Campaign aims to improve streets to activate residents, grow local business

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Community-driven process will plan, design, and oversee the implementation of significant bike and pedestrian infrastructure along key city corridor; project would get more residents active

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“Improving walkability is the single best thing a city can do to strengthen local business and enhance neighborhood identity,” says Eric Bunch, Education Director of BikeWalkKC.

A new campaign is working to bring major walking and biking infrastructure to some of the city’s most important neighborhoods. CompleteKC, a project of local bicycle and pedestrian advocacy group BikeWalkKC, will use citizen input to craft a plan for a bikeway and pedestrian improvements between the Country Plaza and River Market. Campaigners say it would not only make cycling safer and more comfortable for existing riders, it could also gets hundreds of others residents cycling.

“The city’s bike infrastructure is anemic, and yet many residents choose to ride -- especially in these urban core areas,” says Eric Rogers, Executive Director of BikeWalkKC. “We see that, and we know: it’s time to move forward.”

Rogers says the “River-Crown-Plaza” corridor -- the area between River Market and the Country Club Plaza, running through Crown Center -- is primed for major street improvements. With its historic neighborhoods, strong local business, and nearly 100,000 residents the area could benefit greatly from walkable streets.

“Improving walkability is the single best thing a city can do to strengthen local business and enhance neighborhood identity,” says Eric Bunch, Education Director of BikeWalkKC.

Launched October 18th, CompleteKC will now work with residents, community organizations, and other stakeholders in River-Crown-Plaza through a series of public meetings, a website, and other tools. The goal of the process is to draft a plan for an continuous on-street bikeway connecting the Trolley Track Trail to the riverfront north of River Market. The plan will also outline other measures to ensure safe, pedestrian-oriented street design.

“It’s important for our streets be designed so people ages 8-80 can choose from any number of transportation options,” Rogers added.

CompleteKC mirrors similar processes ongoing in cities like San Francisco, St. Louis, and Minneapolis, where advocacy organizations are working to design bikeways in high bicycle-traffic areas where local government hasn’t yet built adequate infrastructure.

CompleteKC will build off the City of Kansas City’s existing bike plan, but vary from it where needed.

“We don’t know what it will look like yet, and that’s kind of the point,” says BikeWalkKC’s Rogers. “Residents will decide what they need. They will decide what ‘complete’ street infrastructure looks like.”

Rogers says the plan will most likely involve a variety of infrastructure types -- protected bike lanes, traffic calming, and other elements could be part of the mix. The particular route is also up for debate. The CompleteKC plan will also look at other areas beyond the River-Crown-Plaza corridor that participants identify as important.

A big focus of the CompleteKC effort is to reach a lot of residents who don’t ride. “If you help design it, you’ll know that it’s yours to use,” says Rogers.

After the plan has been drawn up, CompleteKC will forward the plan to the City for implementation. Some of the details will inevitably change, but the plan will help bring substantial improvements to bicycle infrastructure.

“We know that if we get significant buy-in from residents and the business community during the planning process, the plan will move forward,” says Rogers. He adds that BikeWalkKC hopes to see the plan implemented by later 2015.

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Sarah Shipley
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