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Karen Karabell at Brentwood & Eager etc FS 620 311 (L510 255)

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,

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 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.

Harold sm1

Harold Karabell: “With that incident, Susan became Exhibit Number One in exposing most of the hidden dangers of bike lanes”
Image from TheGatewaytvnetwork

CON: Harold Karabell, St. Louis

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.

Susan Herzberg

Susan Herzberg

         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

Joe Passanisi

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.”

Jennifer Bird

Jennifer Bird

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.”

Tony Pousosa

Ald. Tony Pousosa

CON: Tony Pousosa, City of Green Park

“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?”

Nick Kasoff

Nick Kasoff

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.

Paul Wojciechowski

Paul Wojciechowski, President, Missouri Bicycle & Pedestrian Federation

PRO: Paul Wojciechowski, Wildwood

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
in Missouri
Encouraging bicycling and walking
Building a movement around bicycling and walking
including education
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.

Transportation Planning
Urban Design
Public Outreach
Traffic Engineering
Land Use
Bicycle/Pedestrian Facilities
Transit Integration

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.

Martin Pion M 300 224

Martin Pion holding up St. Louis Post-Dispatch article featuring Karen Karabell

CON: Martin Pion, Ferguson

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:

Karie Casey

Karie Casey

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

Damien Johnson

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

Ellen Bern

Ellen Bern

“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

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.

Rhonda Smythe, Policy & Advocacy Manager, Trailnet

Rhonda Smythe, Policy & Advocacy Manager, Trailnet

PRO: Rhonda Smythe

“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.”

Matthew Wyczalkowski

Dr. Matthew Wyczalkowski

PRO: Matthew A. Wyczalkowski, St. Louis City
(pronounced: Vee-chal-kov-ski)

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 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.

Complete Streets would be a complete catastrophe

Nick Kasoff

Nick Kasoff

Martin Pion

Martin Pion

By Nick Kasoff and Martin Pion
St. Louis Post-Dispatch on-line
December 31, 2013 9:00 am

St. Louis County is considering a Complete Streets ordinance which would radically change both the structure of our county roads, and the way our county makes decisions about those roads. Motorists, cyclists, taxpayers, and the editorial board of the Post-Dispatch, have opposed this bill, with good reason.

First is the fiscal issue. In the only cost figure advanced so far, a spokesman for the county Department of Highways and Traffic estimated that it would cost $300 million to install bike lanes along just 15 percent of county-maintained roadways. That comes to $2 billion to complete just the bike lane component of Complete Streets, a crippling burden. Yet the council has shown no inclination to investigate the cost, and in a recent council meeting, bill sponsor Pat Dolan declined councilwoman Hazel Erby’s request for a committee hearing to explore this issue. 

As cyclists, we support a road system which is safe and efficient for all users. But Dolan’s bill imposes a controversial strategy which many believe would fail to accomplish this. In fact, the cookie cutter approach which Complete Streets implements is dangerously inappropriate for the vast majority of county roads. 

A recent example is the newly resurfaced Manchester Rd. in St. Louis City, formerly two lanes in each direction at Kingshighway. In October, MoDOT restriped it westbound to one lane and a bike lane adjoining the curb. A month later, this resulted in a crash which could easily have been fatal. 

Susan Herzberg, a cyclist, and mother of an 8-year-old, described it on her Facebook page later that day: 

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.

The crash went unreported, as do many similar incidents involving cyclists in bike lanes, yet right-hook crashes like this are not uncommon. 

Best practice for cyclists on most urban multi-lane roads is to control the curb lane, thereby minimizing crashes due to motorist turning movements. It also keeps the cyclist out of the car door zone when parking is allowed. A properly trained cyclist on regular multi-lane roads causes minimal inconvenience to others while maximizing personal safety.

As motorists, we oppose a plan which intentionally creates traffic congestion on county arterial roads. It is irresponsible to take hundreds of millions of needed dollars away from road maintenance and improvement to build lightly used bike lanes. American motorists already spend countless hours in traffic jams, costing time and money. Complete Streets would exacerbate this problem for every St. Louis driver, and worsen the region’s serious air pollution problem.

Cyclists already have a comprehensive network of recreational facilities, such as Grant's Trail, which are being continually expanded. We use these trails ourselves. But the family cycling on Grant's Trail for recreation doesn’t prefer to be riding down Watson Road.

Most seriously, the proposed bill would place highway policy in the hands of a short list of special interest groups, many of whom are lobbying in support of the bill. Some of these groups receive considerable public funding, and stand to benefit in both revenue and influence should this bill pass. A handpicked selection of such groups should not be charged with voting on the design of public highway projects instead of highway engineers implementing best practices to advance the public interest. 

Finally, bill supporters point to the European example to illustrate the potential for success, ignoring the substantial differences between the structure of our roads, communities and travel patterns. While nearly nine in ten Americans commute by car, only 13% have a commute shorter than ten minutes.

So how should we proceed? The county already adds bike lanes where appropriate, and improves access for the disabled as required by federal law. By voting against this bill, the council ensures that this policy will continue, considering the needs of various users, the costs, and the engineering details of each road. 

That would be the best outcome for everyone who uses county roads.

Nick Kasoff is a freelance business consultant and avid cyclist living in Ferguson, who rides to clients as far as 30 miles from his home.

Martin Pion is a scientist and 43-year cycle commuter, and a certified League of American Bicyclists Cycling Instructor since 1997. For over 11 years, rain or shine, he cycled from his home in Ferguson to McDonnell Douglas, now Boeing Co., before retiring.

Karen Karabell westbound on resurfaced Manchester Rd just after passing Kingshighway BP station

Karen Karabell westbound on resurfaced Manchester Rd just after passing Kingshighway BP station

Karen Karabell, a CyclingSavvy St. Louis Instructor, controls the curb lane while cycling westbound along Manchester Avenue past the entrance to the BP station at the Kingshighway intersection on Aug. 29. The road had been resurfaced by MoDOT but not yet restriped, so it was still a four-lane road. In mid-October the road was restriped to a bike lane and one lane westbound. On Dec. 16, Susan Herzberg was right-hooked by a motorist turning into this gas station as she was biking in the new westbound bike lane.

There’s been a flurry of published Letters to the Editor on SB 1 for Bill. No. 235, aka “Complete Streets.” This followed the recent spate of articles about it in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch by reporters Margaret Gillerman and Steve Giegerich and the editorial “St. Louis County should drop the kickstand on ‘Complete Streets’ bill” opposing the bill. Below are Letters published to during December 2013, in chronological order, both pro and con.

I might mention that I know two of the letter writers favoring the bill and like and respect them. The first is Linda Goldstein, former mayor of Clayton, who was very health-conscious in that role and spearheaded progressive smoke-free air ordinances. The second is David Henry, who has over the years been actively promoting walking to school. It’s unfortunate having to disagree with either of them but I don’t perceive so-called Complete Streets legislation as necessary or desirable if it prevents trained traffic engineers from making informed and desirable decisions, and messes up the road for competent cyclists. Public input on decision making is desirable but not by fiat, as the proposed legislation would require.

I also perceive many of the supporters of this bill to be ill-informed, especially when it comes to on-road bike transportation and what makes it truly safe. Bike lanes don’t make it safer: they actually make a car-bike collision more likely at intersections or in the door zone of parked cars, while confining the cyclist to the area near the gutter, which is typically the worst part of the road. It’s also impossible to make a safe left turn in traffic from this position.

Please click any Letter to the Editor title to go to original web post.

Martin Pion

Martin Pion

Nick Kasoff

Nick Kasoff

Follow Ferguson’s lead to promote safe bicycling
Martin Pion • Ferguson
Nick Kasoff • Ferguson

December 03, 2013

Trailnet’s effort to enact “Complete Streets” legislation (Bill No. 238) in St. Louis County rests on misinformation and false premises. Trailnet claims Complete Streets leads to “increased property values, increased retail sales, and attraction of new business” in cities, including  Ferguson, where we live. We have seen no evidence of that.
         Trailnet claims Complete Streets encourages safe bicycling, achieved primarily by painting bike lanes along major roads. Relevant research shows bike lanes actually increase car-bike crashes, particularly at intersections. (Risk Factors for Bicycle-Motor Vehicle Collisions at Intersections, Wachtel & Lewiston, 1994 ITE Journal.) 

Bike lanes also require cyclists to ride dangerously close to parked cars, another leading cause of bicyclist injury or death.
         The safest way to bicycle on any road is with techniques taught in classes such as Cycling Savvy (, and not by striping bike lanes.
         Last year, Ferguson approved a first-in-Missouri ordinance giving bicyclists the choice of controlling or sharing the curb lane, repealing its discriminatory “far to the right” ordinance based on Missouri law. This reflects the best practices taught in Cycling Savvy.
         Rather than Complete Streets-dictated bike lanes, our county and local governments would be wise to follow Ferguson’s lead, ensuring bicyclists equal use of traffic lanes.

Linda Goldstein

Linda Goldstein

Complete Streets benefit many groups, including bicyclists
Linda Goldstein • Clayton
December 18, 2013

When the city of Clayton passed its Complete Streets ordinance in January 2012, we joined numerous other municipalities, counties, states and regional planning organizations across the country that are committed to providing safe, accessible and convenient modes of travel for all users through Complete Streets policies.
         The Post-Dispatch published an editorial (“Drop the kickstand,” Dec. 13) focused primarily on Complete Streets’ bicycle accessibility, but it’s important to consider other features of effective Complete Streets legislation as well. Through the planning, design, building and maintenance of streets, the goal is to provide safe access for all users: pedestrians of all ages and abilities, motorists, public transportation vehicles and their passengers, and, yes, bicyclists.
         What this means is that a Complete Street could provide people with physical disabilities better wheelchair accessibility, and those who are visually impaired could safely cross streets with the help of audible crosswalk signals and textured walkways. Seniors could benefit through more walkable communities and greater access to public transportation. And, children who want to bike to school could do so on dedicated bike paths.
         Complete Streets provide health and fitness, environmental, safety and quality of life benefits to a community and can be implemented in a systematic and fiscally responsible manner. I urge St. Louis County to continue its efforts to craft legislation that benefits our citizens and makes sense for our community.

People want more transportation options
David Henry • Webster Groves
December 19, 2013

The editorial “Drop the kickstand” (Dec. 13) opposes the proposed Complete Streets bill being considered by the St. Louis County Council because the bill “would give a small number of people a claim on a disproportionate share of public dollars.” I question how the editorial’s author can support that claim.
         Based on the results of the Future of Transportation National Survey from 2010, most people support improved options for walking, biking and transit. Here are a few relevant results from that survey:
(1) 55 percent of Americans would rather drive less and walk more;
(2) 73 percent said they have no choice but to drive;
(3) 66 percent want more transportation options so they have freedom to choose how to get where they need to go.
         Furthermore, about a third of the population cannot drive because they are underage, physically impaired, or because they cannot afford to drive.
         By denying accommodations for transportation other than automobiles, the St. Louis County Council would be advocating an automobile-only transportation policy. Such a policy would be clearly denying the needs of citizens.

Street plans should consider young folks and seniors who don’t drive
Laura Barrett • St. Louis
Director, Transportation Equity Network

December 20, 2013

The Post-Dispatch editorial “Drop the kickstand” (Dec. 13) about the pending Complete Streets policy was just plain wrong.
         These policies save money. Fewer cars on the highway mean less pollution, fewer pothole repairs and more people using transit — all of which save taxpayers money. But an even more glaring mistake in this editorial was its lack of concern for low-income people and people with disabilities.
         State and local officials have spent time and money creating access to bus shelters on South Lindbergh Avenue after a campaign by Metropolitan Congregations United. Among the issues: People with disabilities could not access a bus shelter with steps.
         Any parent whose child goes to Lindbergh High probably shares my feeling of fear every time I see the river of children walking to school each morning without the benefit of a sidewalk.
         All of these South County problems could have been prevented with better planning and policies. It just makes sense to plan for young folks who don’t drive, seniors who can’t drive and the thousands of transit riders who take Metrolink buses and light rail every day.

Nick Kasoff

Nick Kasoff

Nick Kasoff posted this reply on-line:

Street plans already do consider those who don’t drive. And Complete Streets won’t mean fewer cars on the highway. Recreational riders will still be driving to work and on errands. But they’ll be doing so on more congested streets, as the Complete Streets conversions reduce the number of traffic lanes. That means MORE gas and pollution.
         I am all for good sidewalks and accessible bus shelters. And if you want to cycle for recreation and exercise, I applaud you. There are numerous bike trails throughout the county, and we build new ones every year. I am a daily transportation cyclist. I safely and comfortably use the existing roads, and do not want to be forced into the segregated bike lanes which Complete Streets prefers.
         If you’re a driver, and you want to spend more time sitting in traffic, and pay higher taxes for the privilege, then Complete Streets is something you’ll love. For the rest of us, it’s nothing but bad.

‘Complete Streets’ creates hazard on Chippewa
Raymond F. Buckley Jr. • St. Louis
December 20, 2013

I read your editorial “Drop the kickstand” (Dec. 13), and I wanted to point out that the reduction from four lanes to two lanes creates a hazard at the QuikTrip exit on Chippewa Street at the intersection with Gravois Avenue.
         Because there is now only one eastbound lane on Chippewa, cars frequently back up past the QuikTrip exit. If the cars create a break, vehicles exiting QT to the left — or west — on Chippewa often have impaired visibility and cannot see westbound cars. By the same token, cars traveling west on Chippewa often cannot see the vehicles turning left out of the QT parking lot, and must proceed with caution if there appears to be a gap in the line of cars backed up at the intersection. This is [a] particular problem at rush hour.

‘Complete Streets’ is an affordable evolution
S. Burns Kessler • Kirkwood
December 22, 2013

We have a “Complete Street” in front of our house in Kirkwood. At first I thought it was too dangerous for all concerned, as the street suddenly seemed too narrow. A parking lane, bike lane and road lane heading west, and a road lane and bike lane heading east. I was surprised to see that cars, bikes, joggers and pedestrians co-existed in the space. And while accidents can happen, to date I have not seen one on our street. But the greater surprise is that people slowed down, watched out for each other and shared the roadway.
         The negative editorial (“Drop the kickstand,” Dec. 13) on Complete Streets misses a very important reality: Cultures must evolve. And if a city and its community do not evolve, they decay. Complete Streets is an affordable evolution for our cities and our region.          It is a considered, humanistic approach to urban living. Streets teeming with life again are great to see. It brings all of us together in a common purpose to enjoy the outdoor world that is our home as well.
         I urge the council to vote for the future of our region and not just for Complete Streets, but vote for a new path into our future as it is also a vote for the people who have voted for you as well.

Building a biking infrastructure will attract riders
Chris Krusa • Glen Carbon
December 24, 2013

I am an officer of the Sierra Club in Illinois in the Metro East and have been strongly promoting improvements in bike and pedestrian access. Here we have great bike trails but limited access to markets and local services such as restaurants, movies, bookstores, etc. Implementing substantial access is a long-term deal and requires long-term planning.
         Your editorial on “Complete Streets” smacks of ostrich-like mentality (“Drop the kickstand,” Dec. 13). The biking success in Europe came with bike access and related infrastructure first; the bikers, including huge numbers commuting, came in time. Build it and they will come.

Need safe places for walking
Natasha Simms • St. Louis
December 24, 2013

The editorial “Drop the kickstand” (Dec. 13) in its zeal to condemn cyclists seems to have chosen to ignore that the “Complete Streets” program helps pedestrians, too. Much of the county and even parts of the city are completely unsafe to walk. There are few sidewalks and crosswalks even at residential streets. There may not be many people commuting on bikes, but there are plenty of people who use the buses and train.
         Safe walking should not stop in Maplewood like it does now. I should not need to get in a car to drive a few blocks to get from one business to another in the same area. I can understand traffic frustration because of bike lanes, but we need more safe ways for people to walk in the county.

Karen Karabell

Karen Karabell

Bike lanes are more dangerous than regular traffic lanes
Karen Karabell • St. Louis
December 27, 2013

As a cycling educator, I oppose the Complete Streets bill before the St. Louis County Council. What we’ve discovered about bicycling in traffic is that cyclists should be in the flow, rather than shunted off to one side of the road in a bike lane or cycle track. Why? Because cyclists who are “in the way” are seen. On straight roads, you can see cyclists from over a quarter-mile away. Motorists have plenty of time to prepare, either by slowing down or changing lanes to pass. This is safe. It also is counterintuitive — which is why we teach safe traffic cycling!
         Few realize that bike lanes are much more dangerous than regular traffic lanes. Because bicycling is very safe, accidents are rare, even in bike lanes. But when accidents do happen, they can be heartbreaking. Pay attention to news reports about cyclists hit by motorists: Where was the cyclist on the roadway? If the cyclist wasn’t breaking the law by riding against traffic, disobeying signals or riding at night without lights, he or she typically was in a bike lane or on the right edge of the road.
         We all want safe roads, but the county’s Complete Streets bill won’t accomplish this. A cultural shift will. People will choose bicycling when they discover how to control their own safety, and when they feel respected and expected as a normal part of traffic.

Today’s public testimony before St. Louis County Council against SUBSTITUTE BILL NO. 1 FOR BILL NO. 238 (aka “Complete Streets”) was almost unanimous, only Alderman Scott Ogilvie from St. Louis City speaking in favor. He’s worked in a bike shop and described helping numerous customers become comfortable riding on the road. And while he mentioned bike lanes there was never a whisper of bike education playing any kind of role.

The testimony I’d already prepared went out the window when I learned yesterday morning of a car-bike collision with a female cyclist riding in one of the newly-painted bike lanes on Manchester Rd. It was a classic right hook by the motorist, and could have cost the cyclist her life or led to serious injury. The news spread once the cyclist posted about her close encounter on Facebook, as follows:

Susan Herzberg with daughter Gretchen

Susan Herzberg with daughter Gretchen

Susan Petsche Herzberg
Monday, December 16, 2013 @ 9:54 am near St. Louis, MO

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.

Later Susan added:

Yes Gretchen was safely at school. I was westbound on Manchester just after crossing Kingshighway and she was turning right into the gas station. I feel very lucky, it was a slow speed crash and no, I didn’t get to keep the mirror.

Susan has actually done a nice job of summing up the problems with bike lanes: they may encourage more cyclists to ride, although the numbers may be exaggerated, but they also lure novice cyclists into dangers of which they are totally unaware. At the same time they create potentially serious problems for informed and skilled cyclists who know how to bicycle safely. Below are copies of the two currently available testimonies presented at the council meeting opposing this bill:

Martin Pion

Martin Pion

Martin Pion, Ferguson

In past weeks, you’ve heard from cyclists who say bike lanes are dangerous. Trailnet says you should pass this bill because it makes cycling safer, and certainly some cyclist do believe so. Today, I was going to tell you about some bike lane crashes in other cities. As it turns out, I didn’t have to go so far away.
         In October, after MoDOT resurfaced Manchester Road/State Route 100 in St. Louis City they re-striped it to comply with the city’s Complete Streets ordinance. The previous four-lanes have now been reduced to three with the addition of bike lanes in some areas, These bike lanes are “by the book” – having an extra 2 ft buffer lane alongside parking lanes to mitigate a bike collision with an opened car door, and they are striped by today’s bike lane standards.
         A fellow cyclist, Susan Herzberg, uses this route every day, to commute from her home in south St. Louis to her work in Maplewood. She has done this for two and a half years, without incident.
         Yesterday, that long run of safe riding came to an end.
         Susan was riding westbound on Manchester Road, and had just entered the new bike lane after crossing Kingshighway. A woman entering the gas station turned directly in front of her. Because of the bike lane, Susan was in the driver’s blind spot. That is a problem with every bike lane, which can’t be avoided.
         Susan hit the car with such force that she tore off the righthand exterior mirror. Thankfully, Susan’s injuries were minor. She quite easily could have been dead.
         Accidents like this happen every day in bike lanes all over America. That’s why the way to make cyclists safe is to provide them with education in using the roads safely, and demand that they obey traffic laws just like other drivers.
         In their recent editorial opposing this bill, the Post-Dispatch said, “At the very least, the council should know whether the bill will kill people.” Given the time for research, I could provide numerous examples of cyclists who were killed, in bike lanes, by crashes just like this. That is why as a cyclist, with a concern for bike safety, I ask you to VOTE NO on this bill.

Below is a photo accompanying my printed testimony. A motorist is waiting to exit the entrance to the BP gas station where Susan was right hooked by the turning motorist just west of the intersection with Kingshighway. The photo shows Karen Karabell following me along Manchester Rd. before it was re-striped with bike lanes, so that we could readily control the lane when necessary for safety. At this location there is now a bike lane alongside the curb which prejudices such cyclist behavior. Susan estimated that Karen is about 10 ft beyond the point of impact.

Karen Karabell cycling along Manchester before restriping, just about 10 ft. beyond the point where Susan was right-hooked

Karen Karabell cycling along Manchester before restriping, just about 10 ft. beyond where Susan was right-hooked on Monday morning, December 16th, 2013

Note: Please click above photo to enlarge it. Use back arrow (top left of window) to return to this page.

Nick Kasoff

Nick Kasoff

Nick Kasoff, Ferguson

Trailnet and other advocates for the Complete Streets bill have presented this as a popular measure that your constituents support. Would it make a difference to you if I showed you that they were lying? Well, see for yourself. On Trailnet’s website, they cite a 2010 MoDOT study showing 53% support such programs:
The same claim appears on the website of the “Missouri Complete Streets Information Center”:
(Source: center)
         So it looks like a slim majority supports Complete Streets. But it just so happens that Trailnet is misleading the council in a very serious way.
         You see, this 2010 survey wasn’t just a one-time thing. MoDOT asked the same question every year since 2008, and 2010 was the only time it received majority support. I’ve provided the council with the relevant pages of the MoDOT surveys that Trailnet DIDN’T bother to tell you about.
         And if you look at them, you’ll find that in the latest survey, from 2012, Complete Streets received the lowest level of support ever: 63% of those surveyed were OPPOSED to diverting road funds for Complete Streets. In the St. Louis district, 60% were opposed to diverting road funds. And in a 2009 survey for St. Louis county, more than 80% opposed more spending on bike trails in every council district except Mr. Dolan’s. In Dolan’s district, only 60% were against it.
         Now, you might say that accusing Trailnet of lying to the council is an overstatement. Maybe they just haven’t updated that web page in a long time. Well, if only it were so. In fact, that very same page was updated with an alert asking members to come speak at the council meeting last week:


Attend the St. Louis County Council meeting on Tuesday, December 10th at 5:45pm and show your support. You are free to give testimony, or just observe the process. Every person counts! The meetings are generally 30-40 minutes long.

         So now you know. Complete Streets is opposed by a large majority of your constituents. And, the organization which is lobbying you to pass it has knowingly based that lobbying on a lie. That’s why in a recent editorial, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch said, “Complete Streets would give a small number of people a claim on a disproportionate share of public dollars that should benefit the greatest number of people.”
         I hope you’ll take these facts into consideration, support your constituents, and vote no on this bill.

Eli Karabell talking to Councilmember Hazel Erby on 2013-12-10

Eli Karabell talking to Councilmember Hazel Erby after the council meeting on 2013-12-10

Eli Karabell gave impassioned extemporaneous testimony in opposition to this bill. Among his comments was this one:

         I feel 1,050 times safer when there are no bike lanes on the road!

Eli is the son of Karen Karabell who runs CyclingSavvy St. Louis. During both previous county council meetings Karen had also testified against this Complete Streets bill. After the meeting Eli was interviewed outside the council chamber by a reporter from St. Louis Public Radio and again expressed strong opposition to the bill. After we parted in the parking lot Eli cycled back to his Central West End home in St.Louis.

Eli Karabell was followed by Stephen Baker, Wildwood

Stephen Baker

Stephen Baker

Dear Council Members,

On its surface Complete Streets sounds like a wonderful idea. But there’s much more to it than safety and comfort for all users.
         Complete Streets creates division among road users, then attempts to mete out resources to accommodate the self-proclaimed entitlements for a minority. These entitlements come at the expense of everyone. Road easements will increase. Number and size of lanes will decrease. And conflicts will be created between classes of road users. The capacity of roads will be decreased.
         This can already be seen in how St. Louis City has already implemented Complete Streets on Manchester Road and on Chippewa Street. There are also studies that show that the number of accidents and deaths increases when traffic is segmented in that way that Complete Streets promotes.
         There is also a real cost to implementing Complete Streets. According to this bill, every update to a road, even private roads, will require design rework according to the Complete Streets Policy. This will in turn delay the maintenance of degrading roads and increase the costs to the state, county, cities, private road owners, and businesses.
         There are incomplete estimates from the county’s Highways, Traffic and Public Works division of the cost increases in implementing changes to a small portion of the county roads. The bill also requires county employees to attend national conferences, which by the way are put on by the same organizations that are promoting this bill. Doesn’t this sound self-serving?
         And, no estimates have been made for the costs to cities, school districts, and businesses for the changes that will be mandated by the Complete Streets Implementation Committee. The Complete Streets Implementation Committee will be overseen by the Complete Streets Peer Advisory Committee, a new committee that will by statute include members of the very organizations that are promoting this bill. Again, is this self-serving and self-promoting?
         Some of the organizations that are promoting this bill measure their success in number of lane-miles of bicycle lanes and cycle tracks without regard to safety or usability. This is not the type of leadership that I want to see directing how the roads that I use will be designed.
         This bill is a bad idea. There are better ways to spend public dollars to incorporate pedestrians, bicycle drivers, motor-vehicle drivers, and transportation drivers on the same roads.
         I am asking you to reject the Complete Streets Bill.

Thank you.

The editorial below in today’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch came out unequivocally against Substitute Bill 1 for Bill #238, the so-called “Complete Streets” bill.

That was something of a surprise, but a very welcome one.

Among other things, the editorial pointed to concerns that have been echoed about both cost, and how it takes traffic engineering decisions out of the hands of the very professionals hired by the county council to make them.

It also acknowledges that bike transportation advocates are not a monolithic group when it notes Some bicycle-safety experts think bike lanes actually make riding more dangerous. This was a reference to a recent letter from me and Nick Kasoff, which was published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on December 3rd, the very day this bill was expected to be approved.

The editorial below concludes:

Complete Streets would give a small number of people a claim on a disproportionate share of public dollars that should benefit the greatest number of people. The council should park this idea.

Quite apart from any argument about cost is the question: Is it the right approach? To that my reply is a resounding “No!” at least on the subject of bike lanes and similar lane-painting exercises.

Bike lanes cannot replace knowledge of what makes on-road cycling safe and in fact compromises it.

Knowledge of safe cycling is available from numerous sources. There are books, such as John Forester’s well knownEffective Cycling (there’s also an Effective Cycling video from Seidler Productions), or the concise Street Smarts booklet by John Allen. There are some excellent videos on-line, such as Dan Gutierrez and Brian DeSousa’s concise The Rights and Duties of Cyclists on both their website and YouTube, and Chris Quint’s comprehensive Cyclist’s Eye View (originally on DVD and now on YouTube in three parts; this link is to part 1). (A video I shot in Ferguson in 2012 is also posted on-line: BICYCLING Made SIMPLE.)

Those are all things you can do during the winter months if you hibernate from bicycling. However, as soon as you get the chance attend one of the three-session 9-1/2 hour Cycling Savvy St. Louis courses offered in metro St. Louis. I did so a couple of years ago and despite being a very experienced and confident on-road cyclist, still found it worthwhile with some novel ideas.

Add caption here...

An extremely complete street in Hamburg, N.Y.
(Photo by New York Department of Transportation)

Editorial: St. Louis County should drop the kickstand on ‘Complete Streets’ bill

To appreciate the complexities of, and the passions generated by, the “Complete Streets” bill awaiting action by the St. Louis County Council, it helps to drive (or ideally, when the weather warms up, bicycle) eastward into the city of St. Louis.

Last month the city Street Department and the Missouri Department of Transportation unveiled new lane configurations along a repaved 1.1-mile stretch of Chippewa Avenue (Missouri Highway 366) between Grand Boulevard on the east and Morganford Road on the west. Because the city already has the kind of “Complete Streets” program being considered by the county, some elaborate restriping was done after Chippewa was repaved.

Complete Streets policies have been adopted by hundreds of communities around the nation. The laws differ by jurisdiction, but in general, they require that when roads are rebuilt or repaved, planners must incorporate features for bicyclists, pedestrians and mass transit as well as cars and trucks.

So when MoDOT and the city repaved this section of Chippewa, they changed the lane configuration. The number of vehicle lanes shrank from four to two. White-striped bicycle lanes were added in both directions, along with a yellow-striped center turn lane. On the outside of the road in each direction are shoulder lanes, some of them for parking and some for pedestrians.

The overall effect is confusing. Cars and trucks now have one lane in each direction instead of two. When we drove it in the middle of a recent workday — a pleasant 50-degree day before the weather got cold — we had plenty of time to idle in traffic and observe that the number of cyclists using the new lanes was precisely zero.

Thanks to lobbying by Trailnet, a nonprofit group that promotes healthy lifestyles, County Councilman Pat Dolan’s, D-Richmond Heights, Complete Streets bill was zipping right along until late last month. Then the county’s highway engineers got into the act.

At the council’s Nov. 26 meeting, the bill was laid aside to gather input from the county’s Highways, Traffic and Public Works division. David Wrone, a spokesman for the division, told the Post-Dispatch’s Steve Giegerich that it would cost at least $300 million to install bicycle lanes along just 15 percent of county roadways. A little math tells us that to do it countywide would cost $1.7 billion.

That’s not what anyone is talking about. The Complete Streets bill doesn’t require the immediate installation of bike lanes. It says that “every transportation improvement project” should be seen as an “opportunity to create safe, more accessible streets for all users.”

In other words, if you’re going to build or fix it anyway, you must consider such Complete Streets features as “sidewalks, refuge islands, bulbouts, pedestrian and traffic signals, accessible curb ramps, crosswalks, bike lanes, cycle tracks, multi-use paths, traffic-calming devices, bicycle parking facilities, signage, street trees and landscaping and public transportation stops and facilities.”

This is a bit much. The bill would have county employees attending national bicycling conferences, “peer advisory committee” meetings and conducting “charettes” (brainstorming sessions) to gather “context-sensitive solutions.”

Their time and money would better be spent designing and fixing roads, with curb-cuts wherever possible and with bicycle lanes only where they are appropriate and won’t clog up vehicle traffic. Some bicycle-safety experts think bike lanes actually make riding more dangerous.

At the very least, the council should know whether the bill will kill people. [My emphasis]

Taxpayers across the region already support the Great Rivers Greenway trail system. There are bicycle paths in parks and neighborhoods to accommodate recreational cyclists. But bicycle advocates tend to be politically active and savvy; they want to see public dollars spent on commuter cycling, too.

They have good arguments on their side: health benefits, zero greenhouse gas emissions, low costs. They are happy to claim the environmental high ground.

What they don’t have is numbers. Nationally, bike riders account for a consistent 0.2 percent of commuter traffic miles. For every 500 commuter-miles by motorized vehicle, someone else is riding a bike 1 mile to work, usually someplace far less sprawling than St. Louis County.

Complete Streets would give a small number of people a claim on a disproportionate share of public dollars that should benefit the greatest number of people. The council should park this idea.

Copyright 2013

Last week, opponents of St. Louis County Council’s SB1 for Bill #238, the so-called “Complete Streets” bill, dominated the Public Forum, with no one speaking in favor. Before this week’s county council meeting, Trailnet alerted the troops, urging them to attend and speak in favor, so I for one expected scores of Complete Streets supporters lining up at the podium.

And some did attend, but those opposing more than held their own, as is clear from the relevant official meeting minutes, courtesy of the County Clerk’s office, and appended towards the end of this blog.

A total of 6 spoke against this “Complete Streets” bill versus only 5 in favor.

There was some surprising testimony from two cyclists among the five speaking in favor:

Chuck Avery of Clayton, describing himself as “biking for over 20 years” and racking up “thousands of miles a year,” stated “We’re all here advocating for what we think is the safest way to get people out riding bicycles”. (My emphasis.)

Mr. Avery should become “Cycling Savvy” by taking a CyclingSavvy course and learn what really makes on-road cycling safe.

Andy Heaslet of St. Louis, another cyclist, also spoke in favor of the bill. I applaud him for how he’s integrated bicycling into his business. For the past three years he said he’s been making his living as the owner of a bike-based restaurant delivery service. According to the minutes: Both Mr. Heaslet and his employees deliver food from restaurants to various customers throughout the region. He stated that he and his employees prefer riding on Complete Streets and those with protected bike lanes and facilities.

He’s relying on paint to think for him, which is dangerous, instead of knowledge of what makes on-road cycling safe. The antidote? He should attend a local CyclingSavvy course and encourage his employees to do the same!

There aren’t any on-road training sessions offered now but anyone can get a taste for what CyclingSavvy is all about by attending a 3 hour presentation in St. Charles in January. Please click the link St. Charles To Host CyclingSavvy In January

Note: Please click any photo below repeatedly to enlarge it. Use back arrow (top left of window) to return to this page.
Acknowledgement: Please note that the photos of Nick Kasoff and Karen Karabell were taken by Harold Karabell.

Nick Kasoff testifying against the bill with (from L to R) County Executive Charlie Dooley, council chairwoman Kathy Burkett, and councilmembers Hazel Erby and Dolan looking on

Nick Kasoff testifying against the bill with (from L to R) County Executive Charlie Dooley, council chairwoman Kathy Burkett, and councilmember Hazel Erby and bill sponsor Pat Dolan looking on

Testimony by Nick Kasoff, Ferguson, at St. Louis County Council meeting, December 10, 2013

The professionals of our highway department have an intimate knowledge of the transportation needs of our county. Complete Streets would take control of county roads out of their hands, and give that control to the small group of special interests who wrote this bill. That would be a complete catastrophe.
          Complete Streets will cost us a bundle. And a lot of that money will be spent on consultants and reports, on board meetings and staff time, to meet the complicated requirements of this law. We’ll also be spending it on lawyer’s fees, because Complete Streets creates a protected class of minority road users. If you don’t build a bike lane where I want it, I can sue you and claim you’re violating my rights. But it’s not just construction and planning. This bill requires equality in “operation and maintenance.” So now, instead of plowing streets to the side, you’ll have to plow the bike lanes and sidewalks as well, and find another place for all the snow. If you don’t, pedestrians and cyclists may sue you. How much is that going to cost?
          Complete Streets will also slam on the brakes for private development. That’s because the bill applies to private streets and parking lots as well as county roads. Forcing every development to comply with these complicated rules will drive up costs, and drive development out of the county.
          Supporters say that we don’t have to do every street right away. I guess they’re hoping you’ll pass the bill without finding out what’s in the bill. This bill requires that Complete Streets standards be met on every street when it is restriped or resurfaced. So we’ll get a big bill, and we’ll get it in a hurry.
          The bill also requires coordinating and receiving approval of all road plans from a bunch of entities. This includes municipalities, schools of all sorts, civic centers, Metro, unspecified “other high visitation facilities” … and of course, Great Rivers Greenway, one of the groups pushing this bill. How many county staff people will it take just to satisfy this one requirement?
          If you want to handcuff our county highway department and bankrupt our county government, this is a great bill. If not, you should vote NO. Passing Complete Streets would be a complete catastrophe for St. Louis county.

Martin Pion testified next.

Martin Pion testifying

Martin Pion testifying

Martin Pion, Ferguson

The November 19th Minutes recorded that Phil Valko, Director of Sustainability at Washington University St. Louis, spoke in favor of SB1 for Bill #238, which I oppose.
          I knew Phil when he was Trailnet’s Active Living Program Manager in Ferguson, and invited him home to lunch one time. I wanted to explore ways we might collaborate on bicycle transportation issues and the conversation went well until we started talking about North Elizabeth Avenue.
          Phil said he wouldn’t advocate anyone bicycling on that road because there was no room for bike lanes. That’s when I realized that Trailnet and I were poles apart.
          In fact, I routinely bike home along Elizabeth Avenue from downtown Ferguson. It’s a lovely country-like 25 mph road maintained by St. Louis County Highways and Traffic, tree-lined and mainly residential except for Paul’s Market. While it has narrow 11 ft. lanes and barely any shoulder, it’s generally no problem to bike along it.
          One rare exception for me was in 2004 when an aggressive SUV driver insisted on passing within inches in-lane, all the while blaring his horn. Fortuitously, I was wearing a helmet-mounted videocamera and caught him on tape, which allowed me to identify his license plate! I’ve posted a detailed review of the incident on-line, including a clip from the video [at or].
          One of the lessons I learned from that unpleasant run-in was to bicycle further into the lane. Another was to control it when I judged it unsafe for a following motorist to pass, such as when approaching a blind bend, and then move right again once safe. This technique now has a name: “Control-and-release.”
          This past Spring, I bicycled up and down Elizabeth Ave. many times practicing control-and-release while seeking yard sign locations for my run for Ferguson City Council. Never once did I have an unpleasant encounter with a motorist.
          Trailnet’s focus on bike lane stripes both reduces road safety for competent cyclists like me, while giving novice cyclists a false sense of security. It’s the wrong approach and I urge you to oppose it.

Next was Robert Mick.

Robert Mick testifying against the bill without any notes for prepared testimony

Robert Mick testifying against the bill without any notes or prepared testimony

Robert Mick, Ferguson

According to the official minutes, he “stated he drives a car but is a bicyclist and he walks and cycles to work constantly. However, Mr. Mick stated he does not see the advantage of bike lanes. He expressed his agreement with Mr. Pion’s opinion that bike lanes provide a false sense of security and are restrictive. He concluded that he “does not see the need for Complete Streets legislation.”

Next to speak was Karen Karabell, who runs CyclingSavvy St. Louis in her spare time.

Karen Karabell testifying

Karen Karabell testifying

Karen Karabell, St. Louis

I’m Karen Karabell. As you know, I teach safe traffic cycling and stood before you last week. As you also know, I am opposed to your Complete Streets bill. Why did I come back?
         I want to offer some history about Trailnet, the organization that has been diligently working for your support on this bill. For years now, Trailnet has been vilifying the St. Louis County Department of Highways and Traffic. They’ve even managed to cast national aspersion upon the department’s public information spokesman.
         Trailnet did this because Highways & Traffic refused to buy their mantra that “segregated” on-road facilities are the way to encourage people to choose bicycling.
         Years of experience have taught us that segregation does not work. That’s because “separate but equal” is always separate, but never equal—and even dangerous.
         Just two days ago in Los Angeles, early Sunday afternoon in broad daylight, a cyclist was killed by a motorist. The cyclist was a prominent 65-year-old attorney for the entertainment industry—and he was riding in a bike lane. The motorist was a sheriff’s deputy, driving on routine patrol at normal speed. Google it. This keeps happening. It’s incredible that people who should know better are still pushing bike lanes and cycletracks for bicycle transportation.
         Complete Streets is touted as a green initiative. It is not. It creates traffic jams, adds bureaucracy that cripples the effectiveness of your engineers, and increases costs—which results in fewer projects, more unmet needs, and more traffic jams. Green? No way!
         There is an easier way. We now know how to teach anyone how to ride anywhere safely, courteously and with ease. We teach these skills at a fraction of the cost of even the cheapest infrastructure “improvement.”
         Our amazing St. Louis-area team of six trained instructors has offered CyclingSavvy for two years now. I invite Trailnet to take advantage of CyclingSavvy training. I invite this council to do the same. Join us on your bicycles, have fun in our workshops, and experience the epiphany of safe traffic cycling.
         What is our vision—the vision of people who have discovered how to cycle safely anywhere? We believe that you will hop on your bicycles when you truly know how to be safe, when you feel welcome and respected on the road, and when you are not dependent on special infrastructure to go where you want to go.
         We all desire civility and safe passage on our roads. But your Complete Streets bill will not advance these ideals. Please: Don’t muck up St. Louis County roads with mandates.

Following are the testimonies of those speaking for and against the bill, as recorded in the Journal, with those testifying against identified as Con.

Journal of the County Council – December 10, 2013:


Chairman Burkett called upon those persons who had signed cards to speak at the Public Forum.

Pro: Ms. Margaret Johnson, 7509 Gannon, University City, MO, 63130, addressed the County Council and stated her support for “Complete Streets” legislation (Relates to Substitute Bill No. 1 for Bill No. 238, 2013, pending on tonight’s Final Passage Order of Business). Ms. Johnson shared her opinion and information regarding the societal changes regarding biking and walking to work and other destinations. She noted that some roads need to restrict non-vehicular traffic, “but it’s time to adjust our thinking and get on with changing our car culture to one that embraces pedestrians, bicyclists, parents pushing strollers and people in wheelchairs”. Ms. Johnson stated she personally walks and rides as much as possible, for pleasure, exercise and errands. She shared examples of how and where she rides her bike. Ms. Johnson stated her opinion as to why passage of this legislation would provide long-term benefits to St. Louis County and she encouraged St. Louis County to “change to fit the times”.

Con: Mr. Nick Kasoff, 125 Royal Avenue, Ferguson, MO, 63135, addressed the County Council with regard to Substitute Bill No. 1 for Bill No. 238, 2013, and restated his opposition and opinions regarding the proposed Complete Streets legislation. He stated his observations and shared examples as to the possible financial impact this proposed legislation would have for St. Louis County in view of the regulations that would be put in place including slowing the process for private developments, the need to coordinate and receive approval of all road plans “from a bunch of entities” and the increase in County staff needed to meet the new requirements. Mr. Kasoff concluded by stating “passing Complete Streets would be a complete catastrophe for St. Louis County”.

Con: Mr. Gene Hutchin, 9447 Radio Dr., Affton, MO, addressed the County Council with regard to Substitute Bill No. 1 for Bill No. 238, 2013, and restated his opposition to the “Complete Streets” policy for St. Louis County. Mr. Hutchin shared information concerning a recent incident where he nearly struck a bicyclist who was not wearing protective safety gear. Mr. Hutchin encouraged the Council to support the use of safety equipment requirements on bicycles. He further stated the idea of adding more bicyclists with the Complete Streets legislation is ridiculous and “you ought to be requiring these people who want to ride their bicycles like that to have safety equipment and they otherwise be certified like drivers of automobiles.” Mr. Hutchin further stated that he thinks this legislation is a waste of money, noting that you’re not going to replace the automobile and you won’t find thousands and thousands of people riding bicycles to work.

Con: Mr. Martin Pion, 6 Manor Ln., Ferguson, MO, 63135, addressed the County Council with regard to Substitute Bill No. 1 for Bill No. 238, 2013, and restated his opposition to Complete Streets legislation. Mr. Pion shared information with regard to a conversation he had at some point with Mr. Phil Valko, Director of Sustainability, Washington University in St. Louis, and a former Trailnet’s Active Living Program Manager. Mr. Pion pointed out that recently Mr. Valko had spoken in support of Complete Streets legislation and he recalled that Mr. Valko was not supportive of “anyone” bicycling on North Elizabeth Avenue because there was no room for bike lanes. Mr. Pion further shared some of his experiences biking up and down Elizabeth Avenue and stated that “never once did I have an unpleasant encounter with a motorist”. Mr. Pion expressed his opinion that “Trailnet’s focus on bike lane stripes both reduces road safety for competent cyclists like me, while giving novice cyclists a false sense of security.” He stated that this is the wrong approach and he urged the Council Members to oppose Complete Streets legislation.

Con: Mr. Robert Mick, 36 Royal Ave., Ferguson, MO, addressed the County Council with regard to Substitute Bill No. 1 for Bill No. 238, 2013, and stated he drives a car but is a bicyclist and he walks and cycles to work constantly. However, Mr. Mick stated he does not see the advantage of bike lanes. He expressed his agreement with Mr. Pion’s opinion that bike lanes provide a false sense of security and are restrictive. Mr. Mick related his experiences as a biker on today’s roadways and he stated he is as courteous as possible to motor vehicles when riding his bike because he drives also and he understands the situation from that perspective as well. He further stated he is hopeful that motorists will become more understanding and considerate of bicyclists but does not see the need for Complete Streets legislation.

Con: Ms. Karen Karabell, 4147 West Pine, St. Louis, MO, 63108, representing Cycling Savvy, addressed the County Council with regard to Substitute Bill No. 1 for Bill No. 238, 2013, and stated she teaches safe cycling and restated her opposition to the Complete Streets legislation. She shared her observations and some “history” about Trailnet. Ms. Karabell pointed out that this organization has been working diligently for the Council’s support of the Complete Streets legislation. She shared information concerning Trailnet’s purported attempts to negatively portray the St. Louis County Department of Highways and Traffic, stating Trailnet chose this approach because the St. Louis County Department of Highways and Traffic refused to support their recommended provisions for bicyclists on County roadways. Ms. Karabell shared the circumstances surrounding the recent death of a bicyclist “in broad daylight” who was riding in a bike lane in Los Angeles, California, and was killed by a motorist. She proposed that Complete Streets legislation would create traffic jams, adds bureaucracy and increases costs. Ms. Karabell stated, “we now know how to teach anyone how to ride anywhere safely” and stated teaching these skills costs a fraction of even “the cheapest infrastructure improvement”. She invited Trailnet and the Council Members to take advantage of Cycling Savvy training and experience the “epiphany” of safe traffic cycling. Ms. Karabell stated we all desire civility and safe passage on our roads and further stated her opinion that the “Complete Streets bill will not advance these ideals. Please don’t muck up St. Louis County roads with mandates.”

Pro: Ms. Stefany Brot, 8145 Cornell Ct., University City, addressed the County Council with regard to Substitute Bill No. 1 for Bill No. 238, 2013, and stated the University City Council just passed biking and pedestrian improvements to be included in its Comprehensive Plan. Ms. Brot further stated that she sees that the City of Clayton passed the Complete Streets Program and she plans to work to see the Complete Streets Program passed in University City. She shared her experiences while recently chairing a fundraiser, “Bike the Tree Walk”, and stated that they had 36 riders and had such a great time. Ms. Brot stated it was a very great day and she thinks it will be an even better day if the Council votes for Complete Streets in St. Louis County. Ms. Brot shared information concerning a trip to Vancouver, Canada, that she and her husband took with regard to the bikers that she observed using the designated bike paths on the major streets. She stated that she believes “we will be much better off when we have bicyclists, pedestrians and people riding MetroLink all over our County”.

Pro: Mr. Chuck Avery, 315 Kingsbury, Clayton, MO, 63105, addressed the County Council with regard to Substitute Bill No. 1 for Bill No. 238, 2013, and stated he is a bicyclist and has been biking for over 20 years and generally is on his bike at least three or four days a week and that amounts to thousands of miles a year. Mr. Avery pointed out that he is retired and has been very fortunate to be able to travel to different cities around the Country and ride his bike in different cities that have bike infrastructure and bike lanes. He noted that it is really interesting to see how both the motorists and the bicyclists have learned to work with each other and respect their space. Mr. Avery further stated that he strongly believes bicycling is a good form of transportation and he thinks it would be nice if you decide to go somewhere in the County or the City to have bike routes with bike lanes or bike trails. Mr. Avery related that he is here tonight to encourage the Council to support Complete Streets. He stated it is a real concern how dangerous it can be to ride a bike. “We’re all here advocating for what we think is the safest way to get people out riding bicycles”. Mr. Avery noted that he advocates the use of trail systems and bike lanes and therefore, urged the Council Members to support the Complete Streets.

Pro: Mr. Charles G. Wilbur, 5211 Weber Rd., addressed the Council Members with regard to Substitute Bill No. 1 for Bill No. 238, 2013, and stated he is here to advocate for Complete Streets. Mr. Wilbur shared that he has been a bike commuter for about two years and bikes from his home to his office near Lindbergh and Highway 270, with part of his commute on County roads, then Grants Trail and then back onto County roads. He shared he was happy to get off the roads and onto the trail and away from the cars and the crazy drivers. Mr. Wilbur pointed out that he took a safety class and that helped, but he still prefers a bike lane over taking the road to “be separated from the giant SUV than have him sitting behind me, misgauging how fast he’s going and bearing down on my back wheel”. He also shared his experience with walking outings and the choices he and his wife make in this regard.

Pro: Mr. Andy Heaslet, 3540 Juniata, St. Louis, MO, 63118, addressed the County Council with regard to Substitute Bill No. 1 for Bill No. 238, 2013, and stated that he is a resident of the City of St. Louis. He shared his experience with making his living the past three years as the owner of a bike-based restaurant delivery service whereby Mr. Heaslet and his employees delivered food from restaurants to various customers throughout the region. Mr. Heaslet pointed out this delivery service was accomplished via bicycles in the City of St. Louis, and he stated that he and his employees prefer riding on Complete Streets and those with protected bike lanes and facilities. He urged the Council Members to support Complete Streets in St. Louis County.

Con: Ms. Lisa Pannett, 2915 Three Acres Ln., St. Louis, MO, 63125, addressed the County Council … and stated she disagreed with comments indicating everyone was for the Complete Streets plan with regard to Substitute Bill No. 1 for Bill No. 238, 2013, and made reference to the “Sustainability Plan”. She further stated her opinion regarding the proposed plan, made suggestions in this regard and questioned if the Council Members had read the plan.