West Florissant Ave. is a major north-south four-lane arterial in Ferguson and Dellwood, North St. Louis County. The idea of developing and improving it is laudable in principle, and more urgent since the violence, looting and destruction of some local businesses in August 2014, sparked by the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown by former 26-year-old Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson. The commercial areas along this approximately 2.6 mile section were in need of rejuvenation before these events, and that is even more urgent now. However, it will require a substantial commitment of resources, and even marginally important issues will deserve attention.
Among them is a “Great Streets” proposal which envisages the inclusion of a mixed-use bicycle-pedestrian path on the east side of the road, separated from the road itself by a green lawn planted with trees. Architecturally, this might well enhance the area, but it can also have adverse consequences. For example, such facilities are typically limited to off-road locations, such as Rail-to-Trails conversions, where they are not interacting with shops and businesses or expose users to potentially frequent interactions with motorists at commercial driveways and cross-streets, as in this case.
Another concern is the impact such a facility would have on bicyclists wanting to continue exercising lane control on four-lane W. Florissant Ave. Based on experience on other roads in the area, once a bicycle facility, such as a striped bike lane, is added to a road, motorists expect cyclists to stay in it; they don’t readily tolerate a cyclist exercising lane control, even though that is generally safest for the cyclist and, in Ferguson, explicitly allowed by local ordinance.
(The reason this is often safest is that in that position the cyclist is no longer as susceptible to right hooks, which occur when a motorist passes a cyclist and then turns right immediately in front of him or her, often due to underestimating the cyclist’s speed and risking a car-bike collision. Left hooks can still occur, often for the same reason, i.e. misjudging the cyclist’s speed, and turning left directly in front of them, but the cyclist then has more room to avoid the motorist than when riding near the curb.)
Some of these issues are dealt with in this short video below, which draws attention to the need to provide proper signage and road markings to underscore cyclists’ legitimate right to the road while minimizing the likelihood of negative and potentially hazardous interactions with motorists.
This is a photo of the helmet-mounted front and rear facing camera setup I used when videotaping Nick Kasoff for the above video. The cameras are mounted on a galvanized steel support I bent up in my garage and then bolted to an old rigid-shell Bell Tourlite helmet, which I’ve used for many years. On the inside are secured thick rigid foam pads so that it’s a snug fit on my head.
ADDITIONAL BACKGROUND In a parking lot before the ride, as I was preparing my helmet-mounted cameras for videotaping, Nick Kasoff remarked on a helicopter hovering almost directly overhead. Short clips captured inadvertently record these snippets of conversation and are pasted below.
It transpired that a fatal shooting had occurred at the nearby Park Ridge Apartments, apparently involving an innocent victim of a drug deal gone horribly wrong, and this was a Fox 2 News TV helicopter. A St. Louis Post-Dispatch story by reporter Christine Byers is on-line here: Man shot at Ferguson apartment complex dies.