KC's new bicycle plan: How the city got where it is, where it's going | Pitch

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Rides like this make clear how great an opportunity the city has as it rewrites its Bike KC plan. The city has a network of quiet, spacious streets just waiting to be connected to the infrastructure proposed for key thoroughfares.

Finding where to make those connections is one task now before Wes Minder, who took over from Deb Ridgeway as the city’s primary bike and pedestrian coordinator the day the audit was released. To do it, he must unite different branches of the city’s bureaucracy, install some oversight over our roads and boulevards and then plan and construct a comprehensive bike network, all while navigating the city’s addiction to wide roads and ample parking.

A couple of weeks ago, Minder and Joe Blankenship, the planning official in charge of running the Bike KC update, rode the length of Ninth and 12th streets, from downtown east to Winner Road, to see which would be easier for bicyclists. (In this case, the wider and ostensibly busier 12th Street seemed to offer more space and less traffic than Ninth.) But Minder and Blankenship — both avid cyclists — can’t ride every road. They need people to get out there and ride, and then tell the city what works and what doesn’t. “We’re looking for that kind of feedback from people who ride corridors that we’re not aware of,” Minder says.

The city has also put together a steering committee that includes advocates and officials from around the city and local government. Mark McHenry, co-chairman of the bike-pedestrian committee of the Mid-America Regional Council, sits on the steering committee and says the city has done a good job getting the right parties to the table to help design the new bike plan.

“We’re definitely heading in the right direction,” he says. “I’ll tell you, having lived here awhile, we’re a much more bike-focused community than we were 20 years ago.”

The main difference, he tells me, is that people are engaged now. As the audit pointed out, residents now look to bikes for more than just recreation and exercise. They want to get places — to work, to the store, to their kids’ daycare. They want a bike culture — not to replace cars but to exist alongside the Midwest’s affinity for driving.

“You literally have to get out and get on a bike,” McHenry says about how to create this culture. “It seems simple, but that’s the truth.”

MoBikeFed comment: Although Kansas City is certainly near the bottom of the barrel in terms of bicycle friendliness in the U.S.--and in Missouri, where it is clearly behind St. Louis, Springfield, Columbia, and St. Joseph--it is worth remembering that the city used to be **even worse** for bicycling.

It has taken almost two decades of work to get the city, staff, elected officials, and citizens advocacy groups to the point where we can even contemplate a major shift towards bicycle friendliness in the year 2017.

In the 1970s, the city adopted a thoroughgoing citywide bicycle plan--that was never implemented.

In the late 1990s, another citywide bike plan was created--and not adopted until 2002. And then not *implemented* until 2013.

In the early 2000s, there was no safe way to walk or bicycle across the Missouri OR Kansas Rivers. There were 0 miles of bicycle lanes and precious few miles of trails in the city.

In 2007, the BBC declared KC the worst major city for bicycling in the U.S.

Since then, things have started to move:

- KC has no fewer than three major bike/ped accessible river crossings, with more under development
- KC has a major trails plan that is slowly being implemented
- KC has implemented the 2002 BikeKC plan, with nearly 200 miles of bicycle routes marked around the city
- The city has a small but growing number of bicycle lanes
- The city has a Bicycle/Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC) that has been active since the late 2000s
- The city has the first Bike Share program in Missouri--and still the only advocate-owned bike share program in the country--in Kansas City B Cycle
- The city has an active, well funded, and well staffed advocacy organization in BikeWalkKC
- And if you look at the census data, Kansas City has a dramatically greater number of people bicycling both for transportation and for recreation than it did during the low point in the early to mid 2000s.

The point is not to say that Kansas City has enough bicycle facilities, or enough connected bicycle routes, or that the quality of its routes is high enough, or that it has enough trails, or that it is devoting enough funding towards bicycling--or that it has the amount of bicycling that a city of its size should have.

Because it is not.

All of those things should be--and by the sounds of it, are being--addressed in the city's new bicycle plan.

But it is worth remembering that it takes a great deal of time and work, over a long period of time, but a large number of dedicated individuals and organizations, to move a city and a political system that was as indifferent to bicycling as Kansas City was in the 1990s and 2000s, to the point where we are today--where major progress seems to be a real possibility now.

It's taken decades of work by hundreds of people and dozens of organizations and agencies to get us here.

So yes, it's time to move forward. It's time to take Kansas City into the 21st Century as a bicycling city.

If we could have done it in 1992 or 2002 or 2009 or 2012, we would have. The time was not yet ripe.

Now, it is. The city and the local advocacy community have an opportunity to move the city forward in away we have not seen in the past four decades.

Let's hope they can really pull it off.

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