KANSAS CITY (AP) - Bicycle riders in Kansas City will have an easier time navigating downtown streets and connecting to the city's east side as well as communities to the west beginning next year.
A plan to stripe nearly 12 miles of bike lanes in the heart of downtown was approved last week by the City Council.
Cycling enthusiasts welcomed the news, especially given the city's slow pace of implementing the Bike KC adopted in 2002. That program envisioned a 600-mile system of bike routes, but signs designating the first 175 miles of routes only began going up this spring, The Kansas City Star reported.
"It's been the most amazing kind of struggle to get this implemented," said Brent Hugh, head of the Missouri Bicycle and Pedestrian Federation. "You hate to be critical now that, after all of these years of trouble and travail, we're finally doing it."
The upcoming project is intended to provide safer riding through downtown and connect to the Jazz District to the east as well as the West Side and West Bottoms.
The project also will complete some unfinished links to downtown Kansas City, Kan., and a popular bicycle commuting route to Johnson County, Kan. The Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kan., is striping bike lanes all the way to the Johnson County border this year and next.
Federal funds will cover 80 percent of Kansas City, Mo.'s $905,000 project, which will involve a combination of designated bike lanes and "sharrows" - regular traffic lanes with stick-figure outlines of bicycles painted on the pavement signaling equal rights for motorists and cyclists. The sharrows are used on streets too narrow for a separate bike lane.
The new lanes are also expected to benefit Kansas City's year-old "B-cycle" bike sharing program, underwritten by Blue Cross Blue Shield and other corporate donors.
"We brought the private money to the table (for bike sharing)," said Eric Rogers, executive director of Bike Walk KC, the nonprofit that runs B-cycle. "The city committed to building the bike lanes to connect the bike share stations."