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Metro bicyclists could see dedicated bike lanes widened

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- More metro residents are choosing two wheels instead of four. Bicycling is the topic of a series of public meetings, as city leaders aim to make more space for cyclists.

In Kansas City neighborhoods like Westport, it's the norm. A large percentage of people are using the bicycle as their primary mode of transportation.

Deb Ridgway is the bicycle pedestrian coordinator with the city. Her office is now using a complex measurement tool, meant to use traffic flow and posted speed limits to decide where bike lanes should be placed, and how wide they should be.

Ridgway says it's a one-of-a-kind database, and it helps city planners learn where Kansas Citians are riding bikes.

"We asked people, where do you currently ride, and where would you like to ride to?" Ridgway said. "That helped us look at where some potential corridors could be for prioritization."

Ridgway says not every neighborhood needs enhanced bike lanes. Mixed use lanes like the one on Southwest Boulevard near Summit Street are sufficient for less-traveled venues.

But on Westport Road, pedals are popping up everywhere, and city planners need to know that.

"How do we help our planners, our engineers, our consultants in the community understand how we can do good bike facility design and meet the needs of the community," Ridgeway said.

Some of Ridgway's data came from Bike Walk KC -- the non-profit firm that supervises the city's Bike Share program.

That's where Eric Bunch serves as an advocate for cyclist's rights. He says the standard bike lane is fine -- but a buffer of 18 additional inches is proving to be a big help.

"They need a buffer, so they can separate them from that traffic, so they don't have to get into the teeth of traffic," Bunch said.

In the end, safety is the biggest factor at play. Ridgway emphasized the real mission to allow drivers and cyclists to share the road. Burch pointed out that more people die behind the wheels of cars than while riding bikes.

Ridgway's data was unveiled at a public meeting tonight in the Northland. If you miss that one, another session will be held at the Southeast Community Center on 63rd Street next Tuesday night.

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