More bike lanes or less? And who is in control? Ordinance seeks control of bike lanes in KCMO's 3rd District | KCStar

Headlines are quick hits from media outlets from Missouri and around the world. Follow the headline link for the full story. The source of this headline says:

In the past four years, Kansas City has installed more than 5.6 miles of bike lanes as part of its initiative called Complete Streets. The latest addition was the 3.3-mile lane on Gillham Road.

More lanes are on the way across the city, but the process for how those lanes are approved and created may be changing in the city’s Third Council District, which includes Ivanhoe, Hyde Park and Squier Park neighborhoods.

Councilwoman Melissa Robinson introduced an ordinance last month that would give residents—specifically neighborhood associations—in her district more of a say in the installation process for bike lanes in the area, and the potential removal of the lanes. . . .

If Councilwoman Robinson’s ordinance passes, the city would need to remove bike lanes installed in the third district in the past 12 months, unless city officials get written permission from neighborhood associations to keep the lanes.

Then, before the city can install new bike lanes, it must receive written approval from Councilwoman Robinson, Councilman Brandon Ellington and neighborhood associations in the district.

Robinson clarified the goals of her ordinance in a public meeting last week after some residents expressed concerns. Residents who attended the meeting were worried that the change would exclude the Third District from the citywide bike lane plan and slow the spread of bike lanes throughout the city. . . .

The ordinance would require the city to put other street safety measures in place before a new bike lane can go up, including:

* Fixing all sidewalks within a 1-mile radius of a proposed bike lane.

* Appropriately striping crosswalks.

* Providing automatic bulky item pick-up in neighborhoods within a 12-mile radius of school buildings located in the city’s lowest life expectancy area codes.

“Sidewalks are a priority, and this ordinance says we’re looking at deeper sidewalk safety, along with bike routes,” Robinson said in the public meeting.

MoBikeFed comment: Though most people who bicycle are likely to agree with those who attended Councilwoman Robinson's public meeting - that the 3rd District will be left out of the city's bicycle plane, and omitting bicycle lanes will decrease safety for the many people who bicycle in the 3rd District - it is worth remembering, as well, that many of the issues raised in the ordinance are valid as well.

The 3rd District does have many miles of crumbling or deficient sidewalks, crosswalks are too often unmarked or not well marked, with markings that have disappeared with time and have never been re-painted, and when projects are proposed, the issue of getting enough public input from a really broad representation of those who live and work in the neighborhood is always a very difficult one.

And the perception among many in the 3rd District is that bicycling is not a popular or common activity there. The flip side of that argument, though, is that many people do in fact depend on bicycling for basic transportation - particularly those in the lowest income brackets and the lowest age groups - that few really good, safe bicycle facilities have ever been built in the district, and when they have, bicycling on those corridors has improved rather dramatically.

A quick look at the Strava Cycling Heatmap for the area, compared with the Kansas City bicycle facilities map, confirms this - projects like the Brush Creek Trail, the Blue River Bicycle Trail, the Van Brunt Bicycle Trail, the Leeds Trafficway bicycle lanes, and the Benton Boulevard bicycle lanes show up rather dramatically - while similar nearby streets with no bicycle facilities show far less traffic:

https://www.strava.com/heatmap#13.49/-94.54392/39.07200/hot/ride

https://www.kcmo.gov/home/showdocument?id=564

(Note that the facilities map is slightly out of date and some facilities listed as "future" there have since been completed.)

BikeWalkKC has posted an article about this issue with excellent suggestions:

* Update the Complete Streets policy, don’t gut it.

(Kansas City's Complete Streets policy is not somewhat out of date, and the latest model policies have improved ways of dealing with issues like gentrification and community engagement.)

* Adopt the bike plan and its community engagement elements

(Kansas City's long-awaited update to the city bike plan - last updated in 2002 - is now in its final form but has not been officially adopted because of opposition that has developed. Much of the opposition has been around elements similar to those seen in this ordinance, and by the groups and city leaders who are supporting this ordinance. So perhaps the introduction of this ordinance is an opportunity to address some of those issues and move the city's bike plan forward.)

* We don’t have to choose between creating safe streets or prioritizing community engagement. We can and should do both.

Read BikeWalkKC's article, and their call for action for people who support the better bicycle facilities and the city's bicycle plan to contact their elected representatives here:

https://bikewalkkc.org/blog/2021/10/kcmos-3rd-district-wants-safer-streets/

Two final points worth remembering:

#1. Bicycle infrastructure is usually the least expensive by far - less expensive than roads and even less expensive than sidewalks. This is particularly true the way Kansas City's bicycle and Complete Streets plans are proceeding - in large part by re-striping roads and streets to include bicycle lanes when the streets are being repaved and re-striped already.

The actual cost of this type of project is near zero. The proven benefits - to neighbors, to those who use the facilities, and to businesses along the routes - has been shown time and time again to be huge.

Studies of streets across the U.S. and the world where bike lanes have been installed show that downsides - such as the feared drop-off in business for stores along the route - turn out to be negligible at worst. On average, businesses along such routes benefit from increased customers and sales - partly because adding the bicycle lanes and slowing traffic makes for a far more inviting pedestrian experience for those visiting the area, and partly because the bicycle facilities invite more local residents to visit the area and stay longer than they usually would.

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/01441647.2021.1912849

#2. Though news articles often talk about "miles" of new bicycle lanes - as though they represent a huge change - in fact the miles of streets recently updated and proposed for the near future are rather minuscule in comparison to Kansas City's thousands of miles of city streets.

Kansas City has updated 5.6 miles of streets under its Complete Streets policy and is planning to strip 10 miles of bicycle lanes next spring.

Kansas City Public Works maintains about 6000 lane miles and in a typical year might repave about 200 miles.

Though the pace of bicycle facilities in Kansas City has picked up significantly in recent years - a change that can be attributed in large part to the excellent advocacy work of BikeWalkKC and other local advocates, and to key Kansas City elected leaders and staff who have supported the work - the fact remains that Kansas City is still very much on the trailing edge of bicycle friendly communities in the U.S., and by no means on the leading edge.

Paris is an example of what a truly leading-edge city is doing in the post-pandemic environment:

- Since 2015, Paris has invested $178 million in bicycle facilities

- During first six months of the pandemic, Paris created 31 miles (!) of new bicycle lanes and on-road routes

- By 2026, Paris is planning to add 435 new miles of bicycle routes - amounting to more than 70 new miles of routes each year

Cities like Kansas City need to keep moving forward in implementing bicycle facilities at the pace that is feasible for them. But it is still well worth keeping in mind what a truly sweeping and fast-moving city bicycle plan looks like - and that the plans and rate of progress we usually see in Missouri and the Midwest are typically far less ambitious and far, far slower moving.