A public hearing regarding Wildwood's involvement with a regional Gateway Bike Plan was conducted last Monday evening at the Wildwood City Hall.
The Gateway Bike Plan is a collaboration of three Missouri counties and nearly 100 cities across the St. Louis metropolitan area. The plan was spearheaded by Great Rivers Greenway in 2009. Public entities involved with formulating the plan were East-West Gateway Council of Governments, Missouri Department of Transportation, Metro, St. Louis city representatives, St. Louis County representatives, St. Charles County representatives, numerous municipalities' representatives and Trailnet. Additionally, citizen advisory committee members weighed in.
The project manager of this bike plan happens to be Wildwood resident Paul Wojciechowski, who spoke at the hearing. He represents Alta Planning+Design. "Biking is a passion of mine. I think this plan fits well with Wildwood's master plan. I also think it will help with completing streets in Wildwood, and with education and enforcement."
Wildwood councilmember Jack Clark, Ward 4, asked Wojciechowski why all bicyclists do not adhere flashing lights onto bikes so they can be better seen by motorists. "And regarding enforcement, I never see a bicyclist getting a ticket for running red lights," he said.
A Wildwood resident of 36 years, Tom Ilges, asked if bicyclists would ever be required to take some sort of standard, mandatory skills set test. "I'm a bike driver as well, but I see plenty who do not do safe things. One rode a bike with a child in a child carrier on Fox Creek Road. I have to have a license for my ATV, but it never leaves my property. Why don't bicyclists have to have licenses?"
The stated vision of the plan was to "create a bicycle component to the regional transportation network that accommodates all users and promotes consistent design and development of bicycle facilities." Its mission is to "increase the number of people using bicycles for transportation while reducing the number of crashes involving bicycles."
The plan essentially outlines the following five goals:
- Improve accessibility and added safety for bikes along on-street routes.
- Improve accessibility and safety for bikes around barriers like intersections and rivers
- Improve safety of existing roadway facilities.
- Reduce the rate of bicycle crashes by 50 percent by 2020.
- Promote more bicycling through route signing and end-of-trip facilities.
Wildwood director of planning and parks Joe Vujnich indicates numerous benefits to Wildwood from endorsing the overall Gateway Bike plan:
- Wildwood will be able to pursue grants as part of a larger, regional implementation.
- Wildwood will further support the interconnection of the city's trail system to other surrounding communities.
- The plan contains useful planning, design and engineering considerations for improving Wildwood's existing trails and streets.
- Adopting the plan is consistent in intent and content with many of Wildwood's trails and streets plans.
- The plan's goals and objectives are appropriate, and reflect the core values of Wildwood's trail and Share-the-Road initiatives.
- The plan contains endorsements relating to bicycle safety and compatibility with vehicles, and enforcement of existing laws to protect all users of roads and streets.
- Wildwood's partner in many of its trail projects, Great Rivers Gateway, has endorsed the plan. Additionally, Wildwood's director of public works, Ryan Thomas, served on the plan's technical advisory committee.
Wildwood councilmember Tammy Shea, Ward 3, spoke in favor of the plan because she said she thought it would improve long-term property values.
"You're trying to promote more bike riding. Is there any way to not promote bike riding, especially on Fox Creek Road?" said Wildwood resident Dave Wagner at the hearing.
"They (bicyclists) are adults. But this is a big problem. There have been instances that I've had to honk at them to get over. Then they tracked me down at MotoMart, and got in my face because I honked at them."
Wojciechowski said bicyclists must use roads as roads, and that not one-size-fits-all mentality works. He said they particularly are looking at Missouri Route 100 and aspiring to a network that connects everything to key destinations, such as Wildwood Town Center and the St. Louis Community College-Wildwood campus.
Wildwood councilmember David Geile, Ward 1, asked how binding the agreement was. "I still want Wildwood to have autonomy while adhering to the regional plan."
Vujnich said the plan was meant to supplement, not surplant, Wildwood's plans.
"I think they believe what we believe. I also think this could help minimize the conflict between vehicles and bikes," Vujnich said.
Wildwood councilmember Michele Bauer, Ward 8, asked if educational programs hosted in Wildwood would be part of the future plans. Wojciechowski said St. Louis has several licensed instructors, and that he believed the next step was to provide education for area law enforcers.
Other municipalities that have endorsed the bike plan include Rock Hill, Richmond Heights, Clayton, Woodson Terrace, Ballwin, Ellisville and St. Peter's, said Wojciechowski. He also said Ferguson will be approving it at their first meeting in March.