City leaders consider expansion of bike lanes on city streets

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- City planners want to hear your ideas Tuesday for how to make it easier to get around town on a bicycle.

A lot of people in Kansas City say they'd like to ride their bikes to get around town, but they just don't feel safe on city streets.

As a result, we all may soon start seeing more green paint on the pavement.

"Green is the color that indicates bike facilities," said Beth Breitenstein, of the Kansas City Public Works department. "What a bike box does is really give a bicyclist a chance to get a head start at an intersection. It gives the bicyclist kind of a way to cue and wait for a light to turn green to give them a head start coming off an intersection at the signal."

Green bike boxes, like one being painted at 20th Street and Southwest Boulevard Tuesday, are designed to help make the streets safer for cyclists.

A city audit last year criticized the BikeKC program, saying Kansas City's bike transportation network didn't connect popular destinations and doesn't provide direct and safe routes that average people can ride to get where they want to go.

"The main issue is that streets aren’t comfortable for people to bike on," said Eric Bunch, policy director at BikeWalkKC, an advocacy group. "Streets need to be comfortable because 60 percent of the population out there is interested, but concerned about their safety. They want to ride a bike. They want to get out and ride to the grocery store. Ride their kids to school. Ride to work, but it just doesn’t feel safe."

Kansas City has received $2.3 million in federal transportation funds to start building more amenities for cyclists in the next two years.

A dedicated bicycle traffic signal downtown is part of a pilot project designed to improve safety and give cyclists a head start when they're competing with motorized traffic.

The public can provide feedback to planners on how to make the streets bike friendly Tuesday at 6 p.m. on the Avila University campus, located at 119th Street and Wornall Road.