Assignment Spotlight: Jack Zeis

*The ESLLC was tasked with writing a letter to their hometown politicians about the walkability, bikeability and access to public transportation in their towns and cities. Using Jeff Speck’s Walkable City, the students gave suggestions on how to make their hometowns safer, healthier and cleaner.*

Mayor Richard G Lahr

12325 Manchester Road
Des Peres, MO 63131

Mayor Lahr,

An issue of great concern has recently been brought to my attention and that is low walkability of our lovely town. Des Peres is a great place to raise a family. There is a bustling shopping center, a multitude of dining options, schools, and entertainment all within walking distance of anyone in town. The issue is that these places, although in close proximity, are not accessible due to a number of issues regarding the safety and walkability of our area.

High speed limits are the number one issue in our area. Even the smallest one lane roads typically have a speed limit exceeding 30mph. My road, Springdale Lane, actually has no speed limit at all. Speed is incredibly important in reducing pedestrian fatalities in accidents and making our roads safer. Reducing a speed limit from 30mph to 20mph can lower the chances of pedestrian death by almost 40%. Reducing it from 40 to 20 causes an almost 80% decrease in chances of fatality.

Another issue is the impressive size of the roads in our area. Namely I am referring to Manchester road which dissects Des Peres with 6 and sometimes 7 lanes of somewhat controlled chaos as drivers fly through the area on what used to be Route 66. This obviously causes a major issue for pedestrians who wish to access the amenities on the opposite side of their home. The largest intersection of this road, and the most difficult to manage on foot, is the intersection of Ballas and Manchester where the road has been widened to 8 lanes in an effort to accommodate the traffic of the nearby West County Mall. Studies have shown however that more lanes do not equal less traffic. Instead I propose that at least one lane on either side be converted into a protected bike lane. This means that the lanes would completely shielded from Manchester allowing bikers piece of mind.

Finally, there is the signage. All over Des Peres are big neon yellow signs warning drivers to use caution as pedestrians may be in the area. Although these may seem like a good idea, and indeed are in places were a pedestrian walkway may be hidden behind a corner or opposite the crest of a hill, they can also cause issues. They allow drivers the false sense of confidence that when those signs aren’t around, neither are the pedestrians. This may cause them to drive more recklessly when they could in reality come on a pedestrian at any time. Removing these signs removes this confidence and forces drivers to continually be alert and aware of their surrounding.

Thank you for taking the time to consider these issues and proposed solutions. I love Des Peres and increasing walkability is the best way to ensure its ongoing survival and evolution in our ever-changing world.

Thank you,

Jack J Zeis

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