Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Rambling Thru Olivette

Rambling Thru Olivette

A few weeks ago, when the weather turned warmer, I was heading from a meeting on the Monsanto campus in Creve Coeur (Speed Limit: 17!) east to the Washington University Danforth campus.

Rather than wait 30 minutes for a #91 Olive bus, then still have to walk south from the bus route to campus through U City, I decided to walk the entire route.

In so doing, I discovered a number of curious little alternative routes I was surprised existed. And I stayed off Olive itself entirely, probably a good idea given the construction mess around I-170.

I discovered that Stacy Park is completely fenced off from its surroundings. I understand why the northern 2/3rds is fenced off -- it's a St. Louis City Water reservoir, after all. But why does the 6' chain-link fencing extend around the southern 1/3, the part that's actually an Olivette city park?

I discovered that nearby Stacy Drive provides a connection through a very upscale subdivision between Warson and Old Bonhomme Roads -- although closed off to cars, pedestrians and cyclists can still get through.

Fortunately, Old Bonhomme does have a sidewalk on at least one side all the way to Price Road, where I turned south. Price also has a sidewalk, on the western side. Naturally, I was the only pedestrian other than a few joggers, dog-walkers and lawn-care workers.

At Price and Delmar, three worlds converge: Olivette, University City, and Ladue. The location is unremarkable otherwise. But if you go one block south, you find the most bizarre stretch of Washington Avenue around -- really just an undulating subdivision drive without sidewalks, in this far-southwest part of U City. Head a bit east along Barby Lane (what a name!) and at I-170 you're dropped in the midst of the McKnight Place development. So I doubled back a bit, crossing I-170 via Delmar.

Then I 'discovered' a funny little road with a narrow sidewalk on one side that serves as a
shortcut / truck route from western U City to the back-end of the Ladue Crossings Schnucks.
The ultimate access to the store is circuitous and unceremonious, with a crosswalk that
dead-ends at a planter bed in the parking lot.

I continued SE along the informal, unpaved extension of that path behind the strip mall.
I believe this corridor is part of the abandoned railroad right-of-way conveyed some years
ago to Citizens for Modern Transit (CMT).

So when I kept following that same corridor south across Ladue Rd. via the signal at Hunter,
I wondered whether I was trespassing. I saw zero No Trespassing signs, though, and there
was a roughly continuous gravel path that suggested an informal bike route.

Immediately north of the Forest Park Parkway overpass, I took a small, freshly gravelled path
uphill into the southern edge of Shaw Park in Clayton. So I at least found a way out into a
clearly public space.

From there I caught MetroLink at the Clayton station for the short ride to WashU.

The trek took about 90 minutes.

It seems to me building a network of bike/ped routes paralleling the Olive
corridor westward from the Clayton MetroLink, should be a priority.
Indeed, I believe Great Rivers Greenway is planning for just that, as part of
the Centennial Greenway.

While most *ahem* normal people won't go for a 5 mile walk during their
commute, a 5 mile bike ride largely on dedicated off-street paths or clearly marked bike lanes
is much more feasible.

And it might be faster than driving the same distance on Clayton Road or Ladue Road,
once Highway 40 closes down!

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