Kansas City Council tries to limit problems caused by charity races

It seems as though there is an organized run, walk or bike race clogging the streets of Kansas City practically every weekend in the spring, summer and fall.

Something like 40 to 60 every year, officials say.

But starting in 2013, motorists and residents will be better able to cope with the disruptions to their routines, if a proposed city ordinance works the way Kansas City officials hope it will.

If it’s approved by the City Council today, responsibility for overseeing those events would be transferred from the public works to the parks department and permit fees would rise from $50 to $100.

That would partly fund the hiring of a part-time race coordinator who would see to it that people along race routes were properly notified well ahead of time. Also, the contract coordinator would make sure that routes and dates don’t pose a conflict with businesses or other events.

Councilwoman Jan Marcason led the effort after she and some of her constituents in the 4th District complained that they were inconvenienced by street closures they hadn’t been warned about or they lost sales when customers were unable to get to their businesses.

One marathon in 2011, for instance, kept traffic away from the River Market for hours on a Saturday, the day on which most of the businesses there see their highest sales.

Other examples of bad timing included a race whose route went through the West Bottoms while the American Royal was being staged, and there’s the case of a church that was cut off three Sundays in a row because of its proximity to race routes.

Under the new system, there’d be fewer problems like those, Marcason on Wednesday told the council’s neighborhoods and healthy communities committee, which recommended passage by the full council.

The coordinator would review race, run and ride applications well ahead of time — at least 90 days — anticipate problems and make sure word gets out to those who might be affected.

Currently, race organizers are only required to notify people who live or have businesses along a route. The new rules require organizers to submit a plan for notifying anyone “who might reasonably be affected by the proposed event.”

Notices could include postcards and emails as well as signs posted along the route. No signs are allowed now on public right of way, but that would change. Under the new rules, signs could be placed no more than three days before the event, as long as they were picked up within 24 hours after it ended.