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Bill Would Require A Pedestrian Access Route Separate From Vehicular Route

A bill was introduced to the Board of Aldermen on Friday that I’m very glad to finally see:

BOARD BILL NO. 92 INTRODUCED BY ALDERMAN SCOTT OGILVIE An ordinance pertaining to pedestrian access to buildings; establishing regulations for pedestrian access that primarily serves users of the subject property and for which dedication of public access rights is not required. (Board Bill 92)

Basically the bill makes it a requirement that buildings with public access have a pedestrian connection between the sidewalk and primary entrance. The route will be required to be separate from the vehicular route, the days of building new buildings and making pedestrians come/go through parking lots would be over.

ABOVE: Arby'd on Lindell has a pedestrian route separate from the automobile route

Those businesses that don’t have a pedestrian path are basically saying pedestrians aren’t welcome, if you want to spend money here you’ll have to take your chances walking in the driveways. If approved, this would be required of new construction and presumably major renovations.Board Bill 92 has been assigned to the Public Safety committee.

Thanks to Ald Scott Ogilvie for listening to me and taking steps to make St. Louis a better place for pedestrians.

– Steve Patterson


Currently there are "19 comments" on this Article:

  1. Eric says:

    1) This isn’t covered by ADA?
    2) What are the chances of this passing?

    • The ADA has an exception that makes it ok to have pedestrians enter though driveways. By doing so you’re saying pedestrians don’t matter, basically an exception created for suburbia. We’re a city, we have transit and pedestrians. Not sure on the chances of passing.

      • JZ71 says:

        My understanding is that the ADA requires a connection if there is either a public sidewalk or a public transit stop.  The only exception is if neither is present (which makes sense, since few pedestrians, especially those with disabilities, choose to walk / roll for great distances along roads that lack these amenities).

        You’re right, we are a city, and most of St. Louis already has public sidewalks.  If the connections aren’t happening already, it sounds like existing rules, regulations and laws aren’t being enforced / are being ignored.  Passing another law, which would nominally “make St. Louis a better place for pedestrians”, will boil down to enforcement and “exceptions”.

        • 2010 ADA Standards: “2. An accessible route shall not be required between site arrival points and the building or facility entrance if the only means of access between them is a vehicular way not providing pedestrian access.”

        • But “Advisory 206.2.1 Site Arrival Points. Each site arrival point must be connected by an accessible route to the accessible building entrance or entrances served. Where two or more similar site arrival points, such as bus stops, serve the same accessible entrance or entrances, both bus stops must be on accessible routes. In addition, the accessible routes must serve all of the accessible entrances on the site.”

        • And: “???Advisory 206.2.1 Site Arrival Points Exception 2. Access from site arrival points may include vehicular ways. Where a vehicular way, or a portion of a vehicular way, is provided for pedestrian travel, such as within a shopping center or shopping mall parking lot, this exception does not apply.”

  2. JZ71 says:

    Reading the text of the bill, I see several “gray” areas.  First, the bill states that ” Nearly one in four traffic fatalities in the City of St. Louis involves a pedestrian, and improving pedestrian safety is of paramount importance”.  While I don’t disagree with the basic assertion, it fails to identify how many of these deaths occur from pedestrians entering buildings (versus pedestrians hit crossing public streets or on the public sidewalk, or pedestrians who arrived in vehicles, then being hit in the parking lot) – are we trying to solve a problem that really doesn’t exist?

    Second, the bill would require both “The accessible route shall not deviate unnecessarily from a direct route or involve a significant amount of out-of-direction travel for likely users.”  AND “Where possible, the accessible route shall avoid crossing interior vehicle circulation patterns.”  Using the new U-Gas on Hampton (subject of a previous post), you can have one or the other, but not both.  Words like “unnecessarily” and “where possible” provide significant wiggle room for both owners and inspectors.

    Third, I’m confused by the requirement that “Where pathways and access ways are in, parallel to, or adjacent to a driveway or a public or private street, they shall be raised six (6) inches and curbed”.  The way I read this, I’m not sure what “curbed” means.  You curb a dog, you don’t “curb” a sidewalk (verb).  Raising a sidewalk by six inches, by definition, creates a curb on the road side.  Is the intent to also require a curb on the landscaping / building side?  To require a curb on top of the curb on the road side, to prevent wheel chairs from falling off?

    Finally, I’m confused by the intent of “When the accessible route is at grade with, and parallel to vehicle travel, it shall be separated by a landscaped berm, curb, or an equivalent means of protecting pedestrian users from vehicle traffic.”  One, a tree lawn is not the same thing as a landscaped berm – will a tree lawn be acceptable?  Two, how wide a space is required?  3′?  5′?  10′?  Three, is a “curb” really going to “protect” pedestrians from vehicle traffic?  Or, should a Jersey barrier be required?  A curb may make it harder for a vehicle to park in or on the pedestrian way, and it will help to better define the pedestrian path, but “protect”, I think not!

    Bottom line, having been involved in both crafting ordinance language and in applying it, I think this bill needs some significant work to make it truly enforceable.  Was the city attorney part of the process?  The buildings and streets departments?  The reality is that consistent enforcement depends on precise definitions and specific requirements.  Words that give people “an out” WILL be used by people who don’t want to comply, and there will be little the city can do to compel compliance.

    • I think the intent of the raised curb is so someone doesn’t just paint a path in the parking lot. A tree lawn or other physical separation should be fine.

      • The missing curb is a common characteristic of gas stations in the area. Sidewalks double as a means to get around stopped cars filling up with gas. 

        • JZ71 says:

          The proposed ordinance does contain a requirement for a curb if the pedestrian way is at the same level as the parking lot (which makes sense and addresses your concerns).  What confuses me is the requirement that attached sidewalks “shall be raised six (6) inches AND curbed” (emphasis added).  It’s not clear if raising the sidewalk 6″ above the driveway creates a curb OR if an additional (6″?) curb is required on top of the raised sidewalk?  It’s also not clear if a 6″ curb is the only option, or if greater heights (8″?) are also allowed?  It all boils down to precise language and constructability and maintainability . . . . laws, by definition, must be taken literally!

  3. RyleyinSTL says:

    Anything to help improve the current situation is very welcome.  It drives me bonkers that just about all new construction totally ignores the fact that some people actually do arrive to some destinations on foot.  Naturally the fix for all this is building the building close to the sidewalk and putting the parking in the back…..

    • JZ71 says:

      Reality check – if you put the parking “in back”, then the “front” door(s) ends up in back!  This is the classic example, and not at all atypical (at Chippewa & Lindenwood Place, not far from Ted Drewe’s):  https://maps.google.com/maps?q=chippewa+%26+lindenwood,+st+louis,+mo&hl=en&ll=38.594054,-90.298904&spn=0.000588,0.000862&sll=37.0625,-95.677068&sspn=27.699934,56.513672&t=h&hnear=Chippewa+St+%26+Lindenwood+Ave,+St+Louis,+Missouri+63109&z=20

      • RyleyinSTL says:

        That was a [poor] design choice, not a forgone conclusion.  An entrance could have been solely located on the front of the building, leaving drivers to walk around the building (on a sidewalk). That said, in this particular situation, things are much improved for the pedestrian as they do not have to wonder around a parking lot unprotected to enter the building.

        The new Jimmy John’s down the block is a great example of complete fail.  Better than a vacant gas station (or a new one), yes, but barely.  Look to the next door glazing and fabric shops for how it needs to be done.

        • JZ71 says:

          Agree, it was “not a forgone conclusion”.  Disagree that it “was a [poor] design choice”.  The architect designed and the owner built the original structure with equally-attractive storefronts on the back and front (and on both ends), including operable storefront doors.  The three tenants all CHOSE to orient their stores toward the parking and to ignore the public sidewalk.  You may view this as a poor design choice, but you’re not the one paying the rent, paying to construct the individual retail spaces or trying to make a profit.  All three tenants are trying to cater to the vast majority of their customers who want to drive and park.  Yes, “An entrance could have been solely located on the front of the building, leaving drivers to walk around the building”.  But then the owner would likely have been left with either a vacant building or one generating less rent.

          I support the ADA and the need to provide safe access for people who don’t or can’t drive.  I really don’t have a problem with the spirit of the proposed ordinance, either, although I question some of the language.  I do disagree with the concept that government needs to dictate design decisions in hopes of changing public behavior, especially when there is no real evidence that doing so will actually work!  You, Steve and others may choose not to drive, but you all are a distinct minority.  The majority of us appreciate the convenience of our private vehicles, and most of us choose to support businesses that make it easy for us to patronize them.  What right do you have to (attempt to) impose your will over my choices?  I have never said that all stores MUST be oriented toward free parking, nor have I ever told you that you can’t patronize traditional stores that line many of our city streets.  We live in a supposedly free country, and private businesses should be allowed to succeed or fail with minimal government interference in these types of design decisions!

          • GMichaud says:

             You should understand it is possible to design to serve all of the public, not just a segment.”Your” choices have ruined the choices of many others. St. Louis was once a city where you could comfortably be a pedestrian and take transit. “Your” choices at the expense of everyone else has made a city built for everyone a memory. Other cities, many other cities in the world manage to serve all of their population, they are not just designed to be made convenient for “you” and your automobile.
            This bill just takes a small step in correcting the huge gap that has developed over the years.  It is no different than the many other regulations to insure the safety and general welfare.
            It is in the public interest to have the City of St. Louis serve the whole population, not just a segment that imagine their needs are more important and a higher priority than everyone else.
            If anything city government needs to step up and have a more disciplined and structured approach to all of city planning, not just this small area of concern.
            A free for all with minimum government interference is what we have being doing for the last 60 years. It hasn’t worked.

          • Betty says:

            Zoning codes guide, and constrain, all sorts of design decisions, including the minimum number of parking spaces. The “free parking” is government mandated, and the cost of providing those spaces is rolled into rent. It is hardly a free market outcome.

          • JZ71 says:

            Yes, zoning usually requires a minimum number of parking spaces.  No, zoning does not require that it be free.  Yes, its cost is a part of the rent.  But, for most retailers, if the choice comes down to paying higher rent and providing parking or paying lower rent for comparable space, but without (“adequate”) parking, the choice will almost always be to pay the higher rent.

            Both drug store chains and fast food chains have invested heavily in building drive-thru windows over the past 20-30 years.  There is absolutely no government requirement to do so, they cost money, they consume “required” parking spaces / require more land and they complicate site planning, yet the stores CHOOSE to do so!  Why?  Simple, because they generate revenue, they offer something customers desire and use!  They make money, they generate a profit.  Do they suck from both an urban design and a pedestrian perspective?  Absolutely, but money talks.

            Free parking is the same thing.  Before World War II, it was a rarity.  After World War II, the stores that started to offer free parking did better than those that didn’t.  Success breeds imitation, zoning is secondary.  Yes, zoning can be changed to require pretty much anything.  The downside, especially given our fragmented governmental structure in the region, is that users (will) continue to have choices.  Make it too onerous to do business in the city and business won’t do business in the city.  In my mind, the better path is to reward good behavior (shop at stores that invest in good urban design, provide zoning incentives) than it does to try to punish “bad” behavior via government fiat.

  4. In a nutshell: This is just a little addition to the building code to make it more clear that access to the door from the sidewalk shouldn’t be solely through a parking lot, when there is an adjacent sidewalk. The current code is a little vague on the issue right now. There are plenty of places that are already doing this, but there are also some notable misses from the last few years. Steve’s photo is a good example of what would be in compliance. The new U-Gas on Hampton also fits the bill. New Walgreen’s generally handle this acceptably as well. As a for instance, the access to the Restaurant Depot on Manchester would not be in compliance. 

  5. JZ71 says:

    Related – Analysis: Cities with More Walkers, Bike Commuters are Less Obese 

    Among the statements made in the article is that “Approximately half of Fort Collins-Loveland, Colo., metro area residents are neither overweight nor obese. That might not sound like a lot, but it’s the highest percentage of healthy residents of all metro areas surveyed . . . ”  This is an area that is more like St. Charles County than St. Louis City – new and sprawling – so it raises the questions of why, what’s different?  Demographics (younger)?  Weather (better)?  Peer pressure?  A large university presence?  Immigrants from elsewhere?  More bike lanes and bike paths?  Employers who embrace alternatives (New Belgium Brewing)?  Better public transit?  I’d say all of the above, it’s not just one thing. 

    My take is it’s not really the little things here (like connections between the public sidewalk and the front door), it’s more of a macro issue, a combination of an overall environment that doesn’t embrace walking and cycling and too many missing links / barriers to non-vehicular trips.  Because of how our geography is (significant waterways) and how our infrastructure has evolved over many years (railroads, bridges, transit, freeways, etc.), getting between neighborhoods and/or getting to major shopping areas can be a real challenge if one doesn’t (want to) drive.  While this bill would help the last 50′ or 200′, I’m more concerned with the bigger physical barriers.  If you can’t get to the property line, it doesn’t matter if you’re on a dedicated path or in the parking lot . . .


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