While our primary focus is in the KC metro, BikeWalkKC works to build a culture of active living throughout the region, and that includes efforts at the state level in both Kansas and Missouri. Our work is informed in part by the League of American Bicyclists, which recently released its 2019 rankings for bike friendly states.
While both Kansas and Missouri remain in the lower half of states that are bike friendly, the 2019 rankings highlight different conclusions for each state. Kansas was ranked 37th on the list for 2019, which represents a major improvement from 47th on the last ranking report in 2017. Conversely, Missouri was ranked 35th on the list, which represents a drop from the 32nd spot in 2017.
How did the League of American Bicyclists come up with these grades? Each state report has a categorical breakdown that identifies and assigns letter grades on the key elements that help to make a state more or less bike friendly. This includes:
- Infrastructure & Funding - Design and existence of infrastructure; state transportation funding; use of federal transportation funding; planned and recently built bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure
- Education & Encouragement - State DOT education and enforcement support; mode share and advocacy
- Legislation & Enforcement - Laws that regulate driver behavior and methods of enforcement; laws that restrict the behavior of people who walk and bike; laws that create protections for people who walk and bike
- Policies & Programs - Complete Streets; design and access policies; state of practice development; sustainable transportation policies
- Evaluation & Planning - State DOT bicycle and pedestrian plans; bicycle and pedestrian safety; understanding people who bike and walk; formal user group engagement
The grades for the categorical breakdowns are listed below, with the higher grade in each category for each state listed in bold:
Infrastructure & Funding
Education & Encouragement
Legislation & Enforcement
Policies & Programs
Evaluation & Planning
Taken together, these results indicate that both states still have a ways to go to roll with the likes of the friendliest state for bikes in the midwest, Minnesota, which came in at number 3 overall on the rankings list.
While the report is a helpful barometer for assessing how states stack up on bikeability, they need to be understood as high-level summaries that don’t always tell the full picture. BikeWalkKC knows that more needs to be done on both sides of the state line, and we have taken a number of steps over the past year to help the states and individual communities make progress.
In Kansas, that work has included:
- Strategic planning efforts in conjunction with Bike Walk Wichita, Topeka Cycling Project, BikeWalkMHK, KDOT, and others to form the statewide coalition Bike Walk KS;
- Advocating in Topeka for the negligent driving bill; and
- Working with leaders in Johnson and Wyandotte counties to push for stronger Complete Streets policies.
In Missouri, our work has included:
- Working on statewide issues in conjunction with Missourians for Responsible Transportation;
- Providing technical assistance to rural communities; and
- Participating in the Complete Streets Consortium series for Missouri as part of a team of advocates, staff, and elected officials from eastern Jackson County.
There are successes and failures for each state in these rankings and in their respective reports. The reports are helpful because we sometimes need a third party to tell us where we can improve. To that end, BikeWalkKC will continue to work in conjunction with fellow advocates, agency staff, and elected officials to build a friendlier environment for cyclists and pedestrians on both sides of the state line.