Missouri Bicycling, Walking, Running, and Trails News

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Sprawling suburbs considered harmful . . .

The Kansas City Star had an excellent article today on the relationship between urban design and obesity. Researchers find that residents of sprawling suburbs walk and bike less, and weigh significantly more, than do residents living in compact mixed developments who can walk and bike to the store, library, school, and work.

A few interesting excerpts:

"I used to live in an urban area in Independence, and I walked all the time, and I didn't have this extra 10 pounds," Atkins said. "My son, after we moved [to the suburbs], he put on 50 pounds." . . .

"I'm 99 percent sure there's a relationship between how communities are designed and people's weight," said Georgia Tech professor Lawrence Frank . . . "People who live in lower-density, suburban environments, all else being equal, have a tendency to be slightly heavier." . . .

Several studies have concluded that suburbanites do not walk or bike as much as residents of more traditional neighborhoods. . . .

Because our metropolitan area can grow in all directions, it is consistently ranked as one of the nation's most sprawling regions. And our region consistently ranks as one of the nation's flabbiest in nonscientific analyses. . . .

Studies in San Francisco, Seattle and Austin, Texas, in the 1990s showed that residents who lived close to stores and other conveniences walked and biked more than suburbanites whose neighborhoods contained only homes. . . .

"We always used to go to the grocery store walking. We always walked to school," said Shadrach Smith . . . . "Now we just don't see people doing that." . . .

Read the rest of the story on the KCStar website.
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Kansas City--progress & promise for cycling

Paul Mohr, who was Kansas City, Missouri's Bike/Ped coordinator until he resigned in September 2002, wrote an excellent letter summarizing the progress and promise of cycling in Kansas City.

He very rightly points out that the "achievements of the last several years easily eclipse everything in the century that preceded it".

Among KCMO's recent accomplishments--which Paul and other members of the Street and Sidewalk Task Force played a crucial part in bringing about--are adoption of bike routes in the Major Street Plan, crystallizing of public support for bicycling, addition of bike carriers to all city buses by the end of 2003, great improvement in the bicycle-ability of two crucial Missouri River bridges, and a variety of other initiatives, trails, plans, and positive policy changes.

Area cyclists applaud Paul and the other Public Works employees who have played such an important role in these positive changes (and especially note that many of them have happened under the direction of Larry Frevert, Deputy Director of KCMO Public Works, who isn't even a cyclist himself!). Paul leaves some big shoes to be filled . . .

Read Paul Mohr's complete letter on PedNet.
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Chain of Rocks bike-ped bridge to get night lighting

The Old Chain of Rocks Bridge on old Route 66 is the centerpiece of the Confluence Greenway, a 200 square-mile urban riverside park and trail system being developed in the heart of bi-state St. Louis.

Several lighting designs are being evaluated. Night lighting will allow the bridge to be used for nighttime rides and events.

Read the full story in the Edwardsville Intelligencer.
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Crazy 1950s instructional cycling movies online . . .

The Prelinger Archive has a page of wild and wacky 1950s bicycle instruction films. You can read a synopsis, few stills from the movies, and view or download the movies themselves in several formats.

The gem of the collection, "One Got Fat", has a group of young apes (!) who gradually get killed off (with Pow! Blam! visuals ala Batman) as they make common bicycling mistakes. It actually teaches some good vehicular cycling principles in its own strange way (but do watch out for the "magical signal arm"--stretching out the arm to the left immediately before crossing six lanes of traffic, no need to look over the shoulder, results in perfect safety every time, while neglecting to do so once leads to immediate Pow! Blam! death . . . ).
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Epidemic of youth obesity . . .

In the last three decades, the number of overweight young Americans has tripled, with no sign the trend is abating. . . .

At the National Institutes of Health, no fewer than 16 studies are being financed to study how to change environments to encourage a healthier lifestyle for young people--from day care and after-school activities to educating children about food. "There is a panoply of forces that are all conspiring to get us to eat more and exercise less," says Dr. Susan Yanovski, director of an institute obesity and eating disorders program.

Young Americans eat, move and live quite differently than generations before them.

Read more on the New York Times online (free registration required)
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Maybe bicycle facilities aren't as expensive as they're made out to be . . .

Knoxville (TN) is working on a regional bicycle transportation plan. Costs are "estimated $91,600 for one-time outlay efforts, plus an additional $373,500 in annual costs for the program."

"[C]osts may seem steep," but "still compare favorably to the $1 million average expense of adding one lane to one mile of interstate."

"Compare favorably" is putting it mildly, indeed! Communities that just can't seem to find the money to add a few inexpensive bicycle accomodations (which, for the most part, benefit all road users, not just cyclists) still manage to find millions to buy new roads.

It's not a matter of money available, but one of priorities and planning . . .

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The Kansas City Walkability Plan

The Kansas City Walkability Plan, now being developed, will be a citywide plan. Its purpose is to increase the number of people in Kansas City who choose to be pedestrians—by making it easier, more pleasant and more efficient to move around the city without a car—at least some of the time.

The Kansas City Walkability Plan will continue implementation of the FOCUS Kansas City Plan. The FOCUS Plan strongly supports choice in transportation (multimodal transportation) and recognizes that a "direct, continuous, safe, pleasant, and secure" pedestrian system is a vital step towards creating a multi-modal transportation system.

If you are interested in becoming involved in the Kansas City Walkability Plan please call: Lynnis Jameson @ 816-513-2853 or e-mail Lynnis_Jameson@kcmo.org
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More on the St. Joseph riverfront project

This week the St. Joseph City Council considered a new riverfront development plan, which includes a multi-use trail. The project and trail have been opposed by riverfront casino operator Bill Grace.
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Greenway revitalizes New York neighborhood

The New York Times is reporting today that a greenway and a road diet project have been crucial in re-vitalizing a lower West Side neighborhood.

"The West Side Highway has become Hudson River Boulevard", very friendly to pedestrians, says a resident.

The newly-thriving residential area more or less coincides with construction work at Hudson River Park, which will provide walking-distance recreational attractions for West Village residents when the reconstruction of three riverfront piers is completed in the spring. The Hudson River Park Trust has already completed a bikeway and walkway along the length of the park, from the Battery to 59th Street. . . .The trust also maintains the landscaped median on West Street that eases pedestrian street crossing on the busy, and wide, avenue.

Read the rest of the story on the New York Times web site.
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St. Louis-area mall "forgets" pedestrian accomodations . . .

The West County Center mall in Des Peres recently went through an expansion and renovation. Planners "forgot" to include sidewalks, safe pedestrian crossing facilities, and mass transit access to the mall because of a variety of difficulties.

"When the mall opened, we got more pedestrians than we anticipated," [a mall spokesman] said. "They were people from the neighborhood who walked to the mall. We have noticed more people at the bus stops."

Des Peres City Administrator Douglas Harms acknowledged Monday that city officials did not consider seriously pedestrian access when they approved plans for the mall.

Mall and city officials noticed what officials worldwide have noticed:
  • For reason of necessity or preference, many people rely on walking and cycling as a primary mode of transportation.
  • pedestrians and cyclists need to be able to go everywhere that automobiles go, and for the very same reasons.
  • There are always more pedestrians than planners imagine, and there would be far more yet if pedestrian conditions across the state were not absolutely abysmal.

Because they have created a dangerous accessibility situation for pedestrians with disabilities, mall officials have opened themselves to a potentially costly lawsuit under the Americans With Disabilities Act as well.

From all angles, including liability, it makes good business sense to accommodate pedestrians and cyclists. Most pedestrian/cyclist enhancements a relatively inexpensive in proportion to the budget of an entire project, and most enhancements benefit motorists, as well.

In fact, one of the main problems outlined in this article is that people who park in the mall parking then must walk a dangerous path from the parking spot into the mall itself. In the end, every motorist is a pedestrian--they're just not used to thinking of themselves that way.

And if more people could walk or ride the bus to the mall, the mall parking lot wouldn't be so jam-packed.

This isn't just pie-in-the-sky. It is working right now for communities across the country and the world.

Read the rest of the story on STLToday.
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