Home » Bicycling » Recent Articles:

2006 Gateway Cup Comes to Downtown Loft District

August 31, 2006 Bicycling, Downtown, South City, St. Louis County Comments Off on 2006 Gateway Cup Comes to Downtown Loft District

I wanted to write a lot about the annual Gateway Cup bike races but I simply don’t have the time to do so. Here is the Reader’s Digest condensed version:

  • Awesome event! Cyclists come from all over the midwest to compete in these races.
  • Friday night is the kickoff around Lafayette Square, a very urban experience.
  • In the past few years the Saturday event has been at a park in Kirkwood but this year it will be the loft district west of Tucker (14th to 20th). This will be a great venue with many photo opportunities. In the morning is the Tour de Judy charity bike ride along the riverfront with the first race starting at 2:30pm and the last race starting at 7pm.
  • Sunday is on the Hill, a much different setting architecturally but a wonderful time.
  • Monday is on the Loop.
  • I’m not fond of the major sponsor, THF Realty, but I go anyway to support the racers.
  • Bring cash for food, beverages and t-shirts. Sunscreen is also a good idea for the day events.

If you attend these one or all of these races, please be especially careful in attempting to cross the course as the racers are going quite fast. Most of the courses are closed except at a few designated spots. When the field of riders makes it by look for any stragglers before crossing — we don’t want to see anyone seriously injured.

Attendance is quite high at these events and streets are closed to hold them so plan on doing some walking. The Union Station station for MetroLink is the ideal exit for those attending the Friday evening races in Lafayette Square or the downtown races on Saturday afternoon (the Civic Center station would also work for the downtown races). For Monday’s race in the Loop you can use the Delmar station or if coming from the Shrewsbury direction take either the U-City/Big Bend or Skinker stations and head up to Delmar. Many spectators also cycle to the events.

Enjoy the weekend of bike racing!

– Steve


I’m Too Old For a Student Transit Pass

I keep telling myself that being just shy of 40 is not too old to return to college for a Masters. My first class in grad school starts a week from today. But, faced with hostel SLU safety officers that don’t like my scooter locked out of the way on the sidewalk and parking rates ranging from $145 to $1200+ a semester I’m considering bus transit to get me to my two classes this semester.

Sadly, our transit agency thinks I’m too old for a transit pass (source). In fact, I’ve been too old for the last 16 years! Ouch.

Full-time students age 23 and younger with a valid Student ID card who attend a registered school are eligible to purchase a Student Semester Pass for only $125.00 (valid for the fall 2006 semester)! Please check with your school to see if they are currently registered with Metro.

Well, I’m only part-time this Fall anyway. I did manage to save $2 at the Chase the other night by flashing my student ID when purchasing a ticket for The Devil Wears Prada.

On the plus side I will be able to qualify for the senior discount in just over 25 years. Assuming, that is, they don’t raise the senior age by the time I get there.

In truth my 15-week semester with two classes would require only $52.50 in bus fare per the new rates which take effect on August 28th — the day before my first class. I’m looking at biking to the #70 Grand bus and then using it to get to the SLU campus, biking the rest of way to class. Weather and energy permitting I may simply decide to bike home rather than taking the bus. Having my bike would give me the freedom to stop at the store and pick up a few items or head to a coffee house to study. From my door to class I estimate about 45 minutes via this method — about 15+ minutes longer than if I rode my scooter. Driving my car would also save time but there I run the risk of getting parking tickets if parked more than 90 minutes at a meter (the classes are 2.5 hrs long).

Taking the bus certainly looks good, even for us old students.

– Steve


Hosteling Organization May Actually Open a Hostel

For decades the Gateway Council of Hostelling International holds the hugely popular annual fundraiser, the Moonlight Ramble. Each year thousands help raise money for a group whose mission includes youth travel yet does not operate a local hostel. I was critical of this practice last year (see post). It looks as though the group is closer to having a local hostel:

After 90 days of “due diligence,” Gateway Council Board of Directors has entered into a period of negotiation with the University of Missouri at St Louis. Negotiations center around office space, room cost, liability, signage, and renewability of lease. The Gateway Council is interested in creating a kitchen and dining space so the communal nature of hostelling is enhanced; University of Missouri at St Louis is receptive to this idea. The University is also making minor repairs and is painting all rooms.

This is good news indeed.

For years St. Louis has had a single hostel, the Huckleberry Finn Youth Hostel, on the edge of Soulard and thus near downtown. This hostel was previously listed as an official International Hostelling location but a few years ago the owner decided to stop paying the fee for the listing. It was never owned or managed by the local chapter, being privately owned instead. The hostel gets very mixed reviews. At roughly $20/night it is the only affordable choice for many, in particular those dependent upon public transit.

Back to the Gateway Council. They’ve been raising money for years although reports show much of what is raised is actually spent on hosting the fundraiser itself. But it looks like they are getting closer to opening their own hostel in the region. A location at UMSL has both good and bad implications (as would most sites). On the plus side it is facility that was designed as a dorm and is convenient to MetroLink light rail. On the down side it is really a a fair distance from downtown.

Many hostel travelers may arrive via train or bus so transit is very important. Getting from the current bus station to MetroLink is not the easiest although it is just as easy, if not easier, as getting to the hostel in Soulard. Once the new multi-model station opens the bus and train will be in one location right at the Civic Center MetroLink/MetroBus station on 14th. From Metro’s schedules it appears to be a 20 minute ride to UMSL South. To anyone arriving via Lambert Airport this hostel location would be ideal. The real problem is as people are sightseeing downtown and throughout the city they’ll have to go a long way to get back to their rooms. Perhaps that is the price they must pay for cheap accommodations?

A hostel on Delmar east of the MetroLink station would be a perfect location. With transit nearby and many cheap eats in the Loop we could really impress young travelers that one day may return as new residents. Obviously the local organization must work with the budget they’ve got and properties as they become available.

Last night the annual Moonlight Ramble was held in downtown St. Louis. At 10pm cyclists were arriving en mass for the midnight start. It is truly a great event. Hopefully the local organizers will realize increasing proceeds so as to be able to fully fund a local hostel.

– Steve

PS – For those who like to correct spelling please make note: My spell check and the dictionaries I consulted all list the spelling as hosteling — one L. However, the official organization uses two Ls, hostelling. You’ll see it spelled both ways above as I spelled their name as they list it and per the dictionaries otherwise.


Vespa Petitioning to Convert Some Auto Parking to Two-Wheel Parking

Vespa is the most well known of scooter makers and you’ll see plenty of the Italian jobs on the streets of St. Louis. But they are also pretty determined to create an even bigger market for themselves and their competition. They realize parking is an issue keeping more people from using a small and efficient scooter over the family SUV. Enter the Vespa Petition, or Vespatition:

Parking for All! Sign the Vespatition to convert some automobile spaces to two-wheel spaces!

By signing the Vespatition, you are promoting the conversion of some automobile parking spaces to two-wheel spaces. The results will be publicized and sent to your local mayor.

Just as parking spaces for compact cars and handicapped parking stalls have increased efficiency and convenience in urban and suburban communities, officially designated two-wheel parking facilities can do the same.

Government agencies should consider removing the two-wheeler from the four-wheeler parking space and placing it in its own, scaled down zone. This is a simple concept that can be embraced by city councils, urban planners, local merchants, contractors, shopping center management and private businesses whenever parking for motor vehicles is provided.

Here are some suggestions for motorcycle/scooter parking that we are proposing:

Street-legal parking – convert a number of existing parking spaces every couple of streets to motorcycle/scooter parking

•Spaces can be metered or un-metered
•The smaller size of two-wheel vehicles allows them to fit into unoccupied areas on streets and sidewalks, creating efficiencies in urban planning and increasing city revenues (if metered).
•Six motorcycles, scooters or limited-access motorcycles carrying from six to twelve people can be parked in the area normally taken up by one automobile. If, however, no motorcycle parking facility is provided in the area, one would possibly find those six motorcycles occupying up to six separate automobile spaces.

Convert unused space – cement curbs of a certain size can be converted to two-wheel parking. A specialized parking area for motorcycles and scooters not only leaves more space for the automobiles, but also caters to the riders’ needs by providing a well-lit, convenient and secure location in which they may confidently leave their vehicle. Such facilities can be small in area and can usually be located near a building entrance or at the end of a parking island.

Parking garages – designate parking spaces in municipal garages for two-wheel vehicles. Create a more equitable rate structure for two-wheel vehicle parking in private garages.

Sidewalk parking – permit scooters and motorcycles to be parked in designated areas on sidewalks and locked to structures which currently accommodate bicycles.

Designating scooter/motorcycle parking is one of the most urban things we could do in the St. Louis region. This ranks up there with actually having designated bicycle racks! This petition from Vespa is part of their Vespanomics website — a platform on oil dependence and how two-wheel transportation can help with the issue. It only has a few links to their main website — it is not a thinly veiled attempt at the environment just to sell you a scooter. In fact, Vespa has done a good job overall about being inclusive of other competing brands.

Local and national government leaders are charged with establishing transportation policies that address both short-term and long-term problems, are environmentally responsible and truly benefit the American consumer. With the support of federal, state and local governments, new options like scootering can bring immediate and substantial economic and environmental benefits to Americans and the communities in which they live.

To facilitate the adoption of scootering, U.S. Mayors and other elected officials should consider providing dedicated parking for scooters and motorcycles.

Now is the time to broaden the dialogue about America’s addiction to oil and its dependency on foreign imports in a way that includes technological as well as behavioral solutions.

I ask that everyone of you reading this take a minute and click on the above link to sign the petition. Doesn’t matter if you have a scooter or not or where you live. Just fill out the form to help support a more friendly policy toward parking for two-wheeled vehicles.

Of course if Vespa sends this to Mayor Slay they are kinda wasting their time as the Mayor’s office has little control over parking in the city. Our planning agency has little say either! No, parking in St. Louis is the responsibility of the Treasurer! Yes, Treasurer. Presumably accounting types know best when it comes to parking. The logic being parking is a revenue source so that belongs to the Treasurer. Not sure when this became part of the city’s charter but it is F’d up if you ask me. Larry Williams has been Treasurer of St. Louis since 1981. As you might expect, he ran unchallenged in the last election in 2004.

While we are on parking, we need to switch from individual meters and marked spaces to the more free-flowing parking model of progressive cities and institute a “pay-n-display” system for paying. The reason is short cars like mine do not need anywhere near as much as a Chevy Suburban or a Hummer. With more and more shorter cars around we can likely squeeze in another space per block. With four sides to a block and a good 40 blocks in the CBD we could easily get another 160 cars right in front of local businesses. Of course, using some of this newfound space for scooter/motorcycle parking would be wise.

Related Prior Posts:
•St. Louis Region Needs to Address Parking for Scooters & Motorcycles, April 2006
•Parking on Washington Avenue — Finally!, February 2006

Again, please sign the Vespatition!

– Steve


Celebrate Your Independents Festival July 1, 2006

I’m passing along an announcement from my friends over at Business United for Local Independent Development, aka BUILD St. Louis:

BUILD St. Louis would like to invite you to our annual Celebrate Your Independents Festival! The party starts at 3 p.m. and goes on into the night on July 1, 2006 in the lot at the Schlafly Tap Room, located at 2100 Locust St. at 21st Street (map). What do we have going on this year?

The Big Tent – 50 independents business showcasing everything from Fair Trade Jewelry to home baked dog treats. Food to inspire the palate and colors to delight the senses. Build some community while you shop!

On the Stage – Set your feet to tapping and your hips to swaying with City Folk, the Red Headed Strangers, and Folknbluesgrass. If you haven’t heard them yet in the local music scene, then you don’t want to miss out on this Festival.

The Art Corner – Join Jenna at SCOSAG and let your imagination fly. If you’re the only one over 12 covered in finger paint, we promise not to tell. Bring the kids and get ready for fun.

Locally Grown Pie Contest – Do you know what’s in season here in Missouri? Can you whip up a mean pie? If the answer to both questions is yes, maybe, or I’d like to, then prizes may be in your future. Visit with the GreenMarket and the Clayton Farmer’s Market to pick up supplies and meet local farmers, then get to baking. If you just like pie, maybe we’ll let you help us judge. Email us at info@buildstlouis.org or call (314) 808-8032 for information on how to get your pie in the running.

Downtown Bike Tour – Join the St. Louis Bike Federation and BUILD St. Louis for a 6-mile bike tour of some great St. Louis neighborhoods. Don’t worry, even novice riders can make this one. Three stops at mystery independent businesses provide breaks and a history of the area. Bring 2 dollars if you’re not a Bike Federation member. We leave at 5pm from the Tap Room, so make sure to get to the festival early!

If you are an independent business and would like to get a booth for the festival, email us at info@buildstlouis.org or call (314) 808-8032. See you all at the Tap Room!

Many things to like about this event: locally owned businesses, pie, good music, pie, art, pie, and bicycles. And what is better after a six mile ride? Pie! Well, and some Schlafly beer! Sounds like a great event.

On an aside, can you believe the Tap Room has been open since 1991? They’ve done a great job with their building over the years but despite all the events and such they have always been this little island in the area. Slowly the area has seen other development such as the Sporting News Lofts at 2020 Washington. Next year many other buildings in the area will have new residents. Just goes to show that sometimes it takes a while for a seed to germinate.

The BUILD St. Louis Celebrate Your Independents Festival will be held on the Tap Room’s parking lot. I hope to see this land become so valuable that surface parking no longer makes financial sense. Building new on their surface lot would be a nice evolution for the local brew pub.

– Steve