Fifteen years ago this morning a safety expert was killed while walking across 4th street.
ST. LOUIS — A Washington state woman who was one of the country’s top experts on bicycle and pedestrian safety was killed yesterday morning when she was struck by a tour bus while crossing a downtown intersection here.
Susie Stephens, 36, of Winthrop, Wash., was struck shortly after 8:30 a.m.
The driver of the Vandalia Bus Lines vehicle told police he did not see Stephens as he made a left turn.
Stephens, a consultant, was in St. Louis to help stage a conference on innovative approaches to transportation sponsored by the Forest Service, said William “Bill” Wilkinson of the National Center for Bicycling and Walking in Washington.
Stevens was just a year older than me.
There have been numerous events remembering her since she was killed here, this one from 2015 is touching:
The 2015 Stihl Tour des Trees began in Orlando Oct. 25. From there the group cycled 103 miles to Ruskin. Then 70 miles to Sarasota and 93 miles to Punta Gorda. Wednesday morning the group left for the 70 mile ride to Matlacha Park where they planned to plant a Live Oak Tree.
“In the course of this tour we will plant 13 new trees,” DiCarlo said. “Today’s tree is dedicated to Susie Stevens and The Susie Forest. Sadly Susie Stevens was struck and killed by a bus crossing the street in St. Louis in 2002. Her mother, Nancy McCarrow, has been volunteering for many years with the Stihl Tour des Trees planting trees in remembrance of her daughter. We call this collection of trees ‘The Susie Forest’. (Source)
Hopefully the next mayor will take pedestrian experience & safety seriously.
Part of the implied contract when taking a bus to a destination is when you’re dropped off at your stop, you’ll be able to get to the corresponding stop in the opposite direction for the return trip. Seems simple enough, right? But in many parts of the St. Louis region being able to reach a bus stop in the opposite direction is impossible if you’re disabled. I don’t go looking for them, I run across them just going about my life.
Since the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 became law, transit operators, like Metro St. Louis, formerly Bi-State Development Agency, have equipped their fleet of buses with either a lift or ramp in new low-floor models. This permits those us who use wheelchairs to board every bus with access to hundreds of routes throughout the region — theoretically, at least. Bus routes are operated on municipal/county roads throughout our region. The responsibility for these public rights-of-way (PROW) are that of the municipality, county, or state — depending upon the entity that has assumed responsibility. Regardless, the transit agency generally isn’t responsible for the pedestrian infrastructure (sidewalks, curb cuts. etc) to/from their bus stops.
Today’s example involves a 2.5 mile stretch of Manchester Ave from McCausland Ave to Kingshighway Blvd — all in the City of St. Louis. A third of this stretch is fronted by the St. Louis Marketplace — a strip retail center that opened in 1992 — it was St. Louis’ very first TIF project. A former industrial area was reclaimed for retail by relocating railroad tracks further away from Manchester. The entire site was new from scratch and post-ADA. Furthermore, Manchester Ave has had a bus route for the entire 26 years I’ve lived in St. Louis — probably for at least 3-4 decades. For years it was the #59, but after the Cross County MetroLink line opened in 2006 the #59 stops at Maplewood and the #32 was extended West to Maplewood.
The morning of August 11th my husband forgot his phone, so I decided to take it to him. His morning client lives a few blocks North of Manchester Ave. in the Franz Park neighborhood (aka Dogtown), 24th ward. With my car key I was able to leave his phone in the door pocket and a note on the seat. I needed to return to Manchester Ave and catch the #32 Eastbound.
When I boarded the bus from this stop the driver asked me how I managed to get to the stop! On the bus I noticed a stop further East that I’ve blogged about before.
I paid attention to all the stops as we passed each one. I decided I needed to look at the entire stretch, not just one stop here or there. Again, the distance between Kingshighway and McCausland is 2.5 miles. There are 12 MetroBus stops in each direction. All 12 in the Westbound direction are accessible — not ideal but adequate. However, in the Eastbound direction only half are accessible/adequate.
Six aren’t accessible, although I was able to power through the grass to reach one of them. Four of these six inaccessible bus stops are in front of the St. Louis Marketplace, the retail development that was created 100% from scratch after the ADA became law. Let’s take a look.
Previous posts on a couple of bus stops on this stretch of Manchester:
I looked through the materials — many of which are Google Street View screen captures. They couldn’t even come take photographs? One page explained a lot about the view of the developer & architects:
The final vote on BB64 will likely take place tomorrow, hopefully the full board will reject it outright. Many signatures have been collected on petitions opposing the vacation of 17th St, from numerous adjacent condo projects. The Downtown Neighborhood Association has also gone on record in opposition. We want to see the Monogram/CPI building occupied, but not at our expense. The public uses 17th Street daily.
I thought I was done pointing out glaringly bad intersections for pedestrians, but on Saturday I went through one that was odd. Yesterday I returned to study. Usually when I cross Olive Street at 18th I do so on the East side of 18th. Though I’ve lived nearby for over 8 years, I can’t think of one time I crossed Olive on the West side — until Saturday afternoon.
We were headed to the St. Louis Science Center, catching MetroLink and then a MetroBus. Knowing we’d need to be on on the West side of 18th I crossed at Locust and headed South. At Olive I pressed the button for a walk signal — something I shouldn’t need to do in a pedestrian-friendly city. The traffic light turned green but the pedestrian signal remained don’t walk. We were in a hurry to catch the train so we went based on the green traffic signal. Yesterday morning I went back to try to figure out why I didn’t get a walk signal after pressing the button. What I found is this intersection is one of the most inconsistent in the city.
Each crossing point in an intersection is called a leg, typical intersections have four legs. Intersections where are four are treated consistently is a challenge, but the is among the worst — if not the worst in the city. And it’s recent work!
At the NW corner of 18th & Olive I see the traffic light turn green and the pedestrian signal remain on don’t walk. I press the button at the next red and when the light turns green the pedestrian signal remains don’t walk. At the next red I press the other button marked for crossing 18th Street. This time when the light turns green the pedestrian signal gives a walk symbol. It should be noted, the pedestrian signal to cross 18th St always gives a walk sign when the traffic signal is green.
Pushing a button to cross Olive but not a side street is consistent with the other intersections redone along Olive at the same time. After posting about Olive & Leffingwell in April I was told by the City’s bike/ped coordinator, Jamie Wilson, that a button was necessary to cross Olive there because vehicle traffic on Leffingwell is infrequent and they didn’t want to stop traffic on Olive to cycle through stops when there were no pedestrians or vehicles to cross. Makes sense…at Leffingwell. Leffingwell is one of the many streets where the city gave away the public right-of-way to private interests a block South of Olive. PROW that doesn’t so through sees fewer vehicles & pedestrians.
Back to 18th & Olive — 18th Street is always a busy street. Recently many MetroBus routes were moved to 18th. So switch the buttons and it’s fine? I decided to check every corner to see. So I pressed the button to cross 18th so I’d get a walk signal to cross Olive.
At the SW corner I pressed the button to cross Olive. Like the NW corner, I didn’t get a walk sign. Thinking it must also be reversed like the NW corner, I pressed the button to cross 18th. Still nothing, neither button activates the walk signal for NB pedestrians wanting to cross Olive on the West side of 18th Street!
I crossed 18th to the SE corner — no button is necessary — these always give the walk signal when vehicles get a green light. Interestingly, the pedestrian signal gives a walk sign when the traffic light is green regardless of the button or not. It’s possible pressing the button adds additional crossing time. I crossed to the NE corner.
Southbound pedestrians don’t need to press the button to cross Olive on the East side of 18th. Same as those crossing NB. What’s different is those crossing SB get a countdown timer, those crossing NB do not.
So I have many questions for Jamie Wilson:
Why only one countdown timer?
Why do three legs automatically get a walk sign, while the forth doesn’t?
Why don’t NB pedestrians on the West side of 18th ever get a walk sign?
For the legs where pedestrians do get a walk sign, does pressing the button give additional crossing time?
Why not have all four legs automatically get a walk sign?
It should be noted this work was done prior to Mr. Wilson starting his current position. It was done either by the Board of Public Service (BPS) or the Streets Dept, not sure which. Hopefully I’ll know more soon, and the city will clean up this intersection’s bad pedestrian experience.
BB64 passed unanimously in committee, though Downtown Neighborhood Association Executive Director Jared Opsal spoke against it. Had we all known about it we would’ve packed the hearing room. Which is why the developer & Ald Davis didn’t tell us. However, my post today isn’t about BB64, it’s about the broader issue of notification about street vacations.
The fact that a bill giving away a public right-of-way (PROW) so many of us use daily could move so quickly before being noticed is shocking. I don’t want this to happen to others in the city. Your alderman might tell you of such things, but not all of us are that lucky.
What we need is a process for public notice, not unlike the one used for liquor licenses, zoning changes, etc. I think it need several components:
Posted notice at the location for at least 15-30 days in advance of first hearing
Mailed notice to property owners within 500′-1,000′ of location
The same should apply to blocking an end of a street, severing the street grid. It was the street grid that first attracted me to St. Louis 25+ years ago, it has been painful watching as we repeatedly make short-sided decisions here and there. Death by a thousand cuts.
I urge the Board of Aldermen to establish a process of notification regarding proposed street closures & vacations.
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