St. Louis’ first Bicycle/Pedestrian Coordinator plans to start collecting data on bicycle traffic as the city ramps up its efforts to improve alternative modes of transportation.
Traffic engineer Jamie Wilson began his new post with Street Department Oct. 5. According to Wilson, his work will rely on existing data provided by the city police department and the new data collected on bicycles to focus investments and improvements where they’re needed most in the city.
Mayor Francis Slay established Wilson’s position to improve pedestrian and bicycle transportation as part of his Complete Streets initiative.
Wilson is the former president of the local transportation engineering firm CBB and took a steep pay cut in accepting the new city position. His new annual salary is $59,774. While at CBB, Wilson led the company’s traffic operations division. Some of his recent work involved managing detour routes during the closure and reconstruction of Highway 40 (Interstate 64) along St. Louis' central corridor and redeveloping the intersection of Skinker Boulevard and Clayton Avenue to improve accessibility for pedestrians and bicyclists.
INTERVIEW HIGHLIGHTS WITH JAMIE WILSON
Private sector to public service
“It’s been an interesting transition: I’m not the boss anymore and while I love CBB, if it wasn’t for this opportunity that popped up with the city, I would’ve stayed there. I wasn’t looking to leave there at all. But this opportunity was a little too enticing to pass up. It was a struggle on the financial side. It’s well-known what the pay is for the position, but the trade-off to me is it’s really where my heart is.”
New focus for St. Louis
“It is new position (for the city of St. Louis), a new emphasis area for not only St. Louis but all over the county. The emphasis is shifting from traditional vehicular traffic only to considering all modes of transportation.
“We need someone running point for all the projects that go on within the city, not only internally within the city as far as our own internal, budgeted projects but for projects for private development – for anything that goes on in the city. And, if you have a consultant come in with a project [proposal], we need to make sure that all modes of transportation are taken into consideration.
“We’re making sure that all these projects fit into the bigger picture in the city in an organized way.”
“I’d characterize [St. Louis as having] a lot of share-the-road infrastructure out there. We’re starting to specialize a little more in the separate bike lanes and that takes an even more educated and logical approach to make sure we’re providing it in the best way we can. Ideally, everybody would have a lane everywhere. That’s obviously not physically possible from a roadway width and geometrics perspective, but we are looking at it in both the segments and how it fits into a system-wide approach. I think you’re going to see an improvement over the years."
"Safety is our overall mission here. We obviously have a demand increasing for bike and pedestrian use in the city so we’d like to focus on some of the area’s where safety is the biggest concern and that’s going to involve delving through all of the data that’s been accumulated from accident data from the city of St. Louis. And I’m going to look at that in more detail and focus on our highest priorities, the [areas] that we know are a problem right now and prioritize those first.
“We want to take it to the next level. We want to start adding some data to the efforts here. We’re going to start adding traffic counters to both count vehicular traffic, like we traditionally do in traffic engineering, and we’re also going to put them in to start picking up bicycle counts.”
Bicycle helmet laws
“The more that we invest, from the city’s perspective, in the infrastructure, along with that is going to come the need to make sure, from a safety perspective, that we’re allowing that sort of protection for the public. And, there should be some safety measures in place. That, if you don’t take it upon yourself to do, we’re going to have to make it, maybe, a part of that policy that you do have some sort of protection on your head. As we put the money into this system, we need to make sure we’re covering all our bases from a safety perspective.”
Why focus on bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure?
“When you lay it next to crime, which is a big issue, it does seem like ‘why would this type of issue related to that’ even exist?’ We’re not having a position to start adding pedestrians and bicyclists to the roadways. They’re there now and they’re having conflicts now and they’re having safety issues now so we need to do something about it. There’s an overall quality of life that we need to take into account and that takes into account the people driving in their cars, riding on their bikes and just walking around. We could just ignore it because crime is a bigger issue, but everybody’s got to do their part in this and my part is to work on those aspects of life.”