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Slowing down traffic

Trailnet spearheaded a demonstration on Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2015, to show that slower traffic means safer streets. It included this makeshift median and roundabout near Garrison and Sheridan avenues in St. Louis. Photo by Leah Thorsen of the Post-Dispatch

Temporary medians, curb bump-outs and a roundabout were in place Tuesday in the JeffVanderLou neighborhood in St. Louis in hopes of illustrating that streets with slower traffic are safer streets.

The so-called “pop-up traffic calming” demonstration — the fourth this fall — was happening on Thomas Street and Sheridan Avenue, between Glasgow and Garrison avenues, and on Garrison between Sheridan and Thomas.

It comes at a time when St. Louis is grappling with an unusually high number of pedestrian deaths. As of last week, 18 pedestrians had been fatally struck in St. Louis — more than those killed in the previous two years combined. An additional 12 people have been fatally struck in St. Louis County.

In 2011, the Federal Highway Administration named St. Louis as a “focus city,” which means it had 20 or more pedestrian fatalities per year, or had a pedestrian fatality rate over a three-year period above 2.33 fatalities per 100,000 residents.

Although St. Louis averaged 12 pedestrian fatalities per year between 2011 and 2013 — 12 in 2011, 13 in 2012 and 11 in 2013 — the designation has remained because the city’s fatality rate was 3.76 per 100,000 people during that period.

The traffic-slowing demonstrations are being done through the city’s Healthy Eating, Active Living Partnership and are being spearheaded by Trailnet, a group that advocates for better walking and biking in the St. Louis region.

“It’s an illustration of what could be,” said Ralph Pfremmer, executive director of Trailnet, said of the temporary traffic designs.

Flower pots and brightly colored tires in neon shades such as yellow, orange and pink served as the temporary medians and curb bump-outs, and a roundabout was in place at Garrison and Sheridan near Dunbar Elementary School.

“You have to slow down to get around it,” said Marielle Brown, Trailnet’s bicycle and pedestrian planning manager, as she gestured to a makeshift median.

A 10-foot driving lane in each direction was still available to drivers.

The decision of which designs become permanent ultimately will be decided by each ward’s aldermen, said Deanna Venker, the city’s traffic commissioner. She said the demonstration is a good way to test designs before something permanent is built.

Venker was at Tuesday’s demonstration, as was Mayor Francis Slay and Jamie Wilson, the city’s new bike/pedestrian coordinator.

Previous demonstrations were on Gasconade Street between Compton and Minnesota avenues; on St. Louis Avenue between Whittier and Sarah streets; and on Bates Street between Colorado and Alabama avenues.

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