Thursday, May 10, 2007

Olathe cyclists have allies

I attended an Olathe City Council meeting on Tuesday. It was a stark contrast to the 127th street meeting I went to back in March. The main reason I was there was because of one single item that was up for discussion: The Olathe Bicycle Transportation Plan.

There was a lot of structure. There was also a lot of animosity towards cyclists that began to rear its head. One council member exclaimed that cyclists don't pay taxes to use Olathe's roadways, and that they are slow, and obstruct traffic "like a farm tractor on a highway."

Quickly, to counter these points, it was mentioned by several people in attendance that almost all cyclists own cars and use them (thus paying taxes for Olathe roads), as well as stating that bicycles don't cause damage to roads the way large motor vehicles do. Also, it's no secret that bicycle lanes would keep cyclists out of the way of motorists, and motorists out of the damage path of cyclists in most situations.

To the rescue were two other council members: Marge Vogt and Larry Campbell. It so happens that Marge is a co-chair for the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advocacy Committee for Mid America Regional Council. It should come as no surprise that she openly embraced the discussion of the bicycling plan, asking questions to ensure that the planners had a clear vision of what the project would entail. Larry is the former mayor of Olathe, and prioritizes quality of life for Olathe residents. While more soft-spoken on the topic of cycling, it was evident that he can see that cycling is beneficial to our city.

Three other fellow cyclists spoke to the council -- an Olathe resident, Lenexa resident and a De Soto resident -- all somewhat close to Olathe. They brought up valid points and spoke on behalf of the many who would benefit from safer cycling amenities in Olathe.

Let's not forget Keith Bredehoeft, Traffic Division Manager of Olathe, who presented the master plan to the council. He seems to have a very strong interest in the plan for both transportation and recreational cycling and its many benefits such as less motor vehicles on the road, healthier lifestyles, and environmental impact. He also pointed out that whenever new cycling facilities are implemented in the area, usage of the facilities is higher than calculated. He stayed cool under pressure from council member John Bacon, who often criticized aspects of the master plan but in the end moved to proceed with the planning phase of the project.

Dale Crawford is a Park Project Coordinator for Olathe, as well as the Advocacy Chair for Johnson County Bicycle Club. Dale keeps a lot of Johnson Countians in the loop with opportunities to be heard and/or seen. While he remained somewhat quiet at this council meeting, he did come out to thank and talk with cyclists that made an appearance after the portion of the council meeting regarding the bicycle transportation plan had concluded.

Regardless what I've said about Olathe and some of its more vocal anti-cycling residents -- especially in my rant on the 127th street improvement project -- I must say that Olathe is still pretty far ahead of other cities in greater KC area as far as cycling is concerned. It's because of the few vocal people like these that the thousands of cyclists in our area have what we've got, and continue to remain visible when issues like this one come up.


amidnightrider said...

I have been involved in two fights for bike trails, lanes, etc. There was strong opposition to both.

However, now that they are finished the use, like your former mayor said, is more than expected. Even by the people who were most vocal against them.

Jett said...

It's great that you're able to attend these meetings. It completely changes the demeanor of a meeting when supporters are present; if you're not there, your opinion must not matter.

Anonymous said...

Olathe sure is way ahead of my community. Not a bike path in sight nor really even on the drawing boards. A proposed new development includes plans for a bike path, but I'll believe it when I see it. The bike path idea somehow always seems to drop out at the last minute.

Anonymous said...

If the anti-cyclist want cyclist off the roads, then they should come to there senses and support bike lanes and paths. It’s extremely hard to find wide enough roads to support bicyclist and motorist without some kind of conflict. SK

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