Venturing beyond Tower Grove Avenue, we are exploring the state of St. Louis bicycle infrastructure. Using only the Bike St. Louis map and on-road signage as a guide, we’re seeing what its like to elsewhere ride in St. Louis and what the bike lanes, paths, and shared markings are like. Today (8/4/13) we rode to North St. Louis, following miles of new and old designated Bike St. Louis routes from The Grove neighborhood to St. Louis North and back. Joining us were Debbie, Stacy, Vanity, Brett, and Matt.
Our plan went awry from the start, when one of the rider’s tires, bulging ominously, required a detour to Big Shark on Delmar. Fixed, we rode Delmar east to the new Ruth Porter Mall trail, a new section of dedicated bicycle trail running north from Delmar at De Baliviere. Getting to the path from eastbound Skinker was perilous: there is no signage and no left turn lane, definitely a challenging situation for a novice rider. Once on this trail, the ride was a delight: wide path through a quiet neighborhood. At Etzel the path goes east and is effectively a wide sidewalk, but the signage is good and the street quiet. The path ends at Skinker, but an extension is promised with signs and graphics.
We then rode north on Goodfellow for several miles to Riverview Boulevard. The first section of this road is residential and relatively quiet, but in time it becomes a wide three lane road with minimal bike markings. On a Sunday the traffic was light and all was well, but heavy traffic on this arterial would not make for an enjoyable ride. We lost the bike route at McLaran because of incorrect signage, but found it again and continued on to the traffic circle and onto southbound Riverview. The bike lanes here are nice if faded, but they disappear when you need them most, at confusing intersections where cars suddenly merge into the space you thought was yours. The left turn from Riverview onto Florissant found us in the leftmost of two turning lanes, an unpleasant situation a bit of signage (or experience) could easily prevent. We then continued to North Kingshighway and found our way to the Penrose Park Velodrome.
The velodrome is a hidden gem, a spark of bike culture in a part of town that could use a bit more care and attention. We then headed south on Euclid, through neighborhoods whose fortunes change with dizzying speed, all the way through the Barnes Jewish campus, over the pedestrian bridge onto Clayton and back in the Grove.
It is clear that not all bike lanes are created equal, and you need more than just red lines on a map to make for a viable bike route. But the infrastructure that exists is, at worst, a good starting point for future progress, and in some places its world-class. This isn’t a route we’d have taken if it weren’t for the bike routes, the locals were friendly, and it was a great experience.