Approving about 260 miles of shared road, designated lanes and other upgrades for cyclists wasn’t the only topic dominating Overland Park’s City Council meeting Monday night.
The cyclists’ concerns were part of a much larger issue — how to maintain and enhance the livability of a city as it continues to grow and age at the same time. That’s a struggle for the entire Kansas City area, main cities and outer suburbs.
Livability is difficult to quantify. But it’s not to be discounted in city planning.
The Overland Park City Council took a step toward meeting that goal with its approval of the cyclists’ plan, which was studied heavily for 18 months. While the nearly $28 million cost sounds daunting, a fuller explanation should address any dissent.
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Much of the project will unfold over the next 10 to 15 years as city crews go about resurfacing existing streets. We’re talking about paint. That’s why advocates kept reiterating that 75 percent of the plan (about 200 miles) can be completed for less than $3 million. The more expensive portions will come in redesigning roads on the city’s outskirts, roads that would be reconfigured anyway.
The arguments pushing against the plan were not completely unfounded, especially safety concerns. But some of the hesitations stem from a reluctance to embrace changes already underway.
Millennials want to remain far less car dependent than previous generations. Encouraging exercise for recreation and transportation is just smart.
Contrary to stereotypes, not everyone in Overland Park lives in a neatly manicured cul-de-sac with tidy sidewalks and a gym membership. Walking and riding bikes to school, the pool, the grocery, a friend’s house or a job will make for happier and healthier residents, no matter what their age or income.
Overland Park is the appropriate city to be guiding this effort on the Kansas side because the city borders many other cities. This investment will probably spur more connector routes by those neighboring areas, several of which have already begun their own plans to enhance safe cycling.
Mayor Carl Gerlach walked the wise mediator line: supporting the plan with his words but also adding the caveat that it should be periodically re-evaluated as work progresses and drivers begin to share the road with more cyclists.
That’s leadership and vision delivered through common sense.