It’s easy to get discouraged when delays, roadblocks, budget cuts, global pandemics, and other surprises frustrate the best laid plans to improve walking and biking infrastructure. As the year draws to a close, BikeWalkKC wants to celebrate some of the bike projects that persevered in 2020 to support safe and active streets for all users.
#7: Armour Road
City of North Kansas City
Why We’re Excited: Grassroots Advocacy, City Council Support, and Future Phases Moving Forward
While improvements to Armour Road were mostly constructed in 2019, Armour Road has taken us on quite an adventure in 2020. This September, following contentious hearings and an outpouring of community support, North Kansas City’s City Council voted to retain complete street improvements on Armour Road with spot modifications to address design concerns. The City Council also agreed to move forward with a 2021 budget allocation for the next phases of the project, including additional curbs and bumpouts similar to improvements currently in place at Armour Road and Iron Street.
In July, the City Council adopted the North Kansas City Bicycle Master Plan, developed in partnership with BikeWalkKC. The Bicycle Master Plan outlines recommendations to ensure that improvements on Armour Road are integrated into a functional and connected network that links all parts of the community. In December, North Kansas City’s Planning Commission adopted the Bicycle Master Plan into the City’s Comprehensive Plan. Building off recommendations in the Bicycle Master Plan, North Kansas City is already working on the next hurdles for Armour Road with a 2021 planning grant to provide design options to overcome the Interstate 29/35 barrier and provide safe and comfortable connections to destinations and employment centers east of the highway.
#6: 12th Street
Why We’re Excited: Best Practice Model for Integrating Buses and Bikes at Transit Stops
Next on our list for 2020 is a small but important improvement implemented by the KCATA on 12th Street between Holmes Street and Troost Avenue. These new bike lanes are part of a larger KCATA project to construct a new transit center and multimodal hub at 12th and Charlotte Streets. While this is a small project with limited connectivity in its first phase, the City of KCMO has set aside funding to complete improvements from Grand to Paseo. Once completed this segment will be an important east-west connection linking Downtown and the Paseo West area.
What excites us about this project is the design of the infrastructure at the MAX bus stops. This project raises the bar throughout the region for safely and comfortably managing interactions between bikes and buses. Bike lanes are located behind the bus stop to prevent conflicts between bikes and frequent stopping buses. Unlike recent retrofits on Grand, the bike path is straight and connects directly across the intersection. Raised pavement, striping, and signage alerts people on bikes to be aware of pedestrians approaching the bus shelter, while railings ensure that waiting passengers stay clear of the bike lanes. The project is implemented with one-way bike lanes today, but is wide enough to accommodate a two-way cycle track if the design of the larger segment on 12th Street requires it.
#5: Lake Olathe
City of Olathe
Why We’re Excited: Great New Recreation Amenities and Important Regional Greenway Connections
While Lake Olathe always boasted a beautiful natural setting, limited infrastructure and programming, along with difficult access by foot or bike, has limited its potential. In 2020 we saw a total transformation of Lake Olathe into a premier recreation destination, including important new walking and biking connectivity. Several new trail loops now provide recreation opportunities with a variety of lengths and experiences. With a new lakefront amphitheater, splash park, nature trail, event space, wetlands boardwalk, and more, there are a lot of new destinations and activities to visit.
Trail connectivity through the Lake Olathe area is also part of the larger bike network, connecting together the existing shared use path on 135th Street with existing bike lanes on Dennis Avenue. As plans for a trail connection between Lake Olathe and Cedar Lake move forward, this network of bike infrastructure will add additional connections across highway and railroad barriers, adding the Cedar Creek watershed to the list of quality streamway trails in the region.
#4: Nieman Road
City of Shawnee
Why We’re Excited: Supporting Downtown Revitalization Through More Complete Streets
A new shared use path is just one piece of the Nieman Now project reshaping Nieman Road between Shawnee Mission Parkway and 55th Street. What used to be a busy four lane arterial through the heart of Shawnee’s downtown now includes a road diet, pedestrian refuges, public spaces, seating, lighting, and other improvements to make this corridor a comfortable and inviting place for people.
The improvements extend beyond Nieman Road too. New trail and sidewalk spurs tie together several schools, parks, and commercial destinations, transforming downtown Shawnee from a walkable island to a multimodal hub for the broader community. Next Steps: a high-quality connection east to the Turkey Creek Trail.
#3: Gillham Road
Kansas City, Missouri
Why We’re Excited: Quick-Build Model on a Vital North-South Corridor
Finally, Kansas City, Missouri has its first two-way cycle track. It’s not perfect, and it’s not complete, but there are lots of reasons to be excited about this project. First, we now have the beginnings of a high-quality north-south bike route through the heart of the City. Gillham has forgiving topography compared to other north-south corridors, and it links many destinations and east-west connections. It won’t reach its full potential until some key gaps are filled, but it’s a great start.
We’re also excited that Kansas City is dipping its toes into low-cost quick-build infrastructure that can be deployed more rapidly and comprehensively than traditional infrastructure projects. The first phases of Gillham were coordinated with restriping that was already planned and funded for the corridor. Physical protection includes low-cost curb-stops and flexposts. By coordinating with other projects and funding sources, and focusing on simple interim improvements, Kansas City can quickly provide an interconnected network that serves all parts of the City. Over time, these early deployments can be tweaked and upgraded for enhanced comfort and safety, but at least we have dedicated, curb-separated space for people on bikes on Gillham today.
#2: 47th Street
Westwood, Unified Government, Roeland Park
Why We’re Excited: Community-Led “Plan to Paint to Permanent” Success Story
BikeWalkKC worked with local communities to develop the 47th Street Complete Street Plan in 2017 but corridor businesses and stakeholders have been imagining a better 47th Street for several decades. 2020 saw the implementation of the early-phase recommendations for the corridor including a reduction of travel lanes from four to three, striped bike lanes, and new crosswalks and pedestrian refuge areas at several intersections. This paint and post project will give users of the corridor an opportunity to evaluate the function of the road diet and identify potential design modifications ahead of more permanent improvements.
Speaking of permanent improvements, the strength of the community plan helped adjacent cities to win millions of dollars in federal grant funding even before the paint project began. That funding will support reconstruction of sidewalks, landscaping, pedestrian amenities, and an above-curb cycle track that will be safer for people on bikes while reducing conflicts for motorists.
#1: Overland Park Collector Street Striping
City of Overland Park
Why We’re Excited: Rapid Implementation of a Comprehensive Network
Overland Park has long been known for its great regional trails, but historically its wide busy streets have not been welcoming to people on bikes. That’s changing. Since Overland Park updated their Bicycle Master Plan in 2016 they have been aggressively working to implement the recommendations. In fact, over the past 18 months or so, Overland Park has constructed more than 35 miles of trails and on-street bike infrastructure. That represents more than 60% of the bike infrastructure built in the entire region over the same period! Generally, the City has focused on simple striping projects for collector streets that provide good connectivity through neighborhoods while avoiding the worst traffic of arterial street corridors.
Overland Park’s work has three key benefits: 1) it’s quick – the pace of striping in Overland Park is unprecedented in the region, 2) it’s comprehensive – newly developing areas are getting bike infrastructure as streets are built, but older areas including downtown Overland Park are also seeing retrofit striping projects, and 3) it’s connected – bike infrastructure works best when it connects to a network of routes linking many destinations. Going forward, greater focus on infrastructure at intersections and greater protection and separation on the busiest streets will ensure that all ages and abilities can comfortably take advantage of Overland Park’s growing network.