As we prepare for changes to the policy landscape in 2017 we are assessing opportunities and challenges. Time is of the essence in order to continue effectively advocating for a strong regional food system and food policies that positively impact the nutritional, economic, social, and environmental health of Greater Kansas City. We’re busier than ever now.
Many of you have heard rumblings about a bill filed this week, House Bill 2595, which preempts local efforts to effect nutrition labeling and food incentives. It has been scheduled for a hearing Wednesday, February 10 in House Commerce, Labor and Economic Development (which meets at 1:30pm in room 346-South if you care to attend).
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.