Walking College Alum Continues Built Environment Advocacy

Faye Paige Edwards is a 2015 America Walks Walking College Fellow who actively advocates for a built environment that promotes physical activity, spreading the joy of inter-generational play, walking and biking to African-American women and anyone who wants to be active with them. Faye has more than 30 years’ experience in sales, marketing and training and holds an M.B.A. from the Ross School of Business, an M.A. from Occidental College earned as part of the National Urban Fellows Program and a B.A. from Lincoln University (PA).

In 2017, more than half of the 98 pedestrian deaths and 264 serious traffic-related injuries in Missouri were in the St. Louis area. Prior to the Walking College, I did not know the Federal Highway Administration designated St. Louis as a “focus city” because of our traffic-related fatalities. I did know, however, that the average St. Louisan agrees too many speeding cars threaten our children and families as they play, walk, bike, and drive…and now we have electric scooters to add to the mix!

The GirlTrek Movement (the largest behavioral health organization for African American women) encourages a daily 30-minute walk as a radical act of self-care and as a first step to activism to reclaim the streets of our communities. Traffic safety causes hesitation to take a neighborhood walk and was something I wanted to address in my own community.

In my role as one of the original volunteer GirlTrek Organizers and as a Healthy Eating Active Living (HEAL) partner I developed friendships at Trailnet which fosters change at the local, state, and federal levels to make walking and biking safer, accessible and fun. Thanks to their encouragement, I added built environment advocacy to my behavioral health advocacy by becoming a Walking College Fellow.

During my Walking College year, I joined the STL Plan4Health traffic-calming project led by Trailnet. My goal was to help provide community input and support; become informed about overbuilt streets and inadequate pedestrian infrastructure that contributes to unsafe driving practices; assist with traffic calming pop-ups: and advocate for a traffic-calming ordinance. I joined city elected officials and staff on a trip to Kansas City (KC) to view successful traffic calming projects and hear from KC city government about their experience in executing these projects.

The STL Plan4Health traffic-calming project offers perspective of what traffic calming means to the community.

Our temporary traffic calming designs (pop-ups) showed St. Louis community members, elected officials, and city staff how traffic calming infrastructure might look and its’ effectiveness in slowing traffic and increasing safety.

Chalk and duct tape outlined medians; made curb extensions; added extra turns on streets to slow traffic with chicanes; narrowed lanes; and filled-in crosswalks. We placed traffic cones and colorfully painted tires, clocked the speed of motorists, and surveyed residents’ perceptions of each traffic calming pop-up and traffic safety in the area.

There were positive reviews from community members, city staff, and St. Louis elected officials, as well as national and international recognition. City of St. Louis Ordinance 70333 Regarding Traffic Calming passed with immediate installation of speed tables in the ward of the Alderman who sponsored the Ordinance. There are more now and I smile when driving over a speed table. One is on a tiny North St. Louis street near my cousin’s house. The Ordinance helped those residents envision and experience a safer street.

Woodward Elementary School made permanent pedestrian infrastructure improvements because of the traffic-calming demonstration we held there.

The traffic-calming project also showed that temporary materials must only be fun and attractive, not expensive. The recycled and reusable items we employed became the Trailnet traffic-calming lending library. It provides wide access to demo how to design streets to slow traffic. Since 2015, there have been 15 demos. The library includes Slow Your Street: A How-To Guide for Pop-Up Traffic Calming.

My behavioral health advocacy continues as a GirlTrek Organizer and I am forming a team to seek funding to make intergenerational play a norm in the metro area. I got this idea while attending a PlayWorks session at the National Walking Summit as a Walking College Fellow.

I continue to advocate for built environment improvements. Deidre Brown – 2016 Walking College Fellow – is the St Louis GirlTrek “Fix It Crew” Leader. I assisted her in conducting a walking audit that was part of the Stanford University national test of the Our Voice Discovery Tool App. As a result of this walkability audit the time was increased from 20 seconds to 40 seconds in a school crosswalk in Ferguson, MO.

I am currently part of the Trailnet Connecting St. Louis Project. These proposed on-street protected bikeways and sidewalks have equity at the core of the planning process and will connect us to places we love – cultural centers, business districts, and neighborhoods.

The Walking College was an information-expanding  experience that keeps propelling me to improve walkability/bikeability and encourage walking and biking for recreation and transit.