Years ago the Saint Louis area light rail system, MetroLink, was looking to expand service across the Missouri River to Saint Charles County. To help fund this development, MetroLink got a bond issue placed on the Saint Charles ballot. Unfortunately, the bond issue was soundly defeated and there has been little discussion since then of extending MetroLink service across the Missouri. In fact, since that election public transportation in Saint Charles County has gotten worse. MetroLink’s parent organization, Bi-State, no longer runs bus service out to Saint Charles County. Saint Charles wouldn’t pay for it.
At the time of MetroLink’s bond issue, one of the fears expressed by some Saint Charles County residents was that extending MetroLink across the Missouri River would allow Saint Louis City residents to cross the river and steal their TV sets. I should point out that this election was held before the advent of flat screen technology, so we are speaking about picture tube television sets here. In all the intervening years of riding MetroLink, I have never seen any passengers with a TV set in their possession.
Instead of investing in public transportation Saint Charles County has favored the development of automobile infrastructure. In the intervening years, Saint Charles has gotten the State of Missouri and the federal government to build two new bridges across the Missouri River and they are presently widening a third bridge. These bridges allow Saint Charles residents to drive to their jobs in Saint Louis County even as the county’s population continues to grow.
It is Saint Charles’ unchecked population growth that is at the heart of their latest transportation issue too. While the county has built some new highway miles and has widened more secondary mileage, this road work has not kept pace with the county’s growth. Most of the county’s roads are the original two lane country roads that predate Saint Charles’ age of rapid growth. Over the last summer, the Saint Charles County Council has been debating various proposals that would prohibit bicyclists from riding on these roads.
There were several legal problems with such a ban. Most if not all of the roads that were under consideration for the bike ban belong to the state and not the county. MODOT weighed in early in this debate with an announcement that these were their roads and Saint Charles had no say in their regulation. In response the county council considered banning bikes on those roads that they do control, but since these were mostly low traffic routes, that idea didn’t go anywhere either. What was finally passed on Tuesday night was a requirement that all organized bicycling rides must register with the county sheriff. This face-saving regulation should withstand any legal challenges. Other neighboring counties have similar laws and the local cycling advocacy organizations have been able to work well with those counties. The question remains though, is this the end of the ban the bike movement in Saint Charles or is it just a ceasefire?