Planners want to hear how bicyclists would improve roads and trails

Got a favorite route that you like to ride on your bike? Wish there was a bike lane there? Is there a barrier you’d like to see removed or an improvement you’d like added?

If so, the Mid-America Regional Council wants to hear from you, online and/or at one of its upcoming public meetings with the people who are developing a Regional Bikeway Plan under MARC’s auspices.

In its role as an intergovernmental agency, MARC is working with cities around the metro area to develop a Bikeway Plan to “help establish a vision for high-priority bikeway and trail investments.”

The plan will inventory on-road bike routes and off-road trails, and incorporate public comments on how best to expand and improve them. It is to be completed by December.

Aaron Bartlett, MARC’s senior transportation planner, says the goal is to coordinate bike routes around the area and provide transportation options.

“We’re creating an opportunity for people to get around by bicycle, rather than automobile,” he said. “It reduces congestion and air pollution.”

Adding bike lanes and reducing barriers to cycling has a financial cost, Bartlett admitted. “But it also costs not to invest,” he said.

Bartlett said bike ridership in the metro area has increased in recent years.

“Definitely in the urbanized areas like Midtown it’s noticeable,” he said.

Counting riders on the trail system is one facet of the Bikeway Plan that MARC is working on.

Kansas City established its Bike KC plan a few years ago and has a dedicated bicycle and pedestrian coordinator, Deb Ridgway of the Public Works Department.

Bike KC is a network of lanes, signs and markings. The city is completing the first phase of its plan, which includes 180 miles of signed routes and replacing storm-drain grates and utility covers that posed hazards for cyclists.

Kansas City plans to extend that to 600 miles of existing and future streets. The city is about to start work to update Bike KC and create a set of design standards and an implementation plan.

Overland Park, the area’s largest suburb, also has embarked on a yearlong bicycle study.

It recently closed the online questionnaire portion of the study, which asked riders and other road users what type of improvements they would like to see on city streets and trails. There were about 700, responses and a public meeting is planned this summer to seek more input.

The ultimate goal, according to traffic engineer Brian Shields, is to provide a safer and more welcoming environment for cyclists.

“We hope people won’t think of cycling only as recreation, but as a commuting activity,” Shields said. “When they have to make trips of a mile or two — to the gym, the post office or the movie theater — instead of taking their cars, they think of hopping on a bike.”

Overland Park has developed an extensive off-road trail system that runs along Indian Creek and other woodsy spots.

“For a long time we’ve wanted to do a better job of having a multimodal transportation system,” Shields said. “We want to create a good walking environment, so we include sidewalks and trails when developers do subdivisions. … and with cycling we’ve had a long-term vision of trying to make improvements.”

Shields said the conflict between trying to provide commuter bike routes and keeping cyclists off busy thoroughfares might be solved by adding bike lanes to new or existing streets.

“Wider streets might be needed in some cases,” Shields said. “But some (existing) routes are 30 to 40 feet wide, and you can easily put four- to five-foot bike lanes down and still have plenty of room for drivers.”

Overland Park contracted with the Madison, Wis., office of the Toole Design Group to conduct its study, which it hopes to complete by November. An action plan will then be presented to city leaders.

“We hope they won’t put it on the shelf but will use its recommendations to implement,” Shields said. “It might be making lanes, it might be adding signage, it might be education and enforcement.”

MARC’s Bartlett hopes for much the same thing on a regional basis.

“All the information we collect will be pulled together with the plans of the cities and counties to this point,” he said. “We’ll take the information on the corridors we have to pull from to identify suggested regional corridors we have to work toward. We’ll put that together and share a draft plan.”

Be heard

The Mid-America Regional Council is holding public meetings on a Regional Bikeway Plan this month. Each meeting runs from 5 to 7 p.m.

•  May 12 at Belton Memorial Station, 602 Maurer Parkway

•  May 13, at the Spring Hill Community Center, 613 S. Race St.

•  May 14 at the Gladstone Community Center, 6901 N. Holmes St.

•  May 15 in the Sunflower Room at the Bonner Springs Community Center, 200 E. Third St.

Area bike riders also can give input by May 23 at

MARC’s Bikeway WikiMap

. They can highlight routes they use or would like to use, barriers to cycling and destinations to which they ride. They can also leave written comments. There’s an instructional video on the home page.