Leawood is a city that just wants a little more sole.
Officials are working on a new Bicycle & Pedestrian Master Plan that will feature fiscally responsible ways to make Leawood friendlier to car-less commuters.
To kick off the project, the city held a bike expo Monday evening at The Lodge at Ironwoods. It featured a presentation about the master plan, business vendors and a stunt bicycle show.
The idea for the master plan was a result of Leawood’s initiative to become more environmentally friendly, said Brian Anderson, superintendent of parks and recreation.
After focusing on recycling and energy conservation during the past six years, green transportation seemed like the most logical next step, Anderson said.
The master plan will feature functional, economically feasible ideas, rather than million-dollar projects that would most likely end up being shelved, said Marty Shukert, a principal with RDG Planning and Design, a consultant group from Omaha brought in to help create the master plan.
For example, solutions could be as simple as bridging a gap between two dead ends of a trail or mapping out a neighborhood walking route parallel to a busy street, Shukert said.
The goal is to make the city more accessible to people who already bike or walk places and encourage others to do the same, he said.
“We’re not trying to get people to sell their cars and buy bikes and never buy another gallon of gas again,” Shukert said. “We would just like to see more people bike or walk to nearby destinations like the store. It saves money, cuts down on fuel consumption and lessens traffic.”
Consultants will hold neighborhood meetings next month to hear residents’ concerns and ideas. There also will be an online survey available for residents to fill out later this month. The consultants also will meet with schools and businesses.
Then, they will examine every aspect of the city’s streets and trails.
Based on feedback and their own observations, the consultants will help put together the city’s master plan. They hope to have it done by March 2014.
Among those in attendance was Debra Filla, a Leawood councilwoman and co-chairwoman of the Sustainability Advisory Board.
“We really see Leawood’s downtown as Town Center and the City Hall area,” she said. “It’s not easy to get there from the trails. I’m excited to see how we can make that area more bike- and pedestrian-friendly.”
She said the plan goes hand in hand with the national Complete Streets policy, which calls for streets to be designed, operated and secure for everyone regardless of their transportation mode.
While dozens of residents made it out to watch a stunt bike show at the event, several of them, including Leawood resident Ron Johnson, had come earlier to watch the presentation out of genuine curiosity.
An avid cycler, Johnson often wheels around the city’s streets and trails with his wife and grandchildren.
He is excited the city’s effort, and he’s optimistic beneficial changes can be made. He is looking forward to the neighborhood meetings where he can voice his concerns.
“Most of my issues are with the city’s trails because I see bikes going way too fast, especially in parts where there are a lot of pedestrians,” Johnson said. “And there are parts of the paths that are poorly maintained. It’s just plain dangerous.”
He would also like to see more businesses — such as grocery stores — have bike racks. He hopes other suburbs follow Leawood’s lead.
After all, the world is changing, he said. Green mobility is the way to go.
“Cycling is the new golf — we’re not putting around anymore,” Johnson said. “Every day of the week, you’ll see people riding out into the countryside or into Brookside for a coffee. The infrastructure has to accommodate the growth of the sport.”