KCMO's first-ever citywide bicycle plan, BikeKC, passes crucial Committee vote

Below is the report submitted by local advocate Brent Hugh, one a handful of local citizens organizing support for Bike KC, about the passage of BikeKC in the key Kansas City, MO, City Council Committee meeting in August, 2002:

BikeKC passed a crucial committee meeting vote today, August 7th, 2002. Now we need your support to help it pass the full City Council.

Local citizens organized a Bike Parade to the Committee meeting
Local citizens organized a Bike Parade to the Committee meeting

BikeKC is a plan to

* Add a network of bicycle routes to already-existing streets. 

* Create and encourage the creation of the infrastructure that makes bicycling a viable
transportation choice. Examples: bike racks and bike lockers around town, showers in places of

* Reserve enough right-of-way in new developments so that new streets will have enough room for
bicycle and pedestrian facilities.

I am pleased to report that the meeting went very well and BikeKC was passed along to the full city
council with a favorable recommendation.

The Bike Parade
 Our "Bike Parade" to the committee meeting was a great success and a lot of fun. We estimated over 60 riders joined in--not bad for a ride on a Wednesday afternoon that had only been announced a few days before.

Local citizens organized a Bike Parade to the Committee meeting
Local citizens organized a Bike Parade to the Committee meeting

The ride showcased many typical features of Kansas City streets, such as potholes, sunken manhole covers, 8-inch round sunken "holes to hell" with their metal covers entirely missing, narrow viaducts with no bicycle or pedestrian facilities, and a monster bike-eating grate quite capable of gulping down four or five cyclists at a time.

There were no known casualties.

At the conclusion of the Bike Parade we circled around the City Hall block. We had enough bicyclists participating that we encircled the entire block. We pretty well overwhelmed bicycle parking facilities in the area (at least there *are* some facilities now; this is a recent improvement).

When I spoke to the committee, I informed them that we had them surrounded and invited them to immediately surrender, but there were no takers.

I noticed the Kansas City Star, Kansas City infoZine and Channels 4, 5, 9, and 41 covering the event.

Photos of the "Bike Parade" can be viewed at link

The Committee Meeting 
Over 50 bicycle supporters were present at the committee hearing, where they heard an excellent presentation about BikeKC by Public Works staff. Committee Chair Ed Ford directed and focused the discussion with considerable skill, asking all the right questions and not allowing important points to slide by without clarification.

Kansas City Councilwoman Becky Nace was a major supporter of BikeKC
Kansas City Councilwoman Becky Nace was a major supporter of the BikeKC initiative in 2002

Striped Bike Lanes vs. Wide Curb Lanes
Public Works staff proved to be very articulate and well-informed about cycling issues. During the public comment period, a bicyclist mentioned the controversy over striped bike lanes vs. wide curb lanes. Public Works staff seemed well informed about this issue. Under questioning by Ford, staff indicated that they feel bike lanes will be appropriate in some situations and wide curb lanes appropriate in others. The BikeKC proposal itself does not lock us in to either option, but allows discretion. At Councilman Ford's suggestion, Public Works indicated that they will outfit a few streets with facilities, seek input from the cycling community, make changes and refinements as necessary, and proceed in that fashion as more and more streets are added to the plan.

This is an issue of some importance to bicyclists. Let's communicate well with Public Works as BikeKC facilities hit the streets.

Developers Ask for a "Delay"
A representative of developer's interests spoke, and asked the committee for a further delay so that industry could study the problem. Cyclists found this request somewhat disingenuous, as developers' need for more time to "study the issue" is clearly the main reason BikeKC has been held in committee since last September.

Councilman Ford quite firmly indicated there would be no further delay in committee, but scheduled BikeKC's appearance before the full City Council for August 15th rather than August 8th, in deference to industry's need to "study".

The Right-of-Way Issue
An excellent presentation by Public Works staff compared the right-of-way set asides in various cities in the metro area. Before BikeKC, Kansas City's right-of-way requirements were on the low end, compared to these other cities. With BikeKC, the width Kansas City developers will be required to set aside for right-of-way is about in the middle of the pack.

It is unfortunate that Kansas City cannot be the metro area's leader on the right-of-way issue, but BikeKC represents a huge step forward for the city.

Bicycle facilities will not automatically be built in this new right-of-way when new streets are built. Rather, developers will fund the "basic" street facilities and federal funding will be sought to add the extra paved area needed for bicycle facilities.

From the bicyclists' perspective, the ideal situation would be wide curb lanes as a minimum facility on all newly constructed or re-constructed streets (certainly on all arterials and collectors). Many cities around the country have made this their policy.

But BikeKC still represents a tremendous improvement over Kansas City's current situation. Until now, wide curb lanes, or even so basic a facility as a paved shoulder, have rarely or never been considered for Kansas City arterials and collectors.

Bicycle Proponents' Testimony
Bicycle proponents talked about liveability issues, economic issues, how KC compares to other cities, safety issues, need for alternative transportation, funding issues, integration between bicycling and public transportation, off-road paths vs. on-street facilities, how BikeKC benefits motorists, and other issues. Public testimony was well-received by committee members and led to some lively discussion with committee members and Public Works staff.

Most U.S. Cities Have Bicycle Transportation Plans in Place
Dale Crawford of the Johnson County Bicycle Club talked about a recent study that looked at impediments to increasing bicycle use in cities across the U.S. He pointed out that "city lacked a bicycle transportation policy" was rarely a problem in U.S. cities (it was 13th of the 16 items on the list, as I recall). This indicates that most U.S. cities have a bicycle policy in place (in fact, as I understand it, such a policy has been required under ISTEA and now TEA-21).

Here, Kansas City is behind the curve--but with the passage of BikeKC, we'll at least be *on* the curve, and that's an improvement.

Kansas City is Currently Bicycle-Unfriendly
Bob Albright, owner of Midwest Cyclery, talked about the bicycle friendliness of Kansas City as compared to several other cities he has lived in. In his experience, Kansas City is the most bicycle-unfriendly city. He has been in several auto-bicycle accidents cycling in Kansas City, far more than he has ever experienced in years of cycling in other cities. All of the accidents were the motorist's fault and were due to motorist inexperience with bicycle traffic.

In all cases (except the hit and run, when for obvious reasons Albright did not have chance to talk to the driver), the drivers indicated that they *thought* they would have plenty of time to pass the bicyclist and make a right turn, turn left in front of the bicyclist, make it through the intersection before the bicyclist arrived, and so on. The motorists simply did not comprehend the fast speeds at which bicycles can travel.

Albright's testimony indicates the need for motorist-safety education in Kansas City. Motorists often don't know how to deal with bicycle traffic because they have rarely encountered it and they have never learned about it.

Brent Hugh pointed out in his testimony that studies have shown that the bicycle accident rate drops when cycling increases. A 100% increase in bicycling leads to only about a 25% increase in accidents. Hugh pointed out two reasons for this:

* motorists who see bicycles often, expect to see them and learn now to deal with them

* motorists who have recently ridden a bicycle treat other bicycle riders with greater care

Federal Funding Now Requires Consideration of Bicyclist Needs
Both Hugh and bicycle advocate Randy Niere mentioned the fact that TEA-21 requires consideration of the needs of bicyclists and pedestrians in any new construction and re-construction of city streets that received federal funding. I think we as bicyclists need to press to receive this consideration more often and more vigorously. The work we have done to get BikeKC passed is a good step in that direction.

Advantages of BikeKC for Motorists
Hugh pointed out the advantages of BikeKC for motorists. He mentioned the obvious advantages of less congestion, less road wear, more parking, and faster speeds because giving bicyclists some space means motorists will not have to wait for "those darn bicyclists". Hugh demonstrated that if the little figures of bicyclists are whited out of the diagrams, the roads proposed under BikeKC look an awful lot like good wide roads with a nice paved shoulder. Kansas City motorists often complain about the narrow lanes and lack of shoulders on major Kansas City arterials and collectors. BikeKC will improve that situation.

(Diagrams of the proposed street plans can be seen at www.bikekc.org) link

Novice Bicyclists On Arterials
Chair Ed Ford voiced his concerns about the safety of bicycle facilities on major arterials. He is concerned that bicycle facilities will encourage novice cyclists to begin cycling on arterials with heavy traffic and high speed limits.

Hugh responded by telling his experience living near Raytown Trafficway. Like many arterials, it is the only through route in the area. This fact forces even novice bicyclists to use Raytown Trafficway already, even though it has no bicycle facilities, It is very often the only route between Point A and Point B. Hugh frequently observes such cyclists on the trafficway; often they are extremely inexperienced and employ such dangerous techniques as wrong-way riding.

Hugh suggested that arterials are already de facto bicycle facilities; the only question is whether we are going to improve them to make them safer for the bicyclist and more comfortable for the motorist, or leave them in their present less safe, less comfortable configuration. Good on-street facilities would discourage dangerous techniques used by novice cyclists, such as wrong-way riding and sidewalk riding.

The Necessity of Transportation Alternatives
Niere spoke eloquently about the need for bicycle facilities from the perspective of a cyclist who, because of disability, relies on cycling as basic transportation 365 days a year. He spoke of other cyclists he sees who daily ride busy streets filled with fast-moving heavy trucks, not for fun or exercise, but because it is the only way for them to get from home to work.

Another advocate mentioned the importance of bicycles as a way to extend the reach of Kansas City's mass transit system. She emphasized the importance of transportation alternatives to those for whom the automobile is not an alternative.

Conclusion of the Committee Hearing
In the end, BikeKC received a "Do Pass" recommendation from the committee, with Councilman Nash and Councilwoman Williams-Neal strongly in favor, and Councilman Ford opposed. Councilwoman Bonnie Sue Cooper, who has strongly opposed BikeKC in the past, was absent from the meeting.

Councilman Ford concluded by thanking BikeKC supporters for running a congenial and effective campaign. He asked those who had ridden to the meeting to stand (about 90% of those in attendance), and then asked those who supported the proposal, but hadn't come by bicycle, to stand with them. He joked that the only person left sitting was a reporter who was "trying to maintain his neutrality".

The meeting showed that Kansas City cyclists are willing to, literally, stand up and be counted when the heat is on.

The Next Step: The Full Council
Being passed out of committee was the crucial step; we are quite sure there are votes on the city council as a whole to pass the measure when it comes before them on Thursday, August 15th, 2002 at 3PM. The City Council meets on the 24th Floor of City Hall, 414 E. 12th St., Kansas City, Missouri.

Please plan to come out to the meeting if you can. There will be a ride (see below).

This is our chance to help the Kansas City Council remember for a LONG TIME that Kansas City has bicyclists who speak up and vote.

The next time they're trying to brush off the need for bicycling facilities on a newly constructed or re-constructed road, by saying "Well, we don't think any bicyclists ever ride here", or "We can just go ahead and ignore the bicyclists, because they never speak up", they're going to have to think again. We can gain a lot of momentum down at City Hall, that will pay off for some time to come.

Please Write the Full City Council
If you support BikeKC and have a connection with the Kansas City area, we again invite you to write the Kansas City Council. In your letter or call, politely and persuasively express your opinion about BikeKC.

Our courteous and non-confrontational approach has really paid off in Kansas City. Let's continue it.

Committee members at the hearing today indicated that our flood of mail, email, and phone calls had a significant impact on them. Now we need to do it again for the full council.

Contact info for council members can be found at

http://griffon.mwsc.edu/~bhugh/bikekcsummary.html link

The Kansas City Star's report on the ride and committee meeting are at
http://www.kansascity.com/ link

Info & updates about BikeKC are available at

http://www.bikekc.org link

Another Ride
We are again planning to ride to City Hall for the meeting.

We will follow the same route as before (leave from Berkley Riverfront Park, near I-35 and E. Front Street, in the area of the Isle of Capri Casino).

We will depart about 2:00PM on Thursday, August 15th, 2002.

We're calling it a "Victory Lap".

A printable PDF flyer for the ride is at link

Thank You
Thanks to all those who supported the effort by coming out to the ride and to the meeting, by being involved in any number of other ways, over a long haul (that is not *quite* over yet).