Kea Wilson has heard her share of complaints about the so-called “Ingrassia balls” recently installed in her south city neighborhood along Compton Avenue.
Some people worry about the concrete spheres being hit by vehicles and rolling down the street, as several in fact have. But Wilson, director of community engagement for the organization Strong Towns, said on Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air that there’s a more serious issue at stake.
“My response to [concerns about rolling balls] is, ‘Thank God a person wasn’t standing right there … where that ball was,’ she told host Don Marsh. “When you have vehicles moving at a speed fast enough to unseat a concrete ball from its foundations and send it rolling down the street, you’ve got a problem. When you have vehicles moving fast enough to kill a human being in a neighborhood where you’re expecting human beings to walk, you have an issue.”
Wilson described traffic calming as a growing movement to narrow roads, add pedestrian amenities and slow down traffic naturally “by adjusting the perceived speed limit” in cities and towns.
She said that the often strong feelings about such efforts among road users have a lot to do with living in a city – and a nation – largely engineered around the needs of motorists.
“But we have people across the country who are primarily or exclusively pedestrians, primarily or exclusively bicycles, and I always like to remind you that every driver is a walker, too,” Wilson said. “A pedestrian is just another name for a person outside of a metal box.”
The conversation touched on the meaning of the term “stroad” – defined as a dangerous street/road hybrid – and some local examples of stroads.
Wilson also shared ideas for how citizens can help make a difference and find ways to keep people safer. One such avenue is “tactical urbanism,” she said, including grassroots efforts to install “temporary, reversible but nonetheless powerful changes” to one’s built environment.
“You can show your city officials that you’re making a case for more permanent interventions over time,” she added.
Wilson has written about the community-driven process leading up to the “Ingrassia balls” as well as related projects and ideas. She encouraged St. Louis residents to learn more about local traffic calming efforts and her organization, Strong Towns, by visiting strongtowns.org/local.
St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary Edwards, Alex Heuer, Evie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region.