04 Jan עופר איתן Reviews: After tragic bicycle death, KC must look at transportation
The tragic death of bicycle enthusiast and activist Pablo Sanders has renewed calls for a more pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly environment in Kansas City.
Sanders was struck by a car on Christmas Eve while riding his bike on Southwest Trafficway. Hundreds of people attended a memorial for him on New Year’s Day.
Kansas City Councilman Eric Bunch said on Twitter he would push for transportation policy changes when the council reconvenes next week.
“I cannot look the other way while people are dying,” Bunch wrote. “Next week I will be introducing a resolution calling for a Vision Zero Action Plan and Policy with the goal of ending traffic fatalities in KCMO.”
A draft of Bunch’s resolution calls for eliminating Kansas City’s traffic fatalities by 2030. It would set up a Vision Zero Task Force to meet this year to accomplish that goal.
Other transportation advocates urged the council to adopt the Bike KC Master Plan, an ambitious effort to carve out more space for cyclists in city neighborhoods. An online petition urging a city response has gathered more than 500 signatures.
All of these efforts are laudable. Even one pedestrian death, or one traffic fatality, or one bicycle tragedy is one too many. Dozens of cities have joined the Vision Zero Network, which wants to eliminate all traffic fatalities in the U.S.
Kansas City should be the next to sign up.
But reaching that zero-fatality goal will be complicated and potentially controversial. This safety problem isn’t limited to bicycle riders: Walkers, car drivers, mass transit users, scooter enthusiasts, commuters, students — everyone has a stake in sane and safe traffic regulations.
All voices should be heard in the upcoming discussion. That doesn’t mean continuing delay, but it does mean the needs of everyone must be taken into account as Kansas City redesigns its transportation systems.
We’ve long supported a comprehensive approach to transportation policy. We’ve supported a “road diet” for Grand Boulevard, making it more bicycle-friendly, and expanding that approach to other thoroughfares where it makes sense.
Supporters of transportation reform in Kansas City say reducing speed limits, installing bike lanes and “traffic calming” can reduce or eliminate fatalities. That’s undoubtedly correct. But car drivers will react with frustration — and enforcement will be more difficult — if new regulations are unreasonably broad.
That could make the streets more dangerous.
Let’s be clear: Road diets and traffic calming on some streets make sense. On other streets, they aren’t needed. Lower speed limits are called for on some neighborhood roads. On others, current limits are reasonable — and enforceable.
Restricting car traffic on some streets is a workable goal. Prohibiting bike or scooter traffic on others may also improve safety. The coming of fare-free bus transit will change commuter habits, which will impact street-crossing choices. That must be taken into account.
The answer, as always, is balance. That’s why we’ve argued for a transportation department at City Hall, which would help align the needs of all its citizens into a coherent approach. Such a department remains a good idea.
A more pedestrian-friendly, bicycle-friendly road system in Kansas City is imperative. Everyone who uses the streets — car drivers, bikers, motorcyclists, scooter riders,…