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An open letter to Circuit Attorney Gore concerning escalating traffic violence in St. Louis

May 2, 2024

Greetings, Circuit Attorney Gore:

Last week, when news broke of nine-year-old Codi Walker being tragically pinned between two vehicles by a reckless, hit-and-run pickup truck driver — right beside a playground in St. Louis’ Baden neighborhood as Codi helped his mother unload a toy from their correctly parked van — community members cried out, pleading for real action and change. This outcry included members of our youth-focused nonprofit organization.

While our decades-long focus on bike education for the children and teens of St. Louis is, and should always be, full of joy (we get to witness hundreds of local youth every year gain lifelong skills and empowerment through our free Learn-To-Ride and Earn-A-Bike programs), we are deeply troubled to see yet another child harmed on area streets, in crosswalks, on sidewalks, and yes, even just trying to access a playground, as in this recent case.

BWorks exists to inspire children to pursue their dreams, care for the world around them, and explore new possibilities through experiential learning. But when a family or child cannot access the outdoors, or school, reasonably safely due to traffic violence, fulfillment of that mission becomes difficult indeed.

The human carnage on city streets continues to escalate, leading to increasingly frequent injury and death. St. Louisans increasingly feel deeply and reasonably anxious about everything from daily travel to work and school to simply accessing green spaces for much-needed refuge and fun within our communities. Driver behavior has become more and more shocking, violent and damaging.

It’s going to take a wide variety of efforts, from education to enforcement to infrastructure, to curb this crisis. BWorks is doing our part, and even growing our efforts and our team at present on behalf of St. Louis youth. Community members are doing their part, supporting victim after victim through GoFundMe efforts. And victims themselves, such as courageous Janae Edmondson, have gone above and beyond to speak out about the injustices, trauma and systemic neglect they have experienced.

We need your partnership, too, and are writing to urge our local courts and prosecutors to consistently and firmly hold reckless drivers accountable for the consequences of their actions on St. Louis streets. St. Louis BWorks recognizes that along with designing safer streets and educating road users, better outcomes require that those operating motor vehicles in an unsafe manner must be motivated to do better. That includes holding them accountable for doing otherwise. We must no longer tolerate the inhumane driver behavior that is endangering innocent children including Janae and Codi and so many others, and all of us, day after day after day.

Thank you for your important work on behalf of the citizens of St. Louis. We are happy to talk further.

Sincerely,

Patrick Van Der Tuin, executive director, Evie Hemphill, programs director