Kansas City To Rethink Bike Plan Following Harsh Audit

Dec 22, 2016

A 2014 map shows proposed cycling routes for downtown Kansas City. A new audit says the city is failing to achieve its goals to accommodate cyclists.
Credit BikeWalkKC

Kansas City will reassess its approach to accommodating cyclists, City Manager Troy Schulte told the city council Thursday.

His announcement came in response to a new audit showing the city failing to achieve its goals of becoming more bike friendly.

The audit concluded that the city’s on-street bike plan, Bike KC, lacks critical elements to serve the needs of cyclists and the city’s multi-modal transportation goals.

The failure to update the plan and follow the recommendations of a public committee have led to project delays and increased costs.

“I’m very disturbed by this report,” Councilman Dan Fowler said at Thursday’s council session. “I’ve been very proud of the process that I thought we were making.”

In 2008, the city adopted the goal of becoming a “Platinum level Bicycle Friendly Community,” as designated by the League of American Bicyclists by 2020.

The same year, the council created the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee to oversee and provide public input on the city’s bike plans.

Among the audit’s findings:

  • 53 percent of the city’s identified bicycle routes are not suitable for the average cyclist.
  • 91 percent of built bike facilities do not include separate, dedicated space for cyclists.
  • Bike KC’s routes were not selected or evaluated for transportation purposes.

The audit shows that Kansas City’s bike plans fares poorly compared to Denver, Colorado, Overland Park, Kansas, and Portland, Oregon, which have all implemented bike plans.

The audit’s findings didn’t surprise many cycling advocates, including Eric Bunch, director of policy and education for BikeWalkKC, who says the bike plan has never been adequate. He welcomes a fresh start.

“It’s long overdue,” Bunch says. “It was overdue the second it was created, to be perfectly honest.”

Bunch says a useful bike plan would do more than address the needs of current cyclists. It would encourage more riders and commuters by creating more functional routes, something the city has failed to do so far.

“We just build bike lanes in little fits and spurts – in places where we should be building bike lanes but not the place where you going to get true ‘mode shift,’” Bunch says. 

Schulte said the city will seek public input to revise its bike plan. He anticipated the process will take a year.

Alex Smith is a reporter for KCUR, a partner in the Heartland Health Monitor team. You can reach him on Twitter @AlexSmithKCUR