What’s next for KC’s bike program

The recent performance audit of Kansas City, MO’s 2001 bike plan has been followed up by swift action at City Hall to implement the auditor’s recommendations and begin an overall reboot of the bike and pedestrian program. BikeWalkKC has meeting with the City Manager, Councilmembers, and city staff to learn about how City Hall is moving forward and to provide our strategic advice on how they can quickly meet the public’s pent up demand for better walking and biking. A few of the highlights we know about so far:

Organizational changes
The bike/ped program has been moved from the Public Works Department to the City Manager’s Office, giving it a higher profile in City Hall and better equip it to work across departments like Parks, Water Services, Public Works, City Planning. Staff responsibility for the bike/ped program is now with Wes Minder, the City Manager’s Innovation Engineer.

Bike Master Plan
The City Planning Department has been tasked with leading the new bike master plan process, and they have already started preparatory work by drafting a timeline and reaching out to stakeholders to participate in the process. BikeWalkKC will be supporting the process with things like our recent Bike Demand Analysis and sharing of best practices from other cities. We expect to hear a lot more about this project in the coming weeks.

Upcoming projects
Several bike lane projects are in the pipeline for the next few years, especially road diets and retrofits in the urban core where there is high demand but low supply. The list includes streets like Lexington and Gladstone in the Northeast and Armour Boulevard in Midtown.

New strategies for funding and project management
The long saga of getting bike lanes on Grand Boulevard and other streets Downtown was just featured in The Pitch. It’s a good explanation of the civic, funding, bureaucratic, and project management challenges that still need to be solved if the rebooted bike/ped program is to be successful. City Manager Troy Schulte and City Engineer Jeff Martin have recently spoken about ongoing efforts to try other strategies for Grand, including doing the work in-house or working with the Missouri Department of Transportation to find ways to deal federal funding restrictions.

A big part of the problem has been the city’s reliance on federal funding for bike/ped instead of dedicated local funding. Federal funding brings a lot of restrictions that drives up project costs and limits the city’s ability to be adaptable and innovative. BikeWalkKC is advocating for the use of a Quick Build strategy that embraces the concepts of low-cost experimentation, tactical urbanism, and rapid iteration. Quick Builds involves a strategic shift from thinking about bike/ped as capital improvement projects to operations and maintenance work that can be done with existing resources and community volunteers. The upcoming infrastructure bond is another opportunity to change strategies on funding bike/ped.

Still on the to-do list
While bikes and on-street bike lanes get some much-needed attention in 2017, the city must also keep in mind the needs of pedestrians and people with disabilities. The infrastructure bond is again an opportunity to change strategies in both public policy and funding. The 2003 Walkability Plan and the 2008 Trails Plan are both due for a fresh look and updates for the future.

Posted in News.