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Kingshighway Viaduct and Tower Grove Avenue

November 3, 2014 Bicycling, Featured, Planning & Design, Transportation 1 Comment

In the late 90s I lived in Dutchtown and worked on Union at I-70, three days a week I commuted by bike. I’d vary the route somewhat but it always included Tower Grove Ave.  Many St. Louis area cyclists use Tower Grove Ave as their preferred north-south route but that may change in early 2015. They’re concerned about increased auto traffic during the 18 months while the Kingshighway viaduct is being replaced.

The crumbling Kingshighway viaduct
The crumbling Kingshighway viaduct will soon be history

Here’s the deal:

Starting in early 2015 Kingshighway will close between Shaw and Vandeventer for a year and a half as an aging bridge over railroad tracks is rebuilt. This arterial road carries 45,000 vehicles per day, and traffic on nearby roads is expected to increase as a result. The primary detours will be along Vandeventer, Shaw, and McRee, which will be reconfigured to accommodate more traffic. Still, the concern is that excess traffic will spill over into other streets, particularly during rush hour. To address this, the City aims to increase traffic capacity along Tower Grove Avenue between Magnolia and Shaw (blue segment on map below) during peak hours by prohibiting parking and allowing two lanes of traffic. (Safe Tower Grove Ave)

The following announcement was retrieved from the Streets Dept page on 11/2/2014:

NOTE REGARDING TOWER GROVE: A road diet and buffered bike lanes on Tower Grove Avenue from Magnolia to Shaw are part of Phase III of Bike St. Louis and all partners are committed to executing that plan. When the Kingshighway bridge construction begins in early 2015, the following things will happen:

  1. The East side of Tower Grove Avenue from Magnolia to Shaw will be posted “No Parking” between 7-9 am and the west side will be No Parking between 4-6 pm;towing enforced.
  2. We will paint a bikeable shoulder to be used by bicyclists during these peak times. We will maintain the share the road markings in the outside traffic lanes for use by bikes at non-peak times (when parked cars are present).
  3. In addition alternate bike routes will be signed as a detour just as we do with vehicle traffic. 
  4. Alternate routes for cyclists will include creating a biking and walking friendly renovation of the Thurman Underpass.
  5. Traffic levels will be monitored and evaluated regularly for changes – This could include additional parking restrictions or reducing parking restrictions and adding bike facilities.

We will install the full Phase III Bike St. Louis improvements along Tower Grove Ave as quickly as possible after monitoring how the closure is affecting all forms of traffic. We look forward to adding this and many more signage and markings to make City of St. Louis streets better for bicycles!

The response from Matthew Wyczalkowski of Safe Tower Grove Ave:

While the City’s proposal is inexpensive and represents minimal change for drivers, in our discussion it was widely seen as confusing and unsafe. As an example, when there are just a few parked cars (right after rush hour, for instance) many cyclists will be guided to the painted “bikeable shoulder”. Drivers will expect cyclists to ride there as well. When coming upon a parked car, though, the rider will have to quickly enter the travel lane. This is intimidating and dangerous for cyclists as well as for drivers, who will be surprised to have a bicycle suddenly appear in front of them just as the lane narrows. Alternatively, cyclists may choose to ride where the sharrows (shared lane markings) are, regardless of parked cars. This is the safer and more predictable option, but leaves the rider vulnerable to aggressive drivers who may even try to pass on the right.

The main task of bike lanes is to provide consistent guidance for all users of the road, so that cyclists know where to best position themselves, and drivers know where to expect bicycles. The City proposal provides no such service. It is confusing and open to interpretation, and is thus more dangerous than no bike lanes at all.

Tower Grove Ave looking North toward Shaw
Tower Grove Ave looking North toward Shaw

The cyclists considered three alternatives to the city’s plan:

  1. No change, keep it as is during construction
  2. Buffered bike lanes, do the planned buffered bike lanes before construction starts
  3. Parking protected lanes

They unanimously supported the buffered bike lanes for Tower Grove Ave. Implementing this next phase of the Bike St. Louis plan now is a smart way to mitigate the issues we’ll face when traffic on Kingshighway is detoured to other roads. By making Tower Grove Ave less desirable for cyclists we risk them driving during the 18 month construction period, making traffic worse.

We need a coherent & connected bike network to allow those who wish to commute by bike to do so. Our public right-of-ways have generous width, enough for pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists to share. Read & sign their petition here.

— Steve Patterson


Currently there is "1 comment" on this Article:

  1. Bobby Nut says:

    They need to pay attention to NYC. When they add bike lines traffic decreased.


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