Case Study: Development Codes

Reforming planning, zoning, and development codes to improve the safety and access ability of walking to school.

The Problem

The built environment has a significant impact to walking to school. Things like the physical layout of neighborhoods, the location of schools relative to housing, and the design of street grid all plan in important role. Neighborhoods that are designed only for cars are neighborhoods where kids are driven to school.

The Solution

Planning, zoning, and development codes are the policy frameworks that guide the design of neighborhoods, the layout of streets, the presence of sidewalks, and hundreds of other decisions that determine the character of neighborhoods. Reforming these policies is a powerful way to make walking and biking safe and easy choices for kids and families.

The Intervention

The City of Kansas City, MO recently updated its development code, and BikeWalkKC worked city officials and other stakeholders to ensure the new business and residential development discouraged car-centric development and encouraged biking and walking.

We worked with city planners, real estate developers, home builders, and consultants to craft several key pieces of the final development code:

  • Bike parking is now required for most private and public buildings, including schools
  • Traffic studies for new development now include an assessment of impacts to pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit users
  • New neighborhoods will be more compact and walkable, with more “eyes on the street” to improve safety of kids walking or biking to school
  • New street grids will have more connections between residential streets, meaning fewer instances where kids have to walk or bike along busy arterial thoroughfares
  • Stream buffers preserve open space and allow for future trail development along rivers and streams

Outcomes

While much of the impact of the new development code will not be felt until development bounces back from the Great Recession, some change is already happening. New mixed-use projects are popping up around the Midtown area and include bike parking for residents and tenants. The City Planning Departments is updating Area Plans for many parts of the city, and all of those planning efforts include a very strong bike/ped component.