Biden and city council talk local transit needs. Here’s what readers told us about bike lanes in town

·5 min read

Bike lanes are a hot issue in Kansas City. In the past four years, the city has installed nearly six miles of bike lanes as part of its initiative called Complete Streets, and plans to add miles more.

With President Biden in town on Wednesday to talk about his infrastructure bill that could give Kansas City more cash for things like roads, bridges, public transit and bike lanes, how the city will spend the money and who gets to decide that is on our minds. The Kansas City Council is also considering changing its process for how it adds bike lanes to neighborhoods.

A couple weeks ago, we asked you what you thought about the lanes, and what you thought should be considered when adding them around the city.

Our Service Journalism team heard back from dozens of readers, and we wanted to share back some of what we heard.

First thing’s first: What is Kansas City Council considering?

Councilwoman Melissa Robinson introduced an ordinance to the council that gives residents in her district more of a say in where and when new bike lanes are added. The proposal also requests the city to fix things like sidewalks and crosswalks in an area before it adds bike lanes, and to remove lanes added in the Third District in the last 90 days.

The city council transportation committee discussed the future of bike lanes in the Third District, which includes Squier Park and Ivanhoe, at a meeting on Wednesday Dec. 8.

Mayor Quinton Lucas attended the committee meeting and suggested to apply sections of the ordinance to all Kansas City districts, not just the Third District, which would require city staff to do three months of education and engagement in a neighborhood before adding a bike lane.

The committee put the ordinance on hold and may make further changes to it before putting it to a vote.

If you want a refresher on where the bike lanes already are in the city, check out our map.

Now, here are some of the responses we heard from readers when we asked what the city should consider when adding bike lanes.

Worried about crashes

Reader Margo Shepard has lived in Kansas City for 40 years and got into biking recreationally after she and her husband participated in RAGBRAI, a 460-mile bike ride across Iowa. She’s not a fan of riding on busy streets and isn’t sure why Kansas City is putting bike lanes on busy streets, like Armour Boulevard and Gillham Road.

Her husband was in a wreck two months ago at the intersection of Armour Boulevard and Locust Street because he couldn’t see around the parked cars to get across the street. She said she fears that someone is going to get killed, citing the intersection of 36th Street and Gillham Road as a dangerous spot for cyclists.

Shepard said she’s a fan of councilwoman Robinson’s approach to fixing the sidewalks before installing bike lanes.

Sidewalks saved my life

Stephen Krauska, a reader in Longfellow, shared a similar statement, saying bike lanes can serve more than one purpose and can act as sidewalks in some ways.

“There’s an actual benefit to everybody when you put in a bike lane,” Krauska said.

Krauska and his family moved to Kansas City in March 2020, just before the pandemic shutdown. He said it was great to bike around Kansas City initially because there were no cars on the streets. As things became busier again, he felt it became essential to have the bike lanes.

Krauska said he’d like to see better bike lane protection, like the curbs put in on 27th Street. He said it’s one of the best designs he’s ever seen, as it protects bike riders and prevents cars from speeding. He’d like to see this design on unprotected lanes, such as the painted lane on Grand Boulevard.

Protect the paint

Reader Grant Niehus isn’t a fan of the painted lanes. He said he thinks they give cyclists a false sense of security. Like Krauska, he’s an advocate for protected bike lanes and uses the Gillham Road lane to bike from where he lives in the River Market to Brookside, where his sister lives.

He views the Gillham Road lane as a quick solution for bike safety and wants to see more protection on this lane and on current and future lanes.

Niehus sold his car at the beginning of the pandemic, and now his bike is his primary method of transportation, like another reader, Matt Staub. What Staub once felt was a niche method is now opening up for more people with the bike lanes.

Staub said he thinks that every community has issues, such as cars blocking bike lanes, and that it’s just growing pains from the community getting used to them. He loves what he sees with the Gillham Road lanes. He said it makes cyclists comfortable and the streets safer.

Staub said love to see more connectivity in the city so residents can get where they need to go, as there hasn’t been a comprehensive network of bike lanes or thinking about mobility with the lanes until now.

Sharing is caring

Growing up in the Kansas City area, reader Joel Walsh and his wife bought a home in the Pendleton Heights neighborhood in Northeast Kansas City in March 2020. Bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure were the main factors they considered when deciding where to buy a home.

Walsh is steps away from Cliff Drive, a roughly 3-mile-long pedestrian path used for running, cycling and dog-walking. He can get where he needs to in the city using bike lanes or bike trails and wants to see more protected lanes.

“I will bike on a road with vehicular traffic if it’s not too busy,” Walsh said. “I’ve biked down The Paseo and Van Brunt on weekends, for example. But I’m more inclined to look for designated bike routes or, better yet, protected bike lanes, like those on Gillham Road or 18th Street, for safety reasons.”

What’s next?

The city council’s bike lane ordinance is on hold, and some more changes may be made about things like the requirement for community engagement or fixing sidewalks in a neighborhood before adding bike lanes.

What questions do you have about bike lanes in Kansas City? Has your experience been way different than what the readers above shared? What do you think should be taken into consideration when adding more lanes in the city? Let our Service Journalism team know at kcq@kcstar.com or with the form below.

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