Updated: Kansas City, Missouri City Council passed the ordinance this evening.
In 1912, Kansas City, Missouri became the first city to criminalize pedestrians in public streets. Today city council members will vote on an ordinance that would reverse that traffic law. It would also exempt people using active transportation, like bikes and scooters, from being ticketed for dirty or muddy tires and no longer allow cyclists to be stopped for a bike inspection.
While we want to ensure that kids and teens are safe to walk and bike, these laws does little to protect their safety. Reporters in Jacksonville, Florida analyzed five years of data but found "no strong relationship between where tickets are being issued and where [pedestrians] are being killed."
What they did find was that enforcement of pedestrian laws disproportionately impacted Black people and people in low-income neighborhoods. The same inequitable trends have been observed in other cities.
It is also unreasonable to punish people for walking in the street when many neighborhoods still lack safe and accessible sidewalks, especially in under-resourced and Black and Brown neighborhoods.
Because of this, some street safety experts have argued for decriminalizing walking and biking. There are better ways to decrease pedestrian injuries and fatalities. That's why we advocate for policies, like Complete Streets, that invest in sidewalks, streets and public spaces that are safe and accessible for all users.
Learn how jaywalking became a crime and why we advocate for streets designed for people.
Kids need to grow up in communities where physical activity can be a natural part of their day, and Kansas City has taken a big step closer to that being a reality with its first ever physical activity plan. We are proud to be a part of this plan that makes it easier and safer to walk, bike and play in our region.
The vision of the Kansas City Physical Activity Plan is to foster a culture of physically active lifestyles in our region. To achieve this vision, a special work group has led the development of a comprehensive set of Kansas City-focused, sector-specific strategies and tactics designed to increase physical activity in residents of all ages. In total, 22 strategies and 67 priority tactics across societal sectors were identified to increase physical activity across society including:
The Kansas City Physical Activity Plan is released in two formats, and all documents are available to read and download here.
1. Kansas City Physical Activity Plan
This document includes strategies and priority tactics organized by societal sector, in addition to background information on The Plan, detailed information about the development process, action steps for local leaders and community members, and next steps.
2. Kansas City Physical Activity Plan Playbook
This document includes the strategies and priority tactics organized by societal sector and is designed as an easy-to-read summary of the Kansas City Physical Activity Plan.
Also available on the website is a video summary of the Kansas City Physical Activity Plan, a calendar of upcoming Kansas City Physical Activity Plan events, and opportunities for individuals to join a societal sector work group.
About the Kansas City Physical Activity Plan Work Group
The Kansas City Physical Activity Plan Work Group is an expert group of community organizations working to promote healthy lifestyles for all residents in our region. This group provides specific leadership in societal sector work groups and overall strategic decision making for the Kansas City Physical Activity Plan. Member organizations include: BikeWalkKC; the Calvary Community Outreach Network; Children’s Mercy Kansas City; the Health Resources and Services Administration; KC Healthy Kids; KCMO Parks and Recreation; the UMKC Health Equity Institute the Community Health Research Group; and the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health.
Update November 19, 2020 We are thrilled to announce the Complete Streets ordinance was passed unanimously by the UG Board of Commissioners this evening! Thank you to BikeWalkKC for leading this collaborative effort and all of the community organizations who supported Complete Streets in Kansas City, Kansas and Wyandotte County.
Update October 26, 2020 The Complete Streets ordinance unanimously passed the Public Works and Safety committee this evening and will head to the Board of Commissioners for a vote on November 19, 2020. If you live or work in Kansas City, Kansas or Wyandotte County, join us in speaking out for safe and accessible streets for people of all ages, abilities and modes of transportation.
Next month, the United Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas will vote on a Complete Streets ordinance nearly ten years after passing a resolution stating their commitment to Complete Streets. We support this Complete Streets ordinance, and here’s why.
Why do we need Complete Streets?
Physical activity, like walking and biking, is good for kids’ physical, cognitive and mental health. The 2020 Kansas City Regional Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth reports that just 5.7% of kids in the Kansas City metro walk to school. Traffic-related danger is one of the main reasons parents are afraid to let their kids walk or bike to school, and for good reason. Earlier this year, a middle-schooler and a school crossing guard were hit and injured or killed by cars in Kansas City, Kansas. But pedestrian injuries and fatalities are not inevitable. Our streets are dangerous because they are designed for cars, not people. Sidewalks and walking paths can ease fears and promote safe physical activity, but only 32% of residents in Wyandotte County live in a highly walkable neighborhood, according to National Walkability Index.
What are Complete Streets?
Complete Streets policies set standards so streets are designed to be safe and accessible for people of all ages, abilities and modes of transportation, including kids walking and biking to school or the park. Complete Streets reduce injuries and deaths from vehicle crashes and improve pedestrian safety by slowing and calming traffic. The 2019 Dangerous by Design report shows that people of color and people in low-income neighborhoods are disproportionately impacted by pedestrian fatalities, often because infrastructure is lacking or in poor condition due to ongoing disinvestment. People living in these neighborhoods are also more likely to lack access to a vehicle and experience poor health outcomes. That's why the United Government’s Complete Streets ordinance prioritizes low-income neighborhoods and communities of color.
Learn how you can speak out for walkable neighborhoods and healthy communities with The Walking Detective or Champions for Health so kids have safe routes for walking and biking.
Images: Google Maps
Update April 24, 2020 The Open Streets initiative is underway in Kansas City, Missouri! Open Streets includes three efforts: automatic pedestrian signals, neighborhood Open Streets permits and road closures near parks and trails. These "local traffic only" road closures create more space for people to be active outdoors while maintaining six feet of social distance:
You might be feeling extra antsy to get outside as stay-at-home orders are extended across the region. Physical activity is an essential activity with many health benefits, like reducing stress, improving sleep and contributing to a healthy immune system. But some parks and trails have closed due to crowding. Many sidewalks are too narrow to walk at a safe social distance. Even with less traffic on the roads, streets aren’t necessarily safer for pedestrians. Just this week one pedestrian was hit, the other killed in Kansas City, Missouri. And Black neighborhoods are more likely to lack parks and green space and have higher rates of pedestrian deaths due to long-term disinvestment.
In response, cities are making space for safe physical activity during the pandemic. The City of Kansas City, Missouri’s City Council passed an Open Streets resolution on Thursday, April 16, 2020 to allow temporary street closures for walking and biking until the state of emergency is lifted. KC Parks has already closed roads to car traffic at Swope Park and Blue Valley Park. Find more information at KC Parks Open Streets.
Our friends at BikeWalkKC have even more ideas about how to make safe space for more people. We have worked with them and other community partners to make streets safer for people of all ages and abilities by advocating for local policies and teaching kids how to speak out for walkable neighborhoods.
Learn how you can speak out for safe, walkable neighborhoods during the pandemic and beyond:
Walking Detective Go on a walking investigation to find clues and collect evidence to learn how walkable your community is. Build a case report to show city officials what things are working well and what things need to be improved.
Speak Out for Safe Streets We have advocated for local policies like Complete Streets, Vision Zero and the Bike KC Master Plan. Contact Andrea at email@example.com to join the coalition of organizations speaking out for safe streets.
This morning hundreds of kids across the Kansas City metro area walked to school as part of International Walk to School Day. Why is this such a big deal? The percentage of kids who live within one mile of their school and walk or bike to school has plummeted from 89% in 1969 to 35% in 2009.
The two biggest reasons parents are concerned about letting their kids walk and bike to school are distance to school and traffic-related dangers. And for good reason. The leading cause of unintentional, injury-related deaths among kids in 2015 was motor vehicle traffic.
But there are a lot of benefits to walking and biking to school. Kids get to be physically active, create healthy habits, foster a sense of responsibility and community as well as reduce air pollution from cars. Programs like Safe Routes to School encourage kids to walk and bike to school and try to make it safer where it’s unsafe.
Complete Streets is one way to make streets safer. Complete Streets policies set standards so streets are designed to be safe and accessible for people of all ages and abilities. This includes pedestrians, cyclists, transit riders and people with disabilities, not just cars. Depending on the area, a complete street might have sidewalks, crosswalks, pedestrian signals, bike lanes, medians, curb extensions or speed humps.
KC Healthy Kids has partnered with the American Heart Association and BikeWalkKC to make sure every street in Kansas City, Missouri is a safe route for our kids by advocating for a Complete Streets policy. Let your elected officials know you support Complete Streets.
Whether you are walking kids to the bus stop, biking around the neighborhood or pushing a stroller to the park, Complete Streets are designed to keep you safe and comfortable along the way. Speak out for Complete Streets today!
Images: Google Maps
When asked what a grocery store meant to him, one Kansas City, Missouri resident said this:
“It is a place to get fresh produce, meat and dairy. [The grocery store] has affordable food choices and is geographically accessible; it should be within walking distance or on a bus line.”
The mayors of KCK, KCMO and Lee's Summit have signed on to the U.S. Department of Transportation's Mayor's Challenge for Safer People and Safer Streets, a call to action by Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx to improve safety for bicycle riders and pedestrians of all ages and abilities over the next year. The cities will spend a year on seven steps to improve safety.
"Walkability and bikeability are essential ingredients to livability and making Kansas City more livable is an important objective," said Sly James, Mayor of Kansas City Missouri. "Secretary Foxx's initiative provides an effective framework to ensure Kansas City is a more attractive community for all citizens and visitors."
The DOT campaign calls for seven key strategies:
"We are prepared to address the key strategy areas outlined by the Challenge," said Deb Ridgway, Bicycle Pedestrian Coordinator in the Kansas City Public Works Department. "Pedestrian and bicyclist safety is very important to the city, as evidenced by programs we have implemented over the past few years along with our livable streets approach to roadway project design."
Ridgway said the city currently is developing a Pedestrian Safety Action Plan in partnership with the Missouri Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration. Other initiatives include a bicycle master plan and a city resolution to achieve platinum designation as a bike- and pedestrian-friendly community.
About 120 cities or other governmental units nationwide have signed on to DOT's Mayor's Challenge. Columbia and St. Louis join Kansas City as participating cities in Missouri. A Mayors' Challenge Summit kick-off event is being held March 12 in Washington and a capstone event will be held next year to celebrate accomplishments and share best practices.
Efforts by K.C. Healthy Kids, The Greater Kansas City Food Policy Coalition, LISC and others to promote healthy living was rewarded when the Kansas State Senate passed a Livable Streets Resolution Thursday, February 23, 2012. Also called Complete Streets, Livable Streets are created to enable safe travel by all users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, public transportation riders and drivers and people of all ages and abilities, including children, youth, families, older adults and individuals with disabilities.
The Senate declared its support for the policies of Resolution 1805 and will urge their adoption at the local, metropolitan, regional, state and national levels. The Senate said it will encourage and urge a number of organizations which build, control, maintain or fund roads, highways and bridges in Kansas to adopt Complete Streets policies and to plan, design, build and maintain their road and street system to provide complete, safe access to all road users. Among the groups the Senate pointed to were the United States department of Transportation, the Kansas Department of Transportation, the governing bodies of Metropolitan Planning Organizations and Regional Planning Commissions and municipalities.
With obesity levels rising every year and Kansas ranked as the 16th-most obese state in the nation with an adult rate of 29 percent and a rating of 18th in the country with a child obesity mark of 16 percent, building communities which promote active living will help combat these rates.
"It is not a coincidence that childhood obesity has increased while the physical environment around us has become singularly focused on moving cars," KC Healthy Kids said in a letter to the Senate. "In our focus on moving cars, we have sacrificed what should be natural opportunities for children to move and play throughout the day. "Children and teenagers should be able to safely walk to school or a friend's house or bike to the park," The letter added. "A young child should be able to pull his red wagon down a sidewalk in front of his house, but he can't do that if there is no sidewalk."
KC Healthy Kids also pointed out the need for safe places to cross streets for pedestrians and said that Complete Streets have been shown to reduce accidents and traffic jams as well. If streets are designed properly they can encourage walking and bicycling, which improves the public health and reduces treatment costs for conditions associated with reduced physical activity, including obesity, heart disease, lung disease and diabetes. Several governments in the state of already passed Complete Street policies including the cities of Leawood, Roeland Park, Topeka and the Unified Government of Wyandotte County.