Royce Hotchkiss Walked Across St. Louis to Prove a Point

The Metro East resident wanted to combat narratives about ‘tHe mOsT daAnGeRouS CiTy in North America’

Feb 26, 2024 at 6:00 am
click to enlarge Royce Hotchkiss - COURTESY PHOTO
Royce Hotchkiss

Royce Hotchkiss is an urbanist with a passion for St. Louis and a mission: To walk across the city and prove naysayers wrong about how “dangerous” it is. 

On February 20 Hotchkiss set out from his Metro East home with a tube of chapstick, his water bottle and a route. He started at the East Riverfront Metro Station and then walked across Eads Bridge and up Washington Avenue until he got to Kingshighway, where he made his way one block north and continued onto Delmar all the way to Limit Avenue and University City.

The journey took about three hours but could be made in two if you’re not stopping to talk to folks, Hotchkiss says.

Hotchkiss’ journey blew up on Twitter where he posts as @Rustbeltenjoyer, garnering more than 8,500 likes and more than 500 retweets as of press time. He recently spoke with RFT to share what he learned from his travels. This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

What made you decide to walk across St. Louis?

I’m in the process of moving over to St. Louis soon, but I live very close and I’m very connected to the city. Basically, my whole life is over there. Also, I think that there's a lot of particular narratives that get spun about cities, and I wanted to show that the city is not what a lot of people portray it to be. It’s a very organic, positive place with good things going on. I was shocked that it got as much attention as it did. 

I also just wanted to go do it because it was a nice day out and it's a fun thing to do.

What do people get wrong about St. Louis?

The city is way, way safer than people seem to think or say. And I really think that there's no better way to go out and experience it than just walking or biking I think is the best way to really experience the city.

There's a lot of narratives around, not just St. Louis but other cities too, that cities are like war zones. You’re gonna go out and bad things might happen but that's by and large, not the case.

What did you hear and see along the way?

I thought there were a lot of people just living their lives. There were people on their porches, walking or doing stuff, just living their lives. It was a good experience. And I definitely recommend it. It was very interesting to see there was a lot of new development. There was some of that in Midtown, but also there were quite a few buildings that had obviously been abandoned at one point that I noticed were being brought back. There was a good amount of construction that was actually going on that I noticed.

What are you taking away from this experience?

I would say that St. Louis is way safer than most people would say it is. But also that there's a lot that needs to happen in terms of addressing safety in the pedestrian realm — so how people and cars interact basically.

What can city leaders do to improve safety for pedestrians?

There's a lot of programs out there, which are just referred to as Safe Streets programs. And those are basically just making streets easy to cross like a raised crosswalk, and better light timing, restricting right turn on red was a big one. That was actually something I encountered on my walk. There was somebody who was scanning for traffic, but not for me, and she got within a few inches of me.

What would you like to add about your experience?

Just get out, like ride a bike or go for a walk in the city. It's great; you'll see. I probably could have done this in about two hours but it took me closer to three because I stopped to talk to people a few times and I took a detour to go see the library. 

It's such a wonderful experience to just get out and talk to people, like interact with the city in such an organic way. I don't think that many of us get the opportunity to do so very often.

Subscribe to Riverfront Times newsletters.

Follow us: Apple NewsGoogle News | NewsBreak | Reddit | Instagram | Facebook | Twitter | Or sign up for our RSS Feed