We asked local bicyclists to share their stories of why a safe Tower Grove Avenue is important to them. Here Sonia Emmons offers her perspective.
I ride my bike to make connections – connections with city streets, neighborhoods, people, and the St. Louis cityscape. As a young woman, I treasure the sense of independence, self-reliance, and strength that I feel on my bike. I am a bike commuter and recreational rider, sometimes riding in a skirt and clogs, other times “clipping in” for speed. Tower Grove Ave is my ideal north-south route, linking Tower Grove Park and Forest Park with a low traffic connection. It feels like bikes are supposed to be there – it feels like “our” road, and we’ve generously let cars drive alongside us. This sense, even if not altogether accurate, is testament to how good it feels to ride on Tower Grove Avenue. Seeing riders of all ages and experience levels strengthens my belief that Tower Grove Ave is a road on which ALL bike riders feel welcome.
I believe that Tower Grove Ave’s accessibility has played an important role in increasing the number of bike riders in St. Louis, which in turn leads to a healthier population, less traffic congestion, decreased air pollution, and less dependency on fossil fuels. Bike riders are more likely to support local businesses rather than chain stores in shopping malls only accessible by car, and more bikes means more people outside interacting with each other (even if just a wave), strengthening communities and reducing crime. Bikes are also a practical transportation option for those who cannot afford or do not want to pay the $7,000 average annual cost of maintaining a car (American Public Transportation Association).
It would be a major setback for St. Louis if Tower Grove Ave were compromised as a bike route. Earlier this month, I attended a SafeTGA meeting and learned about the City’s proposed alterations to Tower Grove Ave when the Kingshighway viaduct construction begins in early 2015. The proposed lane changes during rush hour would create confusion and increased danger for cyclists – particularly new riders who may not anticipate the dangers the proposal creates. We unanimously agreed that buffered bike lanes are the safest solution for Tower Grove Avenue between Magnolia and Shaw, and that the City’s proposal should be dropped.
In one week, over 500 St. Louisans signed a petition in favor of putting buffered bike lanes on Tower Grove Ave before Kingshighway construction begins, in the hopes of protecting a treasured bike route. The Streets Department should NOT delay in putting buffered bike lanes on Tower Grove Ave, so St. Louis can preserve a street that offers safety, accessibility, and connectivity to all riders.
Sonia Emmons, 8th Ward Resident
About Sonia Emmons: Sonia is a resident of the Shaw neighborhood who makes her second home in Tower Grove Park. A native of St. Louis, she is completing the Masters of Social Work program at Saint Louis University with a concentration in Health and Mental Health. Sonia enjoys discovering the nooks, crannies, and hidden gems of St. Louis via bike.