Recommendation for first good Kansas City bike/ped river crossing(s) now official

Thanks to the many hundreds and thousands of you who took the time to write MoDOT, KDOT, the Kansas City, Missouri, city council, the Mid-America Regional Council, and other groups and officials, the region's recommendation to MoDOT for a bicycle/pedestrian crossing of the Missouri River on both the Paseo and Heart of America Bridges near downtown Kansas City, Missouri, is now official.
Paseo Bridge, Kansas City, photo by coolvalley, http://flickr.com/photos/philmo/19239044/


History of the Paseo project
What has happened over the past two years?

The idea of creating good, safe bicycle and pedestrian crossings of the Missouri River in Kansas City in conjunction with the building of a new river bridge has gone from one suggested by a few "crazy people" to one supported by thousands of individual citizens, then community groups and organizations, leading politicians and community leaders, and finally official decision-making bodies like the Kansas City council and the Mid-America Regional Council (MARC) Board.

It is, quite frankly, and idea whose time has come. Support for the idea from a wide spectrum of community and civic groups was invariably unanimous or close to it.

Support for the crossings received unanimous and warm support from the Kansas City council, MARC's Total Transportation Policy Committee, and the MARC Board. It has been supported by numerous community groups, including the bicycle clubs, running clubs, the Downtown Council, Port Authority, KCMO Parks and Recreation, and so on. Only one single community organization opposed bicycle and pedestrian accommodation on the Paseo--the Northland Chamber of Commerce--and even they supported the idea of creating bicycle/pedestrian accommodations on the nearby Heart of America bridge.

In April, 2006, the Kansas City region passed a new Major River Crossings Policy requiring all new bridges built across major rivers to include bicycle/pedestrian accommodations when circumstances warrant. This policy will be a model for other communities across the state and for policies that will encourage better bicycle/pedestrian accommodation across other major barriers to bicycle and pedestrian travel.

Throughout this process, bicycle and pedestrian advocates have found many allies in many different positions--community leaders, civic leaders, key staff positions, and in the media.

Through this process many of these leaders have learned a lot about bicycle and pedestrian connectivity and why it is important.

Kansas City's situation--Missouri's situation
As we have studied the need for safe bicycle/pedestrian crossings of the Missouri River it has become clear that Kansas City is on the 'trailing edge' of bicycle and pedestrian accommodation compared to other major cities across the United States and that this lack of bicycle/pedestrian connectivity is costing the metropolitan area many hundreds of millions of dollars in transportation costs each year.

And it has become clear that providing good bicycle/pedestrian connectivity across the river is the single most important thing Kansas City can do to become more bicycle and pedestrian friendly. The second most important is to then interconnect its bicycle and pedestrian transportation systems with these new river crossings. Cities that have followed this model (cross major barriers and then connect the system to the crossing points) have been able to double the amount of bicycle and pedestrian transportation in their cities within a decade or so.

And Kansas City--which has less than half the national average bicycle and pedestrian travel while maintaining above the national average in bicycle and pedestrian injuries and fatalities--needs, at a minimum, to bring itself up to the national average.

Summary of today's recommendations
And why should you care about this if you do not live in Kansas City?

Well, rural areas of Missouri are in the same boat as Kansas City. Cities like St. Louis and St. Joseph are only slightly better. Our bright spot is cities like Springfield and Columbia that have made a real, dedicated effort over a period of years to make large portions of their cities friendlier and safer for bicycle and pedestrian travel.

In short, all of Missouri needs to do what Kansas City is starting to do: Spend the money needed to bridge major barriers to bicycle and pedestrian transportation and then work for complete connectivity in the bicycle and pedestrian transportation system.

What did the MARC Board Pass today?

Their recommendation, unanimously approved, was to:

* Include bicycle/pedestrian accommodations in the design requirements for the new Paseo freeway bridge. This does not mandate that the bike/ped accommodations will actually be built. However it does take them to the next level. Whether or not the bike/ped accommodations are finally built will come down to cost. And we believe that if MoDOT challenges the Paseo design-build teams, a design will result that will allow the bicycle/pedestrian accommodations to be constructed at reasonable cost.

* Reconfigure the existing Heart of America bridge to include safe bicycle/pedestrian accommodations. MARC requested that this work be done quickly and there is the possibility that at least some of it could be completed before the construction on the Paseo starts (once construction on Paseo starts no further work on Heart of America will be done until Paseo is finished in approximately 2011).

* Continue meeting to study river crossing possibilities and the levee trails and other connections they will need.

And this is a good time to remind you--MoBikeFed cannot continue this kind of advocacy work without your support. Please join or renew your MoBikeFed membership as part of MoBikeFed's fall membership drive . . . or make a tax-deductible donation to our end-of-year fund raising camaign, which, thanks to an anonymous donor, will be matched dollar for dollar, effectively doubling your contribution