Rush to victim blaming obscures the facts about our dangerous streets

The intersection at Southwest Trafficway and Valentine Road is dangerous by design, and plans to make it safer are waiting on action from City Hall.

We are disappointed to see The Star’s coverage of the Pablo Sanders crash, which fails to capture the lived experiences of people who walk and bike in Kansas City, and how our streets are dangerous by design.

We responded off-the-record to a Star reporter who relayed information she had received from KCPD. That information, and the subsequent article, focused on the color of the cyclist’s clothes and speculation about his behavior, with no mention of the conditions at the crash site or results of a crash investigation or reconstruction – something we see all too often in media coverage of these crashes. We expressed our concern that this information appears to potentially blame the victim while failing to address other key factors that may have played a role in the crash. KCPD has yet to reply to our request for information, so we did not want to judge their assessment of the crash without having all the facts. 

What we do know for sure is that the intersection of Southwest Trafficway where the crash occurred is dangerous for people who walk or bike, even when following all the rules.

Fact 1. The traffic signal does not detect bicycles consistently
People on bikes often have to wait for a car to come along and trip the detector. Or they have to take their chances racing across six lanes of high speed traffic. 

Fact 2. The green light is not long enough to cross Southwest Trafficway
It’s very hard to cross all six lanes before the light changes, even for people in good physical shape. It’s very common to find yourself finishing across the last two lanes after cars on the Trafficway get a green light.

Fact 3. Cars are going at deadly speeds
While the speed limit on Southwest Trafficway is posted at 35 mph, cars regularly go 45, 50, or more. Crashes at these speeds significantly increase the odds that the person walking or biking will be killed. An impact at that speed could have thrown his helmet off or broken the clasp, and often causes life-threatening injuries that can’t be prevented by a helmet.

These facts are well known. We’ve made repeated requests to City Hall to improve detection of the traffic signal and to lengthen the green light time for crossing the Trafficway.

The Midtown Complete Streets Plan identifies Southwest Trafficway as a major barrier to walking and biking in Midtown, and recommends many improvements to make it safer and easier to cross on bike or foot. The Draft Bike Master Plan designates Valentine as “bike boulevard” or slow street, which would better enable cyclists and pedestrians to cross the Trafficway safely and comfortably. 

Both plans are sitting on the shelf at City Hall waiting for leadership to put them into action. 

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