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Monthly Archives: February 2016

What is cyclist Karen Karabell doing amidst a lot of heavy traffic and slushy snow?!

Brentwood & Eager 52d0be422b181

All photos are by St. Louis Post-Dispatch photographer
Robert Cohen <>

Scary stuff? It certainly looks like it as Karen Karabell waits on her bike at a stop light signalling a planned left turn from Brentwood Blvd. onto Eager Rd. in St. Louis County.

PD_photographer_Robert_Cohen_crop red_4841

Robert Cohen
Photo: Martin Pion

Veteran St. Louis Post-Dispatch photographer, Robert Cohen, took the above dramatic photo of Karen Karabell on Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014. Cohen and fellow photographer, Jim Forbes, were following Karen by car as she biked from the Clayton Metrolink station on a shopping trip in Brentwood, returning home via the Brentwood Metrolink station.

When I asked Karen what she was thinking when this photo was taken she replied:

“I was as calm as could be. Safe traffic cycling skills are often counter-intuitive. While this looks unusual to an untrained eye, using “driver behavior” truly is the safest way for a cyclist to navigate this intersection.”

The photo, one of several taken along Karen’s route, accompanied a front-page story in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch headlined Complete Streets bike-friendly plan hits bumpy road in St. Louis County.

A recent heavy snowfall made it look challenging but the photo is deceptive, as will be evident from reviewing the entire series of photos below. First, here’s a map showing Karen’s route, followed by the first photo in the series as Karen alights at the Clayton Metrolink station:

Map Clayton for KK bike ride 2014

Karen’s bike route from the Clayton Metrolink station to her bank
and Trader Joe’s, returning via the Brentwood Metrolink station.

Karen arriving Metrolink on way to bank etc 52d1a40ede98b

Caption: Central West End resident Karen Karabell arrives at the Clayton Metrolink stop, on her way to do bank and grocery store errands on Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014.
Photo ref: 52d1a40ede98b

Karen after arriving at Clayton ML en route to bank etc

Caption: After arriving at the Clayton Metrolink stop, Central West End resident Karen Karabell heads down Central Avenue, en route to bank and grocery errands on Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014.           Photo. ref: 52d1a40e41f71

Karen’s comment:
“Before we left the Clayton Metrolink station, I stood with Post-Dispatch photographers Robert Cohen and Jim Forbes by Jim’s car parked at the curb on Central Avenue to discuss my route. I explained that I would be turning right onto Shaw Park Drive, [A continuation of Forest Park Pkwy] and then left onto Brentwood Boulevard. My first stop was at BMO Harris Bank. They intended to follow me to the bank, with Jim driving and Robert shooting photographs.

I got all the way to the bank without them behind me!

I was surprised, because I thought I had been very clear when describing my route. I parked my bike and went inside to make my deposit. When I came out, they were waiting in the parking lot.

So much for motor vehicles being more efficient than human-powered vehicles in an urban setting!”

Karen passing Galleria en route to Trader Joes  52d1a40cce384

Caption: Central West End resident Karen Karabell passes the Galleria, riding on Brentwood Boulevard en route to a Trader Joe’s shopping trip on Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014. Karabell rode Metrolink from home to the Clayton stop and used her bike the rest of the way.           Photo ref: 52d1a40cce384

“I am on Brentwood Boulevard, in the right of three travel lanes going south alongside the Galleria. Robert and Jim are keeping pace with me in the middle of the travel lanes. If you look closely, this photo shows me monitoring conditions in my rearview mirror. We have lots of motorists stacked up behind us as we “block” two traffic lanes for Robert to take photos of me! I keep expecting someone to get impatient and start honking, but nobody does. I am amazed, and gratified to again confirm my belief that St. Louis motorists are some of the most courteous on the planet.

When they are satisfied they have enough photos, Jim and Robert zoom ahead to wait for me to arrive for my left turn onto Eager Road.”

Karen mentioned to me that she and the Post-Dispatch car were occupying two adjoining lanes going at about 12mph while traffic patiently waited behind. And there was a lot of traffic because this was the first day the road was clear after St. Louis County plowed it.

Brentwood &amp; Eager 52d0be422b181

Caption: Central West End resident Karen Karabell makes a turn signal while waiting at a stoplight at Brentwood Boulevard and Eager Road on Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014. Karabell rode to her bank and Trader Joe’s after taking Metrolink from home, getting off at the Clayton stop and biking the rest of the way.       Photo ref: 52d0be422b181

Above is the photo originally shown at the top of this blog with Karen signaling while waiting at a stop light. I’ve restored the original caption.

Return via Brentwood Metrolink 52d1a40d9c1e2

Caption: Central West End resident Karen Karabell hoists her grocery-laden bike to the Brentwood Metrolink stop, heading home after running errands in Clayton and Brentwood on Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014.           Photo. ref: 52d1a40d9c1e2

Karen’s comment:
“I’m hoisting my bicycle and $100 worth of groceries onto the unshoveled sidewalk to trudge to the Brentwood Metrolink station. “This is the hardest thing I’ve done all day,” I complain to Robert (Cohen).”

After the story was published Karen wrote to a Post-Dispatch reporter to express her appreciation and discuss bike-related issues:

Karen Karabell <>
To: Steve Giegerich <>
Jan 10, 2014 6:26 am

Subject: After yesterday’s photo shoot, I want to offer 15 more words

Hi Steve,

Hilary, your photo editor, chose to follow me on my rounds yesterday. She sent Robert Cohen and Jim Forbes (as photographer & driver) to meet me. Brentwood Boulevard from downtown Clayton to Trader Joes was my main route. As usual, it was a totally uneventful and courteous ride. There was not a hint of incivility from the motorists sharing the road with me (Robert & Jim can confirm). There was one thing special: Those guys turned my ordinary errand-running and shopping trip into especially great fun!

On the phone Hilary asked me why I was against the Complete Streets ordinance. Our streets are already complete, I responded. This was reaffirmed yesterday—as has been the case on my many thousands of cycling trips. But I never clearly expressed this to you, so want to offer the below 15 words, in the hope that you might find them useful clarification for this side of the story:

For cyclists, our streets are complete — and a lot easier to use without bike lanes.




In December 2013, I learned from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch of efforts by St. Louis County Council to enact a Complete Streets ordinance. The name “Complete Streets” conjures up rosy pictures of all road users being treated equitably but unfortunately, for cyclists, Complete Streets typically boils down to promoting bike lanes.

Bike lanes may sound like a good idea, and they have a lot of support from those who view them as encouraging cycling or improving safety. However, my experience is that they complicate car-bike interactions where they’re potentially most dangerous – at intersections – so I’m generally opposed to them.

Consequently, I decided to speak out against this Complete Streets bill during the public portion of a regularly scheduled weekly meeting of St. Louis County Council on Tuesday, December 3rd, and invited other on-road cyclists to join me. A number did, including Karen Karabell, her husband Harold, and son Eli, all three of them cycling to that first meeting, and numerous meetings following, from their Central West End home. I drove to the Council meeting from Ferguson, accompanied by Nick Kasoff, another experienced on-road cyclist who lives near me.

Karen is a highly experienced certified CyclingSavvy Instructor (CSI) who runs CyclingSavvy St. Louis, after first becoming certified as a League of American Bicyclists Cycling Instructor (LCI) like me.

I posted all the relevant public comments of that December 3rd, 2013, council meeting here:

2013-12-03 “Complete Streets” bill attracts public opposition at council meeting

Note: After posting this blog I received several e-mails with both useful suggestions for additional cold-weather clothing and a hark back to someone else’s cold weather clothing experience. I’ve added that information at the end of my original blog below.

February 10th, 2016, wasn’t a very inviting day to bicycle to the Whistle Stop in downtown Ferguson, which I often frequent for brunch during weekdays, but I decided to make the trip anyway, since it’s only a little over a mile away down Florissant Rd. However, if there’s one thing I hate it’s getting cold so I dressed warmly, starting with thermal underwear and extra-long wool socks. When I finally arrived at my destination the only thing that was cold were my fingers, having worn lined gloves over my glove liners instead of the mittens I’d taken in reserve, which are more bulky.

Pion bike 25F day return sh P2100163

Return home with light snow falling.
Photo: Joyce Pion

Pion -60F windchill Feb 81b

“February 1981. -60F windchill!”
Photo: Joyce Pion

It started to snow on my return trip home with the air temperature still hovering around 25F. The windchill temperature when cycling was estimated as ~15F. My wife, Joyce, was good enough to shoot some photos of me in my cycling gear, the one I’ve posted above probably being the best.

Afterwards I decided to photograph and identify everything I was wearing, something that would have been useful to do in the past when I was still tricycling to work daily at McDonnell Douglas Astronautics Co., roughly 4 miles away. That’s something I never did, and the only record I have is another photo taken by my wife on a bitterly cold day when my fingers and toes were getting cold even before I’d covered the 1/4 mile out of our subdivision. That photo is shown above right with my wife’s shadow visible on the snow in the foreground. By the time I arrived at work both my fingers and toes were numb and I thought I’d gotten frostbite. I’ve never cycled in such extreme temperatures since.


underwear slsh P2100165

Thermal underwear and underpants

1. (At left) Duofold “Two-layer fabric” thermal underwear.   USA

UndershiDuofold_inner_layer_0501sharpenrt and long johns bought many years ago. With perforated inner layer to wick moisture, as shown in the close-up below left.

2. (Above bottom left) Travel Smith underpants 100% Coolmax polyester.  USAneck warmer_5373

3. (Right) Neck warmer 100% acrylic (no brand name).  Japan

4. (Below left) Extra-long socks. (No ID but believed to be wool or wool blend.)

socks &amp; pants sm slsh P2100166

5. Performance Technical Wear cycling pants.

45% Polyester/35% nylon/12% Lycra/8% polyurethane. Back 39% nylon/46% polyester/15% Lycra.  USA

6. (Below right) LL Bean shirt 100% cotton.  Chinashirt slsh P2100167



sweater sm slsh P2100168




7. (At left) LL Bean sweater 90% wool/10% nylon. USA


outwear inc boots red P2100169

8. (Top left) Bell Image Pro helmet with plastic visor.  USA?

Third Eye mirror attached to visor.  USA

9. (Top right) Performance bicycling cap 20% acrylic/80% wool.  Italy

10. (2nd row) Performance ski mask.
Shell 70% chloroprene/30% styrene butadiene rubber. Lining 100% polyester.  China

11. (3rd row left) Polartec glove liners 64% polyester/24% nylon/12% Spandex (Unknown)

12. (3rd row right) Nashbar gloves – Saucony Thinsulate. Leather palm. Shell leather 100% nylon. Lining 100% polyester.  Sri Lanka

13. (Above bottom row) Bates Floaters leather boots. Pure wool pile inner.  USA

outer jacket and mittens slsh red P2100170

14. Lands’ End outer jacket with attached hood. Shell and taffeta lining both 100% nylon/mesh 100% polyester.  China


15. Spare mittens. Very warm but no material or country of manufacture ID.


Harold Karabell, who’s a cold weather bicyclist living in St. Louis’s Central West End, responded: “Indispensable to my own cold weather commute are BarMitts, which provide warmth for my gloved hands that no combination of gloves/mittens/underliners can offer.     Plus inexpensive Uvex safety googles to protect my face and glasses from the wind.” Adding later: “The safety goggles work surprisingly well.
Without them, I’d be a teary-eyed, frozen mess after only c. one mile of riding into a cold, strong headwind.  … My glasses stay reasonably fog-free, perhaps because I don’t cover my mouth and nose completely.”

Jason M. wrote: “BarMitts are available for drop bars, and I can attest to their functionality.  A good buy!”

I’ve added screen shots captured from the above linked pages below:


UVEX goggles 

Former committed St. Louis area bicyclist, Bob Soetebier, (until sustaining major injuries in a solo bike crash) responded: “The coldest temp I ever rode my bicycle in was 0 degrees F…with sun and no wind.  Wore 6 layers of clothes; glove liners, three-fingered gloves and similar over mitts; gaiters and shoe covers with pedal toe covers…even put plastic bags over socks in between; full face mask over a balaclava.  Added some sheets of newspaper between the chest layers, too.”

Bob later clarified that the six layers of clothes were on his torso with 3 layers on his legs to allow for relative freedom of movement. He also wore vented snow-goggles which, unfortunately, I never discovered during the time I was tricycling daily to work.

Bob added a link to this post on his own website at the end of his Bicycling section: