Friday, April 27, 2007

My 127th Street Rant

Well, the 127th Street Improvement committee had another public meeting on April 5th. I wasn't notified of it, so I didn't attend. What bothers me is that it seems some people went through painstaking steps to make sure everyone who lives along 127th street not only knew about and showed up to the meeting, but made sure they were all really angry and bitter, too.

Click here to take a look at the comments that were gathered from April 5th's Meeting

I'm going to pick apart some of the arguments here. I'm paraphrasing and condensing some comments that are in the same spirit.

It's not hard to see the angst spawned from that that two feet of pavement in the form of a bike lane. "There's no room for bike lanes." "I am absolutely against bike lanes!" "Please consider the views of Olathe residents before non-resident bikers"

First off, It's CYCLISTS, Folks! Bikers ride Harleys, Gold Wings and Triumphs, not Treks, Le Monds and and Bianchis!

What's not so funny is that, taking into account 143rd street and other roads with bike lanes, the road lacks a wide outer lane where the bike lane is present. There's really not much, if any width being added to the pavement for the bike lanes. I haven't seen if the proposal for 127th also fits the paradigm, but my guess is that it probably does.

If residents want to reduce the amount of their property that needs to be bulldozed, they should fight the 24-foot-wide landscaped median. A dozen or so people had some push-back on the wide median. More than three dozen pushed back on bike lanes.

Last but not least on this point, there are plenty of cyclists in Olathe, and I've seen several just in my little part of the world, who, like I, use their bicycle for basic transportation to and from work, to the store, or for running errands. Not all adult cyclists are weekend group-ride warriors in spandex superhero costumes*.

*no offense meant to road cyclists and/or group riders that choose to wear cycling-specific clothing, but you look ridiculous to non-cyclists.

From comments like "bike lanes invite novices into the road, which isn't safe", "children should use the sidewalks instead of bike lanes", and "I have never seen a child ride their bike to school", it's safe to say that the average attendee thought that bicycles are playthings for kids.

Children under 12 should not be using bike lanes. They should not be using sidewalks along major arterials, either. The sidewalk crossings that span residential entrances to arterial roadways are VERY DANGEROUS even to an adult cyclist or jogger. Children should be using residential streets for travel, and proper signaled crosswalks should be their only interaction with an arterial roadway, wherever necessary. I understand that crossing a main road is mandatory for many children to get to school or their favorite park. Bicycle lanes are not for kids.

Novice riders are safer in a bike lane where they're more visible approaching intersections than they would be on sidewalks. This is also one reason I say children should not ride bicycles on sidewalks next to an arterial roadway. If the novice cyclist stays in the bike lane, and motorists stay out of the bike lane, the bike lane will be the best balance of safety and efficiency for a cyclist to travel, regardless of experience level.

Others are taking issue with existing trails and bike lanes, as if they're efficient for bike travel. "Keep the bike lanes on 143rd and Dennis" "There's already a bike trail" "Are the bikers going to do laps?" "What good will a short bike lane do?"

Regarding bike lanes on the further-south streets such as 143rd, those streets are very far out-of-the-way. These are probably the same people who were complaining about the 127th street bridge lacking interstate highway access. Every second arterial has highway access. The rest have no access. College, 127th, 143rd, and 159th lack highway access. The arterials between them such as 119th, 135th (santa fe), and 151st do have highway access. This means that no one needs to go more than two miles out of their way to find a safe road to cross the highway. It would make sense for a bike lane to exist on 127th street.

The trails are not efficient transportation. They are safe from traffic and very scenic, but nothing more. They wind around, they're hilly, they carry traffic in both directions on a very narrow stretch of pavement, and they get easily covered with mud, water, and debris from the nearby creeks. Suggested maximum speed on the trails is 10 miles per hour. When I rode from 127th and blackbob to 119th and Quivira, I covered about 5 miles on Indian Creek Trail with an average speed of about 10 miles per hour as I didn't want to run anyone over coming around a blind curve. The trip took me more than 30 minutes. If I used the road, it would have been a 3-mile trip, and probably with an average speed approaching 16 miles per hour for a travel time closer to 10 minutes.

A short bike lane (2 miles long where the improvements are taking place) in and of itself will do several good things. As most trips by "vehicular cyclists" are 10 miles or less, 2 miles of bike lane will improve the safety of at least 20% of the ride for anyone using that stretch of road. Also, it brings a challenge to Overland park to section off a few feet of their already wide 127th street as a bike lane. 127th is so wide east of Pflumm that they could easily add a bike lane with nothing more than some paint on the road and a few roadside signs. The 127th street bridge in Olathe is also wide enough to paint a bike lane onto. West of Ridgeview, 127th street (known as Harold) already has an on-street bike lane. With some effort between KC road and Ridgeview, that 2-mile stretch of bike lane could turn into 10 miles of safe cycling without a whole lot of impact to existing infrastructure.

Others also doubt the feasibility of cycling as economic or good for the community. "Please explain the economic development standpoint for bike lanes" and "Bike lanes are less beneficial to the community than leaving my back yard intact" (remember, these are paraphrases).

This is selfish, short-sighted balderdash. Economically speaking, bicycling is just about the best way to travel. It's four times faster than walking, doesn't require fuel made from foreign resources, increases health, decreases stress, and increases your interaction with others you see along the way. When gasoline is at $5 per gallon and an SUV -- which you won't even be able to give away, much less sell -- gobbles $40 in fuel for every 100 miles driven, people will be looking at bicycles. A $2 lunch of a few ham-n-cheese sandwiches and some fruit can fuel a 30 mile bike ride.

Also, hundreds if not thousands of cyclists might use the bike lanes over the next 10 years. What's the biggest party you've thrown in your back yard?

That said, there are many other options. Brent, a fellow JCBC member made a good point that the scope of this project is very much overkill and that alternatives exist. We don't need a superhighway through suburbia. What's really angering the residents are things like high speeds, litter, noise, traffic jams, and a wide right-of-way that eats into their property more than they deem necessary. Brent has some suggestions that less lanes, and more bike/pedestrian space is a good solution. Maybe a two-lane boulevard with a shared center left-turn lane would work. Perhaps widen the road a bit, straighten it out, take out some of the hills near Pflumm, and keep the speed limit low and well-enforced.

Also, there were a few people there with their heads on straight at the last meeting. If you're one of them, please realize that I'm thankful you provided your opinion. Moving forward, Olathe needs more trails, more bike lanes, and more exposure for alternative transportation.


Jamie said...

Sounds like you're up against it a bit out there in KC. It's amazing how short-sighted people can be regarding what's really good for a community.

The comments about 1) the bike trail and 2) kids cycling are particularly frustrating... it just shows how bikes are viewed in this community, and before any real work can get done the hearts and minds need to be changed. And that's always hardest to do.

amidnightrider said...

When a city adds sidewalks and bike lanes, the usage increases dramatically.
Snakebite has a link, here, with all the facts.

Jett said...

It often takes something contentious like this to get the points out in the open. Good discussion fodder.

If the residents are concerned about higher-speed traffic, then perhaps narrowing the lanes and painting a bike-lane is the best solution. This has worked well on a number of roads in Atlanta.

We've also had some failures though where the lanes were narrowed by adding bulb-out curbs that force cyclists into the narrowed lane.

Apertome said...

It's sad to see how ignorant some people can be, but I'm glad you're doing what you can to change that, and at the very least, hopefully this will raise awareness. Thanks for doing it and good work.

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