Kansas City's Bike Plan--1980 style: What could have been 30 years ago

The announcement of Kansas City's new bike map and 353 miles of on-street bicycle routes last week is a good opportunity to look back at how far the city has come. 

Like many cities around the country and around the world, Kansas City neglected to plan and build for bicycles (and pedestrians) as the automobile became the nationa's primary means of travel in the 1940s-1970s.  But the oil crisis of the 1970s was a wake-up call, and like many cities, Kansas City started looking at the alternatives.

One alternative was bicycling.  Throught the late 1970s the city works on a bike plan, released in 1980.  The plan--which was never implemented, as far as we know--is strikingly similar to the BikeKC plan developed in the late 1990s, revised through the 2000s, and now finally being implemented in the 2010s.


The plan called for:

  • 25 miles of bikeways per 50,000 population
  • 350 total bikeway miles in the city
  • Routes meeting the needs of recreational and transportation cyclists
  • A mixture of bike trails (bike/ped only routes), bike lanes (on street, separated lanes), and bike routes (on low-traffic streets)

In short, it was a forward-looking plan that, if implemented, would have put Kansas City in the forefront of bicycling cities in the U.S.  Instead it was neglected and Kansas City ended up being named as the worst large city for cycling in the U.S. in 2007. That embarrassing situation was covered by the BBC, spurring city leaders to turn the situation around. Mayor Mark Funkhauser vowed to make KC a platinum level Bicycle Friendly Community by 2020.

Since that point, the city has gradually been turnings things around, receiving Bronze Level Bicycle Friendly Community designation in 2011.

The 1980s Bikeways plan has been superceded by the BikeKC plan, adopted by the City Council in 2002 and finally moving to implementation in 2013, and the Trails KC plan (PDF), adopted by the City Council in 2008.

Many thanks to Laurie Chipman for finding and scanning the 1980 Bikeway Plan.  Source: KCBike.info.