Note: As a result of an oversight this wasn’t made public until 2014-02-16! Well better late than never, because it allows me to reference the ironic testimony I gave about “Incomplete Streets” during that county council meeting.
This was the last opportunity of the year for the public to comment before St. Louis County Council on the so-called “Complete Streets” bill, being promoted by Trailnet. As in the previous week, opponents greatly outnumbered the supporters who this time were two mothers and a Trailnet employee.
The mothers’ concerns were mainly to do with the safety of children bicycling on the road or walking to school. Those concerns can be dealt with by, for example, providing a crossing guard for the times when young children are going to and from school, and teaching them fundamental rules when crossing a street, as is done in England where I grew up. Not all children are mature enough to be taught how to use a bicycle for transportation. For those who are, I recommend the comprehensive Diana Lewiston’s “Bicycling in Traffic” curriculum for 13-year-old school children, and as demonstrated in the video Safe Cycling 4 Kids — 10-year-old Theresa shows how
Trailnet’s approach was to point to the law’s adoption by an increasing number of communities and to challenge the suggestion that implementation would be costly.
I agree that more communities are jumping on the bandwagon, my own City of Ferguson regrettably being one of them, and I perceive that transportation engineers favor it as another opportunity for road redesign and striping.
Complete Streets appears to go hand-in-hand with another new fad called Road Diets, in which roads are being restriped with fewer lanes. That may be justified sometimes and can open up desirable options for road treatments, but it is also used as yet another excuse for bike lanes. Or pseudo-bike lanes like the ones in the photo below which accompanied the St. Louis Post-Dispatch December 13th editorial: “Drop the kickstand.”
Below are testimonies I’ve received to date, including mine, in the order in which they were presented.
Karen Karabell, St. Louis
I teach safe traffic cycling and I’m opposed to the Complete Streets bill.
The “Complete Streets” phenomenon reminds me of being back in high school. Remember how in high school the “cool kids” dictated fashion and fads for the rest of us? And the rest of us at least considered what the “cool” kids advocated, because we all want to be “cool,” right?
“Cool” is the main tool used to promote “Complete Streets”: Don’t get left behind. If you don’t have Complete Streets, you won’t be cool! The millennials won’t choose you. (I’m the mother of three millennials, two of whom still don’t have drivers’ licenses. I’ve asked them and their friends: Why did you choose to live where you’re living? Not a one has said, “This city has great bike lanes!”)
But who can be against the idea of “complete” streets? The term itself sounds like Mom and apple pie. Everyone should be able to use our public right-of-way in freedom and safety. Who doesn’t want this?
The problem is that the “cool” kids are remaking our roads in a way that makes life harder for everyone. If their roadway redesigns were merely sophomoric, it might be OK. But they are dangerous! Look to the city for Exhibit A: Manchester Road between Kingshighway and McCausland. Before this section of Manchester was turned into a “Complete Street,” it was one of the city’s easiest roads for bicycling.
Now that the “cool” kids have had their way, people are getting hurt. Here’s what my friend Susan posted last week on Facebook:
“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.”
“Complete Streets” as envisioned by the “cool” kids is a fad. It will come to pass, as all fads do. Meanwhile, those of us who have graduated from high school will keep promoting and teaching the ideals of real transportation freedom. People will choose bicycling when they feel expected and respected as a normal part of traffic. I urge the council to recognize this, and to not be sucked in by peer pressure, fashion or fad.
Nick Kasoff, Ferguson
Like most people, I view this council as a serious legislative body. So I have to ask you: What has gone wrong with the process on this Complete Streets bill? This council is pushing through a bill which was obviously authored by Trailnet. You are pushing a policy change which is opposed by 80% of your constituents. And you are doing so in a complete absence of facts.
There are a lot of questions an inquisitive legislator would ask about this bill. For example, Scott Ogilvie claimed that Complete Streets cost the city nothing. But just the “performance measures” section of this bill would easily cost the county $50,000 a year. And the “exceptions” procedure will run up huge costs, as it would require obtaining an exception even for activities like mowing and sweeping. Somebody on this council might have asked Ogilvie how such a bill could cost nothing. But you were silent. In fact, the only time a member has spoken has been to attack Martin Pion for supporting bike lanes on a project nearly a decade ago. And as it turns out, Mr. Pion found his correspondence from that time, and he didn’t support bike lanes at all.
This bill imposes a complex regulatory scheme on our highway department. It will have costs, and will shift the allocation of department resources. Yet this council has not so much as spoken with the director of highways and traffic. Nobody has questioned the highway department about their cost estimates. Nobody has asked the highway department what impact this bill would have on their ability to maintain and improve our roads. I urge the council to refer this bill to committee, and to take public testimony from the director of highways and traffic. Anything less is a dereliction of duty by the council.
A few days ago, I engaged in a debate about this bill with somebody on stltoday.com. The guy used a lot of lingo that most people aren’t familiar with, which made me suspicious. So I googled him. Turns out he is the press manager for Smart Growth America, a Washington lobbying organization that receives more than $600,000 a year in government funding. Those are the sort of special interests that are feeding propaganda to this council. You should ignore their fake facts and astroturf lobbying, and start listening to real constituents and the professionals in our highway department.
The following testimony I presented was intended as tongue-in-cheek and humorous, but designed to make a serious point. Namely, that while there IS room for improvement in the way St. Louis County Highways and Traffic performs its duties and interacts with the public, it is already reforming itself, and this draconian measure, primarily being promoted by Trailnet, is self-serving and not in the public interest.
Martin Pion, Ferguson
I know and like former Clayton Mayor Linda Goldstein. After reading her recent letter, and then Ald. Scott Ogilvie’s OpEd, both supporting “Complete Streets,” I’ve had an epiphany.
After all, who can be against a “Complete Street”?
Does anyone support “Incomplete Streets?” They’re the ones you drive along and suddenly come to a screeching halt at a precipice. And just beyond it is a big pile of cars, and maybe some pedestrians and the odd bike. And you have to back up against that line of cars that have stopped behind you.
What a nightmare!
So that’s what “Complete Streets” sets out to correct, as listed in the first section of the bill:
[Note: The following was read without taking a breath in order to keep my testimony within the three minute time limit. Try reading it yourself without taking a breath!]
1105.250 Complete Streets Policy. -The County shall develop a safe, reliable, efficient, integrated, accessible and connected multimodal transportation system that shall equally promote access, mobility and health for all users, and shall ensure that the safety, convenience and comfort of all users of the transportation system are genuinely accommodated, including pedestrians, bicyclists, users of mass transit, people of all ages and abilities, motorists, emergency responders, freight providers and adjacent land users.
Let’s start by examing how “Incomplete” the present street is for each mode:
“Pedestrians:” Currently, pedestrians aren’t accommodated at all. We don’t have a single sidewalk for them to walk on. And there’s not a pedestrian button or count-down timer in sight. That has to change!
“Bicyclists:” If there’s no bike lane how’s a cyclist to get anywhere? We must have bike lanes on every single road, starting right outside your front door.
“Users of mass transit:” I must admit I don’t often see buses heading down Florissant Rd. where I live. However, they do seem to manage somehow with what currently exists. And I’ve used MetroLink to hitch a ride on numerous occasions when I’ve biked downtown from my home. I can’t understand how that’s been possible without a Complete Streets bill.
“People of all ages and abilities:” I guess the streets need to be modified to handle three-year-olds on big wheels. But I forgot: bike lanes will do that!
Paraquad, which represents handicapped people supports this bill, and I support them. Imagine being in a wheelchair and trying to cross the street when there’s a curb there. I wish there was a solution!
“Motorists:” As I noted above, our present “Incomplete Streets” are a disaster waiting to happen for every motorist. Get cracking Alberici!
“Emergency Responders:” They’re the ones responding to all those victims of “Incomplete Streets.”“Freight providers:” I forgot to mention the tangled wreckage of semis. When you’ve gone over the edge on your bike, the last thing you want landing on your bike helmet is one of those big rigs!
The person who adopted the term “Complete Streets” was a genius. According to Wikipedia that was Barbara McCann, who later (surprise!) became the Executive Director of the National Complete Streets Coalition in 2003. It replaced the ineffective term “routine accommodation.”
Who wants that when you can have a Complete Street?!