in favor of the Complete Streets bill.
         Council Chairwoman Hazel Erby abstained.
         The measure approved Tuesday represented the third version of legislation meant to align the county with a nationwide movement to improve street access for bicyclists and pedestrians.
         The first bill, introduced by County Executive Charlie Dooley, loosely recommended that the county highway and planning departments consider additional sidewalks and dedicated bike lanes in the design of future road improvement projects.
         In late November the council presented tougher, alternative legislation intended to pressure the highway department to broaden the scope of Complete Streets across the county.
         That proposal drew the support of Trailnet, a nonprofit organization that promotes healthier lifestyles, and the ire of highway department officials who saw it forcing the agency to add costly and sometimes unnecessary bike lanes to the county road system.
         The objections from the highway department in turn spurred an outcry from a contingent of bicycle commuters and activists who appeared at successive council meetings to argue that bike lanes, contrary to popular belief, pose a safety hazard.
         Bill No. 3, a compromise introduced last week by Councilman Pat Dolan, appeased some and displeased others.
         “It’s obviously weaker than (the second bill), but it’s a step in the right direction,” said Rhonda Smythe, the Trailnet policy and advocacy manager. “It lays out a different direction for the county than what we have now.”
         Highway department spokesman David Wrone praised the adopted legislation for its “greater flexibility to ensure that financial constraints and accepted engineering principles are acknowledged, critical factors in the process.”
         Critics made on Tuesday a final and ultimately unsuccessful plea for the council to reject the Complete Streets policy.
         Cycling instructor Karen Karabell, among the opponents who has marched before the council week in and week out, expressed fear that Complete Streets would line the pockets of consultants and other beneficiaries of what she labeled the “bicycle industrial complex” — “a lucrative new industry (that) has developed around advising municipalities (how) to create and install on-road facilities for bicyclists.”

Susan Herzberg testifying

Susan Herzberg testifying

Another critic, bicycle commuter Susan Herzberg, related how she’d been struck by a car while riding along Manchester Road in a recently striped bike lane.
         “Cars don’t know you are there. They don’t know how to deal with bike lanes,” Herzberg told the council.
         “It gives the illusion that it’s a safer place to be. But it’s not. The safest place is to (ride in the lane) with traffic.”
         The points made against Complete Streets did not fall on deaf ears. But ultimately the council decided in favor of a bill that members emphasized would require the county to take cost and other factors into consideration before moving ahead with Complete Streets projects.
         Councilwoman Colleen Wasinger noted that the policy, as written, dictated that the access for bikes and pedestrians be “considered, not mandated” during future road improvements.
         And no Complete Streets upgrade can proceed, Councilman Greg Quinn added, without council approval.
         “I don’t foresee runaway expenditures with this bill,” Quinn said.

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