Much has been written in the last few months about the Complete Streets legislation being considered by the St. Louis County Council, whose aim is to encourage the County’s Transportation Department to include more pedestrian and bicycle-friendly elements in road construction. See the bill and read stories by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, St. Louis Beacon, Trailnet, and the Missouri Bicycle Federation. Read also a Post-Dispatch editorial opposing Complete Streets as well as a rebuttal by Alderman Scott Ogilvie.
A recent Post-Dispatch story features Karen Karabell, a St. Louis bicycle activist who argues against Complete Streets. (We’ve written about discussions with Ms. Karabell here and here.) The enthusiasm of Karen Karabell’s opposition to Complete Streets today makes her full-throated support of past Complete Streets legislation quite surprising.
In 2009, Karen Karabell worked hard to promote the federal Complete Streets bill and flew to Washington DC to lobby for it in person. She encouraged readers of a local cycling mailing list to write their elected officials with the following talking points (see complete email):
- Complete streets policies ensure that the needs of all users of the transportation system–motorists, transit vehicles and riders, bicyclists, and pedestrians of all ages and abilities– are taken into account when streets are built or re-built. Over 90 states and communities already have complete streets policies, which are flexible and cost-effective.
- Complete streets improve safety, especially for children and older Americans. And if we are serious about ending our dependence on foreign oil, combating climate change, stemming obesity, and revitalizing communities, we need to build roads designed for all users, not just cars.
- Complete Streets don’t cost more to build; in fact, they generate revenue by increasing property values and promoting economic development. They save money by reducing transportation and healthcare costs.
Why has Karen Karabell changed her position on Complete Streets so radically? We don’t know. Everyone is entitled to their opinions, of course, as well as a right to change them. Still, those who assert for themselves public leadership acquire also a responsibility – at a minimum – for the appearance of thoughtfulness and consistency. Advocating opposite solutions to the same issue with equal zeal and enthusiasm, without acknowledgement or explanation of the contradictions, is a troublesome trait for an activist.