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Cycling advocate calls 2011 "fabulous" year for bikes

St. Louis Public Radio: Cycling advocate calls 2011 "fabulous" year for bikes

By Rachel Lippmann

With average gas prices reaching their highest level in 2011, more and more people began looking for an alternate way to get around.

In St. Louis, many of those commuters turned to vehicles of the two-wheeled variety.

Anne Mack, the executive director of Trailnet, told St. Louis Public Radio’s Rachel Lippmann as part of our series “A Good Year” that cyclists had a “fabulous” 2011.

"It was a great year for any resident, because cyclists are pretty much indicator species. If you see cyclists on the road, it’s a good sign that your community is heading to be more healthy, that you can be more active in your streets and that actually local economic development stands a better chance of really growing."

What were the highlights?

The building of the downtown bike commuter station is the best improvement in 2011. It can hold 120 bikes, and it has showers for men and women. It’s a great place to store your bike and get ready for work. We are pleased with the membership level we have.

How did all the pieces fall into place in 2011?

It’s an increased understanding that our health problems are related to our built environment. We’ve created an environment where it’s hard for us to walk and bike. We’re seeing increasing health costs, especially from obesity-related diseases – today’s generation won’t live as long as their parents because of that. Transportation costs are also increasing. Decreasing health intersecting with increasing expenses in a down economy is a perfect recipe to find a different way to get from point A to point B. Supporting bicyclists benefits more than just the bicyclist – it also benefits pedestrians and even car users.

Where’s been the biggest shift in attitudes?

In our region, it’s definitely the city of St. Louis. The mayor riding to the opening of the downtown station was huge – it indicates his interest. I have seen it in the recent sustainability effort. These policy changes will attract young people and also retain them.

Trailnet also finished its 23rd bike-walk master plan in 2011, so we’re seeing communities in the county also looking at how bikes and pedestrians can safely move in their community, and how they can be connected to schools, parks and civic centers.

What was the one bike-friendly policy that you couldn’t get done this year?

“Trailnet looks forward to St. Louis County embracing bicycling as a mode of transportation and really designing and building for the bicycle facilities that make these roads complete. As it is, that isn’t the case, so we look forward to continuing discussion, and hopefully [in] 2012, St. Louis County will be adopting those.”

What are the big goals for 2012?

We really want to expand the use of “Shift Your Commute,” which is a software program that can help us figure out how many people are bike-commuting, where are the major corridors for bicycling, and what the carbon offset is for these miles. We want to get a very strong baseline. I think we’re also really going to advance multi-modal transportation planning – the idea that walking or biking to transit is the best way to get out of your vehicle. St. Louis can really become a top 10 city that you want to live and work in.