Pedestrian/bike report gives Missouri bad grade
May 13, 2008
Missouri's walking and bicycling environment is "so poor that even simple, basic changes will create very noticeable improvement,"according to the Missouri Bicycle Federation in a report they issued on May 5, 2008. In comparison to other states, Missouri's environment in 2007 rated a "low overall grade of 'D.'" However, they say that this year with more communities around the state investigating the Bicycle Friendly Communities program that grade is beginning to improve.

One of the biggest peeves they've outlined is that "far too many roads are still being built with no concern for connectivity or safety of bicycling and walking." This struck home. When confronted with why a bike "path" (the narrow section of macadam separated from the roadway by a painted line) heads north on Schifferdecker Road in Joplin without a separate return path, a city official recently said that "the money only stipulated that the path go from 'point A to point B.'"

While only 5% of trips in Missouri are made by walking or bicycling, the national average, according to the report, is 9.5%. They claim that too few Missouri communities are dedicating a portion of their transportation budget to bicycle and pedestrian-friendly policies. According to the latest published statistics they found regarding traffic-related injuries in Missouri, in 2006 seven bicyclists were killed and 7141 were admitted to hospitals and 74 pedestrians were killed and 1990 admitted to hospitals. The figures for 2007, they say, are showing no improvement.

While policies requiring roads and streets are being designed and built to enable safe access for all users across the US, in the 2008 legislative session Rep. Mike Sutherland's (R-99, Montgomery-Warren) bill, HB 2206 that passed the House by a vote of 139-9, died in the Senate after meeting opposition by the Missouri Department of Transportation. MoDot's "Practical Design" policy (get more for the buck), has been used as an excuse to eliminate bicycle or pedestrian facilities.

On a local level backed by federal funding a pilot project for non-motorized transportation in Columbia received national attention. Springfield recently adopted a comprehensive city bicycle plan. In Joplin the focus announced recently is to connect a series of trails with the focal point being the downtown area. However, on some sections bicycles are forbidden. And along Main Street in the Joplin downtown area the decision was made to seriously reduce the width of the sidewalks to accommodate parallel parking.

The state may be lagging in the need to establish safe bicycle routes to get riders to the market or to allow them to run errands with an assurance of safety. It has, however, made significant progress extending the Katy Trail based in part by the Ameren/Taum Sauk settlement. According to the report, a five year goal would be to extend the Katy system a total of 300 miles, reaching 350,000 Missourians and by 2028 reach two million Missourians by having created an 800-mile system.

For the federation's complete report go here.

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EPA talkback on bikingstaff378002008-05-14 21:33:30