Rep. Rick Brattin (Harrisonville) talking about bicycle ban bill

During our visit to Jefferson City this week, we were able to confirm one bit of bad news:  Rep. Rick Brattin, Harrisonville, definitely has been talking about a plan to introduce a bill to ban bicycling on (some?) state roads. 

Rep. Rick Brattin
Rep. Rick Brattin

Rep. Brattin appeared on local TV news earlier in January, complaining about bicyclists on the newly completed Highway 150, which runs through portions of Kansas City, Grandview, and Lee's Summit, near the northern edge of Brattin's district.

Highway 150, in one of the most popular bicycling areas in the metro area

Highway 150 is in the Longview Lake area, one of the most popular areas for bicycling in the Kansas City metro area.  Numerous individuals and groups large and small hold daily, weekly, monthly, and annual rides in this area. It is a real center of bicycle activity in the metro area.

When MoDOT proposed to upgrade Highway 150, bicycle groups, including MoBikeFed, lobbied hard for the inclusion of bike lanes on the proposed four-lane road.  In many similar locations a parallel trail would be a good solution. That was the alternative supported by MoDOT and the affected cities--and the alternative finally built.  But we argued that with the many large and small group rides in this area, a parallel trail won't work for them, won't be used by them, wouldn't be safe for them, and wouldn't be appropriate for them. We support trails and sidewalks, and in some limited situations can even support trails alongside roads and highways--in the appropriate situation and when they are properly designed and maintained.  But we do not support the "sidepath" type of trail as the only available option for bicyclists in situations like this.

Thanks to this feedback by advocacy groups and residents, MoDOT's initial proposal included both the proposed trail on one side of the road--which meets the needs of pedestrians and a number of bicyclists who prefer the trail experience--but also included a shoulder or bike lane on each side of the road, which would be used by many road riders and all of the group rides in the area.

When MoDOT sent the Highway 150 proposal to its value engineering group, however, the on-street bicycle lane option was removed as a cost-cutting measure.  Instead, MoDOT proposed installing the "Bicycles May Use Full Lane" signs, which help inform motorists of the law in Missouri (and most other states in the U.S.) which allows bicyclists to use the roadway and allows bicyclists to use the full lane when the lane is too narrow to share with a motor vehicle.  (Lanes on Highway 150 after the value engineering analysis were built at 11 feet wide--far too narrow to share between a motor vehicle and a bicycle.) 

Highway 150, showing 11-foot travel lanes, parallel trail, and Bicycles May Use Full Lane signs installed
Highway 150, showing 11-foot travel lanes, parallel trail, and Bicycles May Use Full Lane signs installed

So the project was built, the parallel trail was complete, and the signs were installed.  But now, as we could have predicted years ago when the decision was made to omit the appropriate bicycle facility for the major of users who bicycle in this area, the new highway has caused conflicts between bicyclists and motorists.  

For a large number of cyclists who ride in this area, the trail is an inappropriate facility, so they will not--and should not--use it. A highway in this location and with this amount and type of bicycle usage should have included both a multi-use path and on-street bicycle facilities.  And it should include sidewalks on both sides of the highway as well--though in this case give MoDOT credit for designing space for the south-side sidewalk into the new road (the sidewalk will be built as the area develops).

If you're wondering what Highway 150 is really like from a bicyclist's perspective, and why some bicyclists will choose to ride on the road vs the trail in this situation, check out Randy Rasa's excellent summary and photos of his ride on Highway 150.

MoDOT can--and now often does--get it right

A similar nearby project where MoDOT, KCMO, and Lee's Summit are getting it right is on Lee's Summit Road--which is planned to include a sidewalk, a multi-use path, and bicycle lanes/shoulders (see diagram below, more info about Lee's Summit Road here).

Hwy 150 could have had a similar design, meeting the needs of all users, with as little as two extra feet of pavement on each side. The Hwy 150 project cost $47 million dollars ($30 million in state funds and $17 million federal), and in that context the extra expense of that two feet of pavement to accommodate the large number of bicyclists who we know frequent this area would have been minimal.

The proposed bicycle "detour" bill

Rep. Brattin has talked about creating a bill to deal with the "problem" of bicycles on highways like Highway 150.

Rep. Brattin objected to the way MoBikeFed News previously characterized the aim and purpose of this bill, which has not yet been introduced.

Here is the purpose of the proposed bill in Rep. Brattin's words, from the response that Rep. Brattin has sent to bicyclists from around Missouri who have contacted him with concerns about this proposal.:

I have talked about a bill that would have MoDot just create a detour in areas on state roads that are dangerous and have little visibility due to curves, hills, etc. for safety reasons

We have invited Rep. Brattin to submit a more detailed explanation of his proposal, but so far he has declined.  If Rep. Brattin sends us a more detailed explanation of his proposal and ideas, we will post it here.

Rep. Brattin objected vigorously to the characterization of his proposal that we previously posted in this article, which was: "Rep. Brattin is now working on creating a bill to ban bicyclists from certain roads in Missouri, based on his belief that bicyclists should not be allowed on roads like Highway 150."  

However, based on Rep. Brattin's own words above, we can come up with only three possible interpretations of the intention of the proposed bill that Mr. Brattin has, by his own admission, been talking about:

  1. A ban on bicycling on certain state roads with the provision of alternate detour routes on other roads. In short, a bicycle ban on certain state roads.
  2. A so-called "mandatory sidepath law" - which amounts to banning bicycling on certain state roads with the provision of an alternate trail that bicyclists are required to use. In short, a bicycle ban on certain state roads. Keep in mind that MoBikeFed was formed in 1993 precisely for the purpose of overturning MIssouri's then-current mandatory sidepath law. Missouri's mandatory sidepath law was successfully overturned in 1995. Such laws are vigorously opposed by our members and supporters. They are also, in objective terms, just bad laws.
  3. Some combination of the above two options--both of which we feel are fairly characterized as "a bicycle ban on certain state roads".

There is a third possibility: Rep. Brattin is talking about encouraging MoDOT to create alternate routes or trails for the use of bicyclists, which bicyclists will not be required to use.  MoBikeFed could possibly support such a proposal (depending on the details), and we would certainly support proposals to add shoulders or bike lanes to state roads where they are needed. Those help motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians.

But--if this is the gist of Rep. Brattin's proposal, how does Rep. Brattin believe this will address the situation on Highway 150 and why did he appear on TV news saying that he plans to introduce legislation to keep bicyclists off of roads like Highway 150? Because  Highway 150 already has a trail alongside it, which is an optional alternative route for bicyclists. The proposal that Rep. Brattin has been talking about publicly on television news and at the General Assembly is clearly about forcing bicyclists to use the alternative route, not merely offering it as an option.  In short, he's talking about a bicycle ban.

Again we are waiting for Rep. Brattin to either clarify his position, change his position, or to introduce a bill.  However, thanks to the many emails and phone calls bicyclists have made to Rep. Brattin's office, we believe that introduction of a bill is unlikely at this time.

Note: We'll be organizing an email & phone advocacy campaign on this issue when the time is right and if needed.  At this time it is probably not productive to contact the Representative's office.  If you do contact his office, please remember to be polite and persuasive rather than combative.  Please cc: director@mobikefed.org on any correspondence with Rep. Brattin--it really helps in gauging the number of responses he has received.

Feb 5th AM Update: Rep. Brattin had scheduled a telephone meeting this morning with representatives of MoBikeFed and BikeWalkKC to discuss his proposed bill.  Early this morning he cancelled the meeting.  

Feb 5th PM Update: Rep. Brattin has objected to the way MoBikeFed News characterized his proposal.  We have removed those paragraphs that Rep. Brattin feels were inaccurate and replaced them with a direct quote from Mr. Brattin and an analysis of that quote.  Apologies to Mr. Brattin and everyone who read a previous version of this article about any misunderstanding that may have occured.

 

Photos:

  • Rep. Rick Brattin (Credit: Missouri House of Representatives)
  • Highway 150 showing 11-foot travel lanes, parallel trail on one side of the highway, and Bicycles May Use Full Lanes signs (Credit: MoBikeFed)
  • Plans for nearby Lee's Summit Road, including sidewalk, multi-use path, and bike lane, courtesy Jackson County.  Note that the City of Lee's Summit will not be including a bike lane on their section of the road because city policy precludes bike lanes on busy roads.  But the will include a shoulder are that should be functionally similar and will match up with the bike lane sections in the KCMO and Jackson County sections of the project.