Overland Park transportation and bicycling

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Sunday, August 19, 2007
By Yokota Fritz


Overland Park, Kansas is a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri, and is the second most populous city in the state of Kansas with a population of 167,500. Money Magazine ranked Overland Park number six on it's list of the Best Cities to Live in the United States in 2006.

Over the past decade, residents and business owners have indicated that Metcalf Avenue -- the north-south corridor that bisects the city -- has become an undesirable place to live and do business, with 45% of those surveyed saying traffic is a "major" problem along Metcalf Avenue.

Brent at the the Missouri Bicycle Federation calls Metcalf "one of its very biggest, baddest, most bicycle, transit, and pedestrian UNfriendly streets ... eight lanes of heavy, fast-moving traffic that at times closely resembles what you might see at a demolition derby."

The city is responding with a $1.1 million study to improve the corridor and make it friendlier to pedestrians, cyclists, and bus riders.

“The challenge here, of course, is moving from a paradigm that’s 100 percent auto-oriented to a paradigm where it’s 50 percent pedestrian-oriented,” said consulting team leader Tony Nelessen.

As Brent from Missouri notes:
It may seem impossible to make such a busy street more conducive to walking and bicycling, but in fact it has been done in many other places, it has worked, and what's more--people like it.

Of course pedestrians and bicyclists like it.

Safety advocates like it.

But yes, motorists like it, too.
Some friends who blog from the Kansas City area:

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Comments:
i know this area quite well as it's been my stomping grounds for the past 5 years. i think something that is always missed in discussions such as these is the fact that road condition and bike lane absence or neglect is only part of the equation. Drivers attitude and knowledge is a major factor. Like it or not KC in general is not very bike friendly in this regard as well. You could have a small group of riders obeying every law and rule possible, the farthest to the left as they can - and Mr SUV will freak out because he has to be a few precious moments late to his destination....

This has become so clear to me as i have recently relocated to the mecca that is Boulder.. Drivers (even those that apparently don't ride) know how to drive with cyclists, and don't worry or mind it either. Of course there is bike lanes or wide & swept shoulders just about everywhere, but still...
 
I like metcalf south of 143rd street. It's pleasant, has a shoulder as big as most (pathetic) bike lanes out here, and people are used to seeing bicycles on the road. Any further north of that and you're in for a surprise. I've never ridden on the parts of Metcalf that they're talking about -- and for good reason! I've ridden on some parts of Metcalf that were out of my comfort zone, but only once in the daylight. The other time was almost midnight and there was no traffic to speak of.

I agree, though. Metcalf is a huge problem. I, myself made some passing comments on the state of suburban Kansas City's love affair with arterial roadways. The goal seems to be to make them wider, faster, and use them to make sure there's an interstate-accessible mini-highway within half a mile of anywhere.

The end result? Six or eight lanes of traffic with a posted limit of 45 (or sometimes 55) miles per hour, actual speeds averaging 50-60 miles per hour, and some people pushing the pedal for little 70 MPH jaunts between stop lights. Metcalf isn't just hell for bike/ped traffic. It's hell for everyone, including businesses and residential areas within half a mile either side.
 
I live one block off Metcalf right where the new construction project is under way. There are SO many alternatives to riding on Metcalf that I never even considered using it for bike transportation. Between 83rd and 103rd you can use Lowell. Between 110th and 51st, Lamar is wonderful. Both Lowell and Lamar are wide enough that other traffic can get around you easily. I ride Lamar for ~30 to my Dad's and ~ 30 blocks back every Sunday and I've only had one incident where an elderly lady rolled through a stop sign forcing a quick stop.

Sure, I guess some bike facilities would be nice, but I don't think they're really needed.

A note about the Indian Creek Bike/Hike Trail: The construction at 103rd and Metcalf is taking out the part of the trail that ran under Metcalf. They have placed bike detour signs up both east and west to direct you to the crosswalk ACROSS Metcalf. I really recommend getting off the bike to walk it across and KEEP YOUR EYES OPEN!!! They've added some pavement to join the sidewalk and path on the east side.
 
I used to work in OP. It's been a few years, but I definitely had the feeling that cycling was not within the realm of most people in the area. Having moved to that area, I was surprised by how much the local roads look like LA highways.

I haven't lived in the KC area for a few years now, but I did see that a study was issued that KC is one of the least bicycling cities in the US. I don't know if they included OP in that study, but bicycling just doesn't seem to be in the cards for those folks.
 
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