Kansas City is spending a tremendous amount of taxpayer dollars on the installation of bike lanes around town, including $700,000 to install the 3-mile stretch along Armour Boulevard alone. There are currently plans in place to spend an additional $400 million on a massive bike lane expansion.
The expenditure is questionable when you consider that less than half of one percent of the city’s population currently uses the bike lanes. Even worse, the bike lanes might be introducing a new set of safety risks.
Drivers have had concerns about the safety of Kansas City’s new parking-protected bike lanes since the pricy installation began, including complaints about limited visibility and dangerous intersections. If 311 complaints about near-misses and crashes weren’t enough, a near-fatal accident seems to have highlighted the problems.
A crash occurred on May 11 along Armour Boulevard after a driver whose view of oncoming traffic was obstructed by the bike lane was struck by another vehicle. Her Chevy Suburban was flipped on its side, and a responding police officer told her family members that they likely would have been planning their daughter’s funeral if not for the size of the vehicle she was driving.
This driver was lucky that she was in such a large vehicle, but what if that had been a smaller car? Or, even worse, what if that had been a cyclist crossing through one of the intersections or into turn lanes? Limited visibility is not just a problem for cars; it poses a major risk to cyclists in certain sections of the lane.
In response to the accident, a spokesperson from Kansas City Public Works stated:
[W]e plan to make sight line adjustments and add vertical delineators as part of the [safety] pilot here in a few weeks. We are still working on timing and date details. Depending on neighborhood feedback and the impacts of the pilot location, we will coordinate with the Parks Department to make those modifications along the corridor.
Really? It is going to take a “few weeks” to install a No Parking sign (“vertical delineator”) at a dangerous intersection in the wake of a serious accident. I probably shouldn’t be surprised, considering that the promised pilot program to investigate and address safety programs along the route has been delayed for months.
Safety improvement plans are all well and good, but shouldn’t a problem as obvious as lack of visibility have been addressed before the city started funneling money into this project? If taxpayer money is going to be put toward infrastructure like this, all elements need to be thoroughly considered in advance, including the safety risks. Will the city address these concerns before they spend money on lane expansion? I hope so.