How Do I Bike from Midtown to Downtown? Mapping the Barriers

On my bike ride into the office this morning, I got to thinking about the indirect route I have to take in order to avoid uncomfortable, high speed streets. That’s not to say that I won’t bike in more stressful traffic situations, I just prefer not to. So I’m burdened with a challenge each morning: do I spend a little extra time and bike just a little farther by navigating the low-stress streets or do I take the risk of riding more directly on the major arteries?

So as soon as I arrived at the office, I opened up google maps and started drawing my possible routes and color coding them based on my perceived stress level. Here’s my scale:

Green: I’d pull my baby along in his trailer

Yellow: Easy for most, probably wouldn’t allow your ten year old to bike alone on

Orange: Requires some confidence and skill – check out our upcoming workshop!

Red: Only for the most intrepid – I’ll do it, but I really don’t enjoy it

 

Just to simplify things and narrow down my geographic scope, I decided to pretend I was biking from Westport Road in Midtown KCMO to 10th St,Downtown. Here’s what that looks like from the 30,000 foot view:

Screen Shot 2014-03-25 at 11.58.28 AM.png

Now, let me start off by saying, do not let orange or even red streets deter you from hopping on the bike. On Thursday evening we will be holding Confident City Cycling workshop at our office. Taking this class won’t change the streets, but it sure will change the way you approach them. YOU CAN DO IT!

 

What’s great about KCMO is that it’s built on a grid, so the green and yellow routes are plentiful and they often run parallel with the orange and red ones. I didn’t even consider marking all of them; just the ones that are frequented by bicyclists.

However, what really inspired me to make this map is the fact that all of these nice, quiet routes are often disconnected by minor barriers. They are minor in that they have easy fixes. But they are challenging enough to negate many of those nice green lines.

Let’s look at a couple:

36th/Valentine & Broadway

Screen Shot 2014-03-25 at 11.50.44 AM.png
 

A fantastic bike route that connects the West 39th St. district with Midtown and the city’s Eastside is interrupted by a single offset intersection with Broadway. A very confident rider can navigate this with aplomb (I do it frequently) but, that small stretch of high stress Broadway is a barrier that those less confident in their biking skills will see as insurmountable.

 

Wyandotte and Pennsylvania Bike Routes

Screen Shot 2014-03-25 at 12.03.14 PM.png
 

I live on Wyandotte (a nice green route for much of its length) so every morning I start biking north but immediately hit my first challenge – the offset intersection at Linwood (a red street). Then I continue north on Wyandotte (now a yellow street) to a very bizarre series of on and off ramps where Wyandotte ends into Penn Valley Drive. There I have three choices:

  1. Scale a steep hill toward Liberty Memorial and eventually run into more traffic challenges farther north (not pictured)

  2. Merge onto Penn Valley Drive (Broadway) which is a high speed, red street

  3. Or bike against traffic on a one-way pseudo exit ramp under Broadway to get over to the nice green route in the park along Penn Drive (shown top left corner).

I could also try to make my way over to Pennsylvania, but a series of offset intersections (not pictured) force me onto the red Broadway or I have to ride on Linwood, also a challenging red route.

Which option would you take? Which option would you let your children take?

27th and Summit
Screen Shot 2014-03-25 at 12.19.28 PM.png

Slightly farther north, we arrive at 27th and Summit (assuming we took the illegal, option 3 from above). The good thing here is that the intersection is signalized. The bad part is that there are several freeway ramps that encourage drivers to speed. Additionally, the traffic signal is hard to trip with a bike. And along both sides of Summit between 26th and 27th, there are very dangerous drain grates.

If we took the perfectly legal, but challenging Option 2, the dot on the far right poses a slight challenge for northbound riding, but is perilous for southbound. The high speed traffic exiting I-35, while required to by law, barely yields to traffic on Broadway. I never ride SB on this section although I frequently bike NB. It’s a moderate downhill grade as you go north and keeping up with traffic is doable, but cars merging onto the I-35 ramp are often in a hurry and don’t take the most care with passing.

In my next blog post, I will explore some options that will go a long way toward eliminating some of these barriers. Most would require little more than paint.

In the meantime, feel free to explore or add to my map. Or better yet, make your own!