Well, we’re not in Kansas anymore! (Sorry couldn’t resist.) But, if Dorothy were looking for safe and accessible streets to make her journey, she’d be well-served to look down the road to Lee’s Summit, Missouri.
A suburb of Kansas City, Lee’s Summit is was among the 28 new Bicycle Friendly Communities announced last week. And they did more than click their heels to make this place a better home for bicyclists. Missouri’s fifth BFC has been working hard to grow its greenway trail network, implement its new Complete Streets policy and implement a new bicycle transportation plan.
Brent Hugh, Director of the Missouri Bicycle and Pedestrian Federation, says Lee’s Summit’s commitment goes beyond biking to full-spectrum support for active transportation:
Lee’s Summit was the first city in Missouri to be officially recognized as a Walk Friendly Community–and now they will be first in Missouri to be recognized as both Walk Friendly and Bicycle Friendly. The city has definitely been a leader in these areas and has inspired other communities across Missouri and across the bi-state metro area to do likewise.
They were one of the first communities in the Kansas City metro area to adopt a Complete Streets policy. And they didn’t just adopt a policy, either. No, they spent years going through planning and citizens’ committees, getting the principles adopted into the city’s long-range plan, and then working with all city staff, departments, elected officials, and community organizations to develop an approach to complete streets that has broad-based community support. The result is a policy that staff, elected officials, and community groups can support.
Lee’s Summit is a great example of how cities can go from nothing, to better facilities to good facilities to excellent facilities in a step-by-step manner. An outer-ring suburb of Kansas City, the city historically had no bicycle or pedestrian plans or policies. Starting in the 1990s the city looked at trails plans, sidewalk connectivity, and a system of wide sidewalk trails along major roads–but were hesitant to install any on-road bicycle facilities. But the trails system has been implemented in a thorough and consistent manner and it’s used and liked by residents. With more facilities came more use — both bicycle and pedestrian use — and that helped to build support and momentum for the next step: the Complete Streets policy and inclusion of on-street bicycle facilities in the city’s plan.
The city is moving forward, step by step, and the next step hasn’t always been easy. But the work done in previous steps has helped build support for the next step in the process. Citizens — particularly family physician Ed Kraemer of Lee’s Summit — have driven the city’s Complete Streets policy and the push for a more bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly city. Ed worked to implement the city’s no-smoking policy and after that success, became interested in the health benefits of making the city more accessible and welcome ot biking and walking. Along the way, a large group of citizens has become involved in the process and community groups has been a huge part of Lee’s Summit’s success.
This is just the next step for Lee’s Summit, and it’s going to be exciting to see the city implement it’s on-road bicycle system alongside the existing trail system and education/encouragement/enforcement programs. We’d love to see Lee’s Summit continue to become more bicycle friendly–Platinum Level should be their goal!
A Platinum mindset: We’ll support that!
The adoption of a Bicycle Transportation Plan into the City’s Comprehensive Plan certainly demonstrates the communities buy-in beyond the cycling advocate’s level. And they’re planning for the next generation of cyclists, too: All of the middle and elementary school students are part of the Safe Routes to School program. With the support of residents and city officials, it’s no wonder Kansas City bike events and the Kansas City Triathlon both take advantage of the city’s bike-ability, with courses staged in the city.
With a dedication to improving the bicycling facilities they currently have along with their willingness to act on recommendations to make their city better, we have no doubt that Lee’s Summit can reach its goal. Like Dorothy might have said: There’s no place like Lee’s Summit, if you’re looking for a model suburban city transforming itself into a Bicycle Friendly Community.
Hamzat SaniHamzat joined the League in September 2012 after working with the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition. Before working in biking, Hamzat worked with Martin Luther King Jr.’s son as a Program Associate at The King Center in Atlanta. A founder of the Red, Bike and Green chapter in Atlanta, Hamzat sees biking as a hub for change on the communal level.
Equity and Outreach Fellow