Overland Park this week took another step toward creating a network of bike lanes.
At its meeting Monday afternoon, the Planning Commission approved a bike plan that would create 165 miles of bicycle lanes throughout the city. It would also create buffered bicycle lanes, shared use paths, shared lane markings and signed bike routes.
The city council will have the final say on the $27.7 million project at its meeting on Monday, March 2.
Although the Planning Commission unanimously voted to recommend approval of the plan to the council, a few of its members expressed concerns.
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They worried the plan was costly and perhaps a little too aggressive.
If approved, the plan could be implemented as early as this year. New lanes and signage would be constructed simultaneously with street resurfacing and reconstruction projects already in the works.
“I hope this starts out real slow and carefully, and as we see what the issues are, adjust it as we move along,” Commissioner Tom Lance told city staff.
Brian Shields, city traffic engineer, pointed out that the network would be built gradually and would take years to complete, spreading out the cost.
Commissioner David Hill agreed the implementation of the plan needed to be closely monitored, but felt confident enough to give his full support.
“There are certain gray areas, but the study lays out a good plan for us to follow,” he said.
A handful of Overland Park residents voiced their support during the public hearing for the plan. A couple also expressed disappointment.
One of the dissenters was Mark Stuecheli, former senior transportation planner for Overland Park.
While he is thrilled that the city is heading toward becoming a bike-friendly city, there was one major detail that made him nervous.
The plan calls for thoroughfare lanes to be narrowed to allow narrow bike lanes.
Stuecheli believes the street lanes need to be widened to include bike lanes instead.
He pointed out that with cars going 45 mph, and many drivers being distracted on their cellphones, the narrowness of the lanes could cause serious accidents. And bicyclists have no protection against injury, other than a helmet, he said.
Kevin Luecke, a consultant from Tool Design Group, which worked on the plan, replied that his team researched the project extensively and thoroughly. He told the commission they do not think the narrow lanes are cause for concern.
“I wouldn’t be making these recommendations if I felt they were unsafe or inadequate,” Luecke said. “I don’t want to put any bicyclists in harm’s way.”
Luecke also pointed out that the plan places an emphasis on bike safety.
Consultants are recommending the city hold educational events, such as a bicycle rodeo, provide bicycle safety and educational materials on its website, and even include annual bicycle and pedestrian education to residents in the form of newsletters or through utility bills.
After drawing feedback from more than 100 residents via workshops, forums, online surveys and other avenues, Luecke said he felt confident the plan was giving the community what it wants.
“The trail system here is fantastic, but people want to ride for more than just recreational purposes,” he said. “They currently don’t feel safe bicycling for transportation in the city, but Overland Park has the potential to change.”