Meet the Network: UrbanReviewSTL

It’s been nearly ten months since we first started building the Streetsblog Network — a group of bloggers around the country and around the world who write about livable streets, transportation policy, sustainable development and related topics. To find these folks, we asked our friends for tips and then went out hunting on the Internet. We mined blogrolls, took suggestions, chased down tantalizing links and always stayed open to the possibility of serendipity.

Today the network has grown to include more than 300 bloggers, representing more than 40 states and several nations. Some focus on transit, some on bikes, some on land use. Some are professional planners. Some are students. Most are simply people who care about the places they live and want to be part of a solution to the problems they see around them. It’s a pretty impressive group.

We believe that it demonstrates that the movement for more sensible transportation policy — and all that means for the environment, public health, a sustainable economy and quality of life — is truly coming into its own.

patterson.jpgSteve Patterson of UrbanReviewSTL.

Usually each day, we give you some highlights from the network’s most recent posts. Today, instead, we’re going to introduce you to one of the network bloggers: Steve Patterson of UrbanReviewSTL.

Steve has been blogging about livable streets issues in St. Louis since 2004, making him an old-timer in this group. His site now gets about 10,000 unique visitors per month. He started a master’s program in urban planning and real estate development at St. Louis University in 2006, and in 2007 he moved to the city’s downtown and traded his car for a motorized scooter.

In February 2008, when he was alone in his apartment, Steve suffered a hemorrhagic stroke that could have killed him. Fortunately, he was discovered by a friend and rushed to the hospital. After three months of hospitalization, he returned to blogging and to his downtown home. For now, he uses a wheelchair for trips around his neighborhood, and a specially outfitted car for longer trips, but he hopes to someday be back on his bike — and car-free again.

We asked Steve a few questions by e-mail and on the phone about what motivates him to blog and how his stroke has changed his perception of the urban landscape.

Streetsblog: Why did you start UrbanReviewSTL?

Steve Patterson: I started my blog on Halloween day 2004. At the start of the month, on October 1, 2004, my father had a heart attack. He was hospitalized the entire month. I was a wreck — I needed a way to vent and get focused. Writing about St. Louis did the trick. He recovered and lived until January 1, 2008 — a month prior to my stroke.

SB: What is your favorite thing about St. Louis? What disappoints you about the city?

SP: My first time in St. Louis was August 1990. I was 23 and fresh out of college. I immediately fell in love with the beautiful brick buildings and the compact street grid. I was just driving through on the way to Washington, DC, where I had planned to move. But after a Sunday tour of St. Louis I decided it would become my new home.

Disappointments are numerous. The St. Louis region has the second-most number of units of government per capita.  We are highly fragmented. Regional leadership doesn’t exist.  Natives (I’m from Oklahoma City) seem to think we’ve done nothing good since the 1904 World’s Fair.  We are highly parochial.  

SB: What have been some of the high points for you as a blogger — times that you’ve felt you made a difference?

SP: I get comments and e-mails from readers all the time indicating how they see cities and streetscapes differently thanks to me.  We may not always agree, but they see what I’m talking about.

And now I see reporters from the mainstream media at meetings they would not have gone to before. They think, the bloggers are doing a better job than we are.

SB: Because of your stroke, you have a personal perspective on transportation that few other transpo/planning bloggers do. Can you talk a bit about how it has affected the way you see the urban landscape?

SP: Even before my stroke I wrote about the need for improved ADA access at new developments in the St. Louis area. Development with good accessibility is more walkable for everyone. I had gone to workshops and spent an evening in a wheelchair at a local independent living center. Good experiences, but…

Nothing that you can learn in class prepares you for what it’s like [to depend on a wheelchair]. Every urban planner, every architect, should have to spend three months in a wheelchair and three months using a cane.

But I’m not going to let anything get in the way of what I want to do. I want to walk around Amsterdam. And I want to bike around Amsterdam.

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