By Yokota Fritz
I've only been to Wichita, Kansas once in my life. My dad's family is in the area south of Tulsa, Oklahoma; Wichita is due north of Oklahoma City not far from the Oklahoma / Kansas border. I recall freeways, industrial sections of town, a riverfront, and aircraft industries on the edge of the city.
We drove through Wichita on our way to the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center in Hutchinson, KS. The largest collection of Russian space junk in America is there in the middle of Amish country.
John B in Wichita, Kansas, is a relative newbie to bicycle commuting. His blog Cycling in Wichita, has a growing local readership of people who are interested in raising their visibility and the consciousness of Wichitans in their decidedly not bike-friendly town.
"We are interested in exploring some of the implications of cycling as a lifestyle choice," says John. "How does choosing to cycle change how one thinks about one's community?"
Cycling in Wichita is less a blog about reviews of equipment and practical advice on cycling than it is about John's reflections on how cycling can change a person's state of mind, with a little advocacy thrown in.
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."
Cycling in Wichita, Kansas
Yokota, thanks for this generous, kind plug. We've already seen quite a few folks visiting from here, so I thank you for that.
Overland Park transportation and bicycling
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.