Alternate Route: Bikes and Gated Streets

Things are getting heated up regarding alternate routes to the Highway 40 shutdown next year. Westwood Village trustees threatened to gate off Conway Road, prompting a response from St. Louis County officials threatening to take over the road. The Post-Dispatch article on this subject highlights the use of gated streets throughout the metropolitan area as a way keep cars from taking shortcuts through various neighborhoods.

Sample Gated Street

My interest in gated streets is designing them to better support cyclists. As I mentioned in a previous post, one way to alleviate the traffic congestion with the Highway 40 shutdown is to encourage bicycling on routes not followed by cars. Gated streets are an ideal place for this.

When I was commuting by bike to downtown, my route passed through three different gated streets. Unfortunately, the only way around the gates or blockades was to ride up on the sidewalk. This is not particularly safe, as it conflicts with pedestrians and also causes bikes to appear where motorists do not expect them. A better solution would be to design the gates and blockades to allow cyclists to pass through them at street level, with appropriate traffic control devices at intersections. This would legitimize these streets as good bike routes and give cyclists a low-traffic way to commute around the city. Wouldn’t it be great if all municipalities required new gated streets to be designed to support cyclists? Perhaps MoDOT and area officials could route some of the money designated for alternate routes to redesigning current gated streets along the Highway 40 corridor?

For the record: as much as I relish the idea of zipping along a gated Conway Road on my bike while cars are backed up on Clayton and Ladue roads (Westwood Village trustees said they would keep it open for cyclists), I do not think this is a good idea at all. The answer to the Highway 40 congestion is not to close more streets to cars, but to improve the efficiency of current streets and promote alternative forms of transportation. Glad to see that the Westwood Village trustees now agree.

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