Interaction between bicyclists and drivers has not always been pleasant in Johnson County’s car-dominated landscape. This year, the city of Overland Park has set out to see what it can do to make things better.
Bike riders who showed up at an open meeting sponsored by the city this week were not short on suggestions. More signs, marked bicycle lanes and safety education for both cyclists and drivers were frequent suggestions on two large boards that quickly filled with sticky notes.
“We need to make the general public aware that cyclists are entitled and encouraged to share the road with motorized traffic,” said Phil Quann of Overland Park. Quann commutes seven to 10 miles a day and suffered a fractured vertebra a couple of years ago when he was hit by a car. Fully recovered now, he said awareness of bicyclists on the road is key.
Although most drivers are polite, he said he’s had his share of abusive language, honks and gestures.
The city is trying to develop a strategy that would encourage people to ride while keeping the streets safe for both riders and drivers. This year, with $100,000 from the Mid America Regional Council and $25,000 in city funds, Overland Park has hired a consultant to get the ball rolling.
Some 40 people showed up at the Matt Ross Community Center on Tuesday to give their suggestions. The consultant, Toole Design Group of Madison, Wis., will help the city put together ideas from this and other public input opportunities.
Several options were on display for discussion at the meeting. Traditional bike lanes, protected bike lanes, wide “side paths” similar to sidewalks and bike paths were among the ways other cities have encouraged biking. Attendees were asked to put suggestions on sticky notes and to mark problem areas or possible bike routes on maps of the city.
Karry Rood of Overland Park said the city should consider some measures that would make people — especially new cyclists — feel safer taking to the streets. A new trail along Metcalf Avenue that was part of an improved county transit route is a good example, she said.
The city has an opportunity to include bikes in its plans, especially in the northern part of Overland Park, said traffic engineer Brian Shields. Streets are older in that part of town and could be widened for bike traffic as they come up for repairs, he said.
Many of the attendees said their top priority was awareness. Some suggested regular tips about safety in the city newsletter and others said young drivers should learn to share the road both as cyclists and drivers. One suggested Kansas include at least one question on dealing with bicyclists on its written driver’s test.
“The vast majority of people out there driving or riding are very polite,” said Warren Tobaben of Overland Park. “I don’t know if signs will make more of a difference than just having more people out on bikes.”
The city plans to take online input later on and have another public meeting in late summer before coming out with more concrete proposals, probably this fall, said Shields.