KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas City mobility advocates are looking to export their success to similar communities and groups across the country.

The city removed or watered-down penalties for small offenses like jaywalking and minor cycling offenses in 2021. Those offenses have been used to target communities of color in the past.

Justin Layton filed a lawsuit against the City of Independence after he says he was Tased, choked and beaten after being stopped for jaywalking. BikeWalkKC is trying to make it harder for those types of stops to happen in the first place.

“It’s scary because now, everywhere I go, when I come outside, I’m thinking, ‘Man, I’ve got to go straight to my destination and then I have to come straight back,” Layton said.

His feelings aren’t uncommon for people in communities of color, especially when data shows that’s where many of those citations are handed out.

Layton’s lawsuit cites data from Kansas City showing that 65% of jaywalking tickets between 2018 and 2020 were written to Black people.

It’s why BikeWalkKC jumped at the opportunity to lessen or remove punishments around jaywalking in 2021.

“When we think about over-policing of walking and biking, this is something that has affected me personally because you always have concerns as a black individual for being stopped for something innocent like having a broken taillight or something like that,” said BikeWalkKC Policy Director Michael Kelley.

Kelley says those ordinances end up punishing people for urban design or urban planning decisions that aren’t their fault and are more likely in communities of color, which often have endured generations of disinvestment and redlining.

“If you’re jaywalking in a street where we haven’t built a crosswalk or haven’t built a dedicated crossing, you shouldn’t be punished because of that,” Kelley said.

The process, though, can be hard to replicate.

“As soon as we got it done, we started getting questions from national organizations like America Walks, but also from similar organizations in places like Atlanta and Denver that [said], ‘We’re interested in doing this but we don’t know how to get this done,” Kelley said.

That’s why BikeWalkKc created this manual laying out how other advocates can take similar steps. On April 20, they’ll have a webinar to answer questions from whoever wants to get involved.

Even if the work sparks small changes across the nation, they’re changes Layton said are worthwhile.

“It’s moving in the right direction because those small things may not seem like a big step, but those small things help,” Layton said.