Major milestone for statewide Rock Island Trail: Feds approve trail conversion

Yesterday the statewide Rock Island Trail took a major step forward--perhaps the biggest and most important step in this lengthy, complex process.  The Surface Transportation Board approved the proposal by Ameren to end railroad use of the line and work out an agreement to transfer the line to Missouri State Parks so that it can become a trail.

This is a major milestone in the decades-long work to convert the long-disused, 217 mile long rail corridor into a statewide trail that will benefit all communities along the route.

The STB's Thursday decision is to allow 145 miles of the line--from Windsor to Beaufort--to be removed from rail use, "railbanked", and transferred to Missouri State Parks for use as the Rock Island Trail. State Parks and Ameren now have 180 days to complete a trail use agreement and forward it to the STB for approval.

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Preventive Bike Maintenance 101

This is the third article in a ten part series on the League of American Bicyclists Safe Cycling Series.  By Bob Sharpe, League Certified Cyclist (LCI #4661)

Keeping your bicycle in tip-top operating condition is critical if you’re going to enjoy cycling to its fullest. Preventive maintenance is a breeze and keeping your bicycle in optimal operating condition will pay you back with miles of hassle free riding. Here are some simple steps you can take to get the most from your bicycle and enjoy the ride more than ever!

Tires

There aren’t too many things worse than a flat tire in the middle of a long ride miles from home.  Ironically, many flats can be avoided simply by paying more attention to what's going on with your tires before  you saddle up and ride.

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St Louis expands Complete Streets Policy & accepts Sec Foxx's Mayor's Challenge!

Big news out of St. Louis.  Alderman Scott Ogilvie has been working with Trailnet and the St. Louis City Board of Aldermen to pass an updated and greatly improved Complete Streets policy for the city.  The new, much strengthened Complete Streets Policy passed the Board with a unanimous vote on January 30th.

Yesterday, Mayor Slay signed the new Complete Streets bill and also announced the St. Louis is the third Missouri city to officially accept US Department of Transportation Secretary Foxx's Mayor's Challenge for Safer People, Safer Streets.

Kansas City and Columbia previously announced they will participate in the Mayor's Challenge. 

Has your Mayor accepted the Mayor's Challenge?

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STL: First major work to upgrade Penrose Park Velodrome since 1980s

Momentum to rebuild the historic Penrose Park Velodrome in St. Louis has been building for years. The only velodrome in Missouri, and one of just 27 in the United States, Penrose Park was neglected and unusable for many years before an effort in the mid 2000s cleaned up and rehabilited the track to useful, though still fairly bumpy, state.

Today weekly races are held at the velodrome--the "Mr. Bumpy Face Track Racing Training Series"--and more substantial long-term improvements, backed by the City of St. Louis, may be in the works.

The work to renovate and maintain the velodrome has been a labor of love, with cyclists who use the track donating time, dollars, and sweat equity to keep the track operational.  A 2013 Post-Dispatch article gives an idea of the variety of people who use the velodrome:

That’s why Brinker, now a bike store owner in Columbia, Mo., recently returned to his old training ground. He and other cyclists want to convince people who may have never heard of the Penrose Park Velodrome that it is worth saving.

All it takes is an evening at the track, they say.

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Rock Island Trail: What is the value of rail trails to trail neighbors and communities?

Work to railbank the new cross-state Rock Island Trail is moving forward quickly--and raising much support, but also natural questions and concerns by trail neighbors.  It is a good time to consider:  What is the value of these trails to the state and to the communities they pass through?

Rock Island neighbors know that the trail may bring inconveniences. But is it good for the community and the state as a whole?

Missourians look out for each other and for their communities. The trail may be inconvenient for me personally.  I may not plan to use it, personally.  But if I can see the value to my community and my state, I may be willing to accept and deal with that burden for the greater good, because I want what is best for my neighbors, my community, and my state.See note

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ALERT: Nationwide Mayors Challenge for safer streets for people who walk and bike - Invite your mayor!

[UPDATE:  The initial deadline to participate in the Mayor's Conference was March 12th, 2015, but  U.S. DOT officials have recently assured us that they are continuing to encourage mayors and cities to join the challenge.  Enrollment is still open and mayors can enroll any time they are ready to do so at the Challenge website.]

U.S. Secretary of Transportation--and former Charlotte, NC, Mayor--Anthony Foxx is challenging cities and mayors across Missouri and the United State to take positive steps to improve their communities for bicycling and walking.

We hope communities across Missouri will sign up for the Mayor's Challenge by March 12th, in time for the nationwide announcement.  We know that some Missouri mayors are planning to be in Washington, DC, for the nationwide announcement--having a group of Missouri mayors there would be amazing!

Invite your mayor and city officials to join the Challenge by sending them to the Challenge web site.

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Washington Missouri River Bridge receives TIGER funding; Katy Trail-Washington bike/ped path moves forward

Everyone who has biked or walked on the eastern portion of the Katy Trail knows that the connection between the Katy Trail and the city of Washington--just across the river to the south of the trail--is one of the most difficult and dangerous on the entire trail.

Now that situation is about to change for the better, and in large part because of sea change in attitudes among MoDOT and local community leaders about the need for inclusion of bicycle and pedestrian access across major river bridges.

In years past, inclusion of bicycle and pedestrian access on Missouri River bridges was always a protracted struggle.  Now, MoDOT and local communities are banding together to ensure that good, safe bicycle and pedestrian access is included on major river bridges where it is needed.

The proposed new Washington Missouri River Bridge is an example of this new attitude.  The new bridge will include a dedicated bicycle and pedestrian path that will create a safe connection between the city and the Katy Trail, which lies on the opposite side of the bridge.

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Success: Bicycle insurance requirement defeated in Missouri House; support of our statewide allies made the difference

In December, we learned that Rep. Redmon of Canton had introduced a bill to require all people who bicycle to hold liability insurance--similar to that required of automobile drivers.

This is a serious problem--some cyclists already hold such insurance, but for the many who don't it is very difficult, expensive--or even impossible--to obtain.  The bicycle insurance requirement would create an expensive system impossible to enforce, discourage bicycling, and be incredibly expensive and discriminating to bicyclists.

And all that without offering any clear benefits.

In short--a classic example of over-regulation and government overreach in action.

The statewide bicycle community responds vigorously - and now the bill has been officially withdrawn

We immediately discussed the issue in our Legislative Committee and developed a position and strategy. Our partners across the state lept into action, soon arranging a phone call between Rep. Redmon and a consituent who is a lawyer and a cyclist.  Rep. Redmon listened carefully and agreed the bicycle insurance requirement was a bad idea.

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Rock Island Trail neighbors: 20 years later, real estate ads say: "KATY TRAIL POPULAR WITH LOCALS AND VISITORS"

Some residents along the proposed new 145-mile section of the cross-state Rock Island Trail have been talking about their worries about the new trail with local media.

I live just 100 yards from the Rock Island rail corridor myself, so I understand the nerves adjoining property owners have when changes are coming to the railroad corridor.

But we went through those same worries and nerves when the Katy Trail was proposed more than 20 years ago.  Did the worries come true?  Or did the trail turn out to be a major asset to the area--something that raised property values and helped the local economy in a modest but sustainable way, while having few downsides?

I spent five minutes browsing real estate listings--and look what I found.  Far from being a net negative, nearby property owners are positively glowing about the benefits of having property located near the trail.

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ADVOCACY ALERT: Hearing on bill banning cell phone use, texting while driving in MO Senate Wednesday Feb 11th

SB 3, the bill sponsored by Sen David Pearce of Warrensburg to ban texting and all cell phone use by drivers is having a hearing Wednesday in the Senate Transportation Committee.  Click for the bill's page:

  SB 3:  Expands ban on using cell phones while driving to all drivers and to include telephone calls

In our membership surveys, banning texting, phoning, and other types of distracted driving has emerged as a very important priority, so we are strongly supporting SB 3 and urging individuals and organizations across Missouri to do the same.  We know that distracted drivers injure and kill many thousands of bicyclists and pedestrians nationwide each year.

Take action

You can help raise awareness of this issue and educate your own Missouri Senator about the dangers of distracted driving.

Here is how--in about 5 minutes:

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MoDOT releases new statewide bicycle maps - free download

Updating Missouri's bicycle maps has been one of the top items in our Vision for Bicycling and Walking for quite some time. Now MoDOT has released a new version of their online maps that is a very significant update over previous versions.

  --> Click here to view and download the new MoDOT statewide bicycle maps in PDF format. <--

Missouri's first bicycle maps in recent history were printed maps of each MoDOT District released in the late 1990s.  In the mid 2000s, MoBikeFed and many of our allies across the state worked closely with MoDOT to create new online version of the bicycle maps with greatly updated information helpful to cyclists--including current traffic volume and the most accurate information about shoulders available. 

This new version is very much in the same mold, but all the information is updated to show the much greater availability of shoulders across MoDOT's road network in the intervening eight years or so.

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Major changes coming: MoDOT Director Dave Nichols to retire in May

MoDOT Director David Nichols became director two years ago in the midst of the effort to find a new funding source for the organization.  Director Nichols led the organization through the effort to create the funding proposal that was placed before voters as Amendment 7 last August, and many important organizational changes leading up to that, including:

Today, MoDOT announced that Director Nichols will be retiring in May:

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Major victory for mountain biking in Missouri: Mountain Biking to be allowed in Ozark National Scenic Riverways

Under a new General Management Plan recently adopted by the National Park Service, the Ozark National Scenic Riverways will, for the first time since its founding in 1964, allow mountain biking on Scenic Riverways trails.

MoBikeFed, in cooperation with our members and interested groups across the state and the U.S., including the International Mountain Biking Association and the Ozark Trail Association, worked to encourage letters of support for the mountain biking option when the National Park Service released the draft GMP for review last year.  Your input was very helpful, as a large number of comments in the public input section are in favor of mountain biking and the mountain biking provisions were carried through in the final recommendation that was adopted on December 14th.

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