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Upsetting the Bike Community By Speaking Up About Sprawl Makers

November 9, 2005 Bicycling, Big Box, Suburban Sprawl, THF Realty Watch 4 Comments

Last night I resigned my position on the board of the St. Louis Regional Bike Federation. At issue was THF Realty, the builder of sprawling big box projects such as Maplewood Commons on Hanley.

Why would a developer be an issue to a bike group?

Simple, someone over at THF Realty likes bicycling so they give money each year to various local groups, including the St. Louis Regional Bike Federation. Because of this I’m supposed to show good judgement by not speaking out against them.

In a recent interview for Point to Point Cycling News I was asked the following question:

Resolve this conundrum: THF Realty is responsible for some of the most anti-pedestrian developments in St. Louis and elsewhere. Yet, they are also the biggest financial supporter, by far, of cycling events and teams in the area. Is this just a big PR stunt. Should cyclists be a bit more critical of this support?

Here was my response:

Thank you for asking this question. I’d love to see the entire cycling community refuse money from THF. THF is wreaking havoc on the planet and accepting their money is an endorsement of how they gained the money. While we are working to make the built environment more connected and friendly to pedestrians and bicyclists they are profiting while creating anti-bike and anti-pedestrian sprawl.

For the full interview click here (PDF, see page 18).

THF Realty’s chairman is Stan Kroenke, #164 of the Forbes list of 400 Richest Americans with a net worth of $1.8 Billion. Kroenke’s wife is an heir to the Walton Family of Wal-Mart fame.

A few thousand dollars is sofa change to them yet it manages to keep otherwise vocal transportation advocates silent. This is hush money in my book. It seems to be effective. You get a group used to some money and pretty soon they come to expect it. Once they expect it they become dependent on it and fear the loss of the money. Wait, we’ve heard this before haven’t we? From the Post-Dispatch:

If Belleville turned down the tax incentives, would Wal-Mart look for a site elsewhere? “Oh yes, I’m sure we would,” Bornstein [of THF Realty] said.

And that lies at the center of the debate over TIFs. Cities feel as though they must give them. The existing Wal-Mart, about a mile away, is the largest producer of sales tax revenue in Belleville. That store, by the way, was expanded in 1993 with another TIF.

If Belleville won’t play ball, THF could buy land a half-mile away in Shiloh. Belleville would be left with nothing.

So the local bike community is in the same boat as Belleville; dependent upon on money from the big box and afraid to do anything about it. It really is sad that an organization that purports to improve the region for bicyclists is afraid to speak out against a company that is arguably one of the worst offenders in the St. Louis region — topping even Desco. Any individual, group or municipality that is in such a position is compromised beyond the point of being impartial. They’ve been bought. Credibility goes in the trash once you’ve been bought. Just ask Metropolis. [Note: see the comment below on Metropolis & my reply; 11/9 @ 4:20pm]

I will continue to push for bike racks throughout the city and a downtown bike station, just not as a board member of the St. Louis Regional Bike Federation.

– Steve

[UPDATE 11/9 @ 9:15am – I want to make it clear that I fully support the mission and work of the St. Louis Regional Bike Federation. I have been friends with a number of board members for years. For me personally I cannot sit quiet while the THF’s of the world run amuck. I will support programs of the Bike Fed (such as pushing for more bike parking), just not as a board member. I wish them all the best of luck. – SLP]


Currently there are "4 comments" on this Article:

  1. Warren says:

    I think you need to be more specific about where and how the Bike Federation has shied away from criticism of THF. An organization that exists to advocate on behalf of bicyclists should focus on building coalitions in order to push through practical changes. With that in mind, they’ll have to make plenty of pacts with plenty of devils: politicians, developers, state agencies.

    Bike Federation is not a think tank. They’re not the Urban Land Institute. Totally apart from the funding issue, what’s the point of picking a fight with some 100 ton gorrila like THF? If sleazy developers want to spend their ill-gotten gains on
    good causes like the Bike Federation, then I’m all for it — unless you can show some actual effect on the oganization’s freedom of speech.

    [REPLY – Yes, freedom of speech. When others in the group say i shouldn’t be speaking out against THF in public because they give $1,000/yr then we’ve got a freedom of speech issue. A pack implies, in my mind, some sort of give and take for mutual benefit. In the case of THF it is some good publicity in exchange for $1,000. The problem is what they are creating is so anti-bike than even $1,000,000/yr wouldnt’ be enough to undo what they’ve done. – SLP]

  2. Jeff says:


    I am glad you hold to your own convictions. I do hope you remain a bikefed member at least. You could assist in some fashion. Your ideas for bike parking are really needed. At least since your an LCI you will continue to provide support to the general biking community. Also there is always the MOBIKEFED (mobikefed.org). They aren’t as focused on transportational cycling as the bikefed but are making some good strides politically for bicycle safety here in Missouri. The recent “Safe Passing” Bill that has become Law comes to mind. See you on the road someday and reading more “urban insights” on your blog.

    Keep Cycling,


  3. Bill Clendenin says:

    Steve, I was reading with interest your post on resigning from the St. Louis Regional Bicycle Federation when I arrived at the part where you said “Credibility goes in the trash once you’ve been bought. Just ask Metropolis.”

    IÂ’m a member of the MetropolisÂ’ steering committee, and I think youÂ’ve got us confused with somebody else.

    If weÂ’ve been bought, I can tell you that we havenÂ’t received the checks yet. These days weÂ’re almost entirely supported by membership dues and our own fundraising events. In the past year weÂ’ve put on 65 plus events without having office space or a single paid employee. Even if we were funded by other organizations (we are not), our actions would still be guided by one thing and one thing alone: our mission.

    Say what you will about our credibility, but this past year has been a good one for Metropolis. We had 2,500 people show up for the Lot, and, perhaps more importantly, we had 35 people show up to discuss Jane JacobsÂ’ The Death and Life of Great American Cities. We also held Race Around the Lou, an event that promoted the use of public transportation in the City, and we had 39 teams participate. Recent events have featured Rollin Stanley, Jeff Smith, Rachel Storch, Ron Jackson, Peter Downs, Lana Stein, Veronica OÂ’Brien, Jim Shrewsbury, Mike Jones, Flint Fowler, Bill Purdy, and many others. I know IÂ’ve seen you at a couple of events.

    Metropolis certainly has its problems (lack of diversity, web site issues, Ed Golterman keeps sending us nasty e-mails), but being bought is not one of them. During my time on the steering committee, we have never made a decision based on who has written us a check.

    As IÂ’ve told you in person, I enjoy your blog and I read it on a daily basis. Nonetheless, I found your statement about Metropolis to be out of left field. It was certainly false.

    [REPLY – Bill I think you are right. My comment was based on my perception of Metropolis in the past when it hit a low point. I do think some folks became too chummy at one point. Thank you for calling me on my off the cuff comment — it was based on an outdated perception. The new steering committee has been working hard to bring Metropolis back to life. My apologies. – SLP]

  4. Scott Rendall says:

    For the record, I didn’t know that THF had given any money to St. Louis Bike Fed when I asked Steve the question. Still, as a volunteer, one would expect that Steve shouldn’t be obligated in any way to promote any of the donors to the Fed. In fact, the money they have donated is to promote the policies of the Bike Fed, not their own views. Steve’s comment was consistent with Bike Fed’s position that bikes should have better access to roads and businesses, etc. I also wasn’t interviewing him as a spokesperson for the Fed, therefore it would only be fair to expect him to voice his own opinion on the question. I am surprised that members of the Fed objected to this, and as Steve has staked his reputation on the thoughtfulness of his opinions, I’m not surprised he resigned rather than deal with people asking him to temper his comments. I am not interested in starting a fight on the subject, but one could imagine that the Fed could raise the $1,000 from other sources if they took a stand on money from companies like THF.

    Scott Rendall
    Point to Point Cycling News


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