Overland Park’s plan for new bike lanes highlights dearth of bikeable routes in Prairie Village, says councilor

Prairie Village has relatively few marked bike routes compared to surrounding communities in Kansas City, Mo., Leawood, and  Overland Park.
Prairie Village has relatively few marked bike routes compared to surrounding communities in Kansas City, Mo., Leawood, and Overland Park.

The city of Overland Park’s vote last month to create 165 miles of new bike lanes over the next several years was welcome news to bikeability advocates throughout the metro area. But it also prompted concern from some that northeast Johnson County’s relative dearth of such infrastructure will become all the more pronounced as Overland Park builds out its bike lane network.

Prairie Village City Councilor Eric Mikkelson brought up the issue at a recent city council meeting, and says Overland Park’s action should spur Prairie Village to take a serious look at building out its own bike system. He says it’s time for the city to finally take action to fulfilling a goal that was clearly laid out in the Village Vision plan adopted in 2009.

“Our residents identified this as their priority in the Village Vision and Parks Master Plans years ago, and many on today’s council were elected based on promises to fulfill those plans,” Mikkelson said. “The Governing Body should resist collective ‘analysis paralysis’ when specific opportunities are presented to make our City significantly more bikeable and walkable.”

Mikkelson noted that a current map of the metro area’s bike system paints an unflattering picture of Prairie Village, which is surrounded by cities with many more dedicated bike lanes and marked bike routes.

Eric Rogers, the executive director of BikeWalkKC, said it would be important to the bikeability of the entire metro region for different cities and communities to have connecting routes.

“Creating bike routes within each community is of course critical for giving residents more options for getting around,” he said. “As many communities in the region make progress, the connections between communities are increasingly important. Connectivity allows for seamless travel between and across communities.”

The reconfiguration of Mission Road from 71st Street to 75th Street could present an early, if relatively minor, chance to make headway on the bikeability front in Prairie Village — though Public Works Director Keith Bredehoeft told the council earlier this week that he was concerned moving the project to 2016 might hinder efforts to fully assess the possibilities for bike infrastructure on the stretch.

Still, Mikkelson is likely to push his council peers to prioritize bike and pedestrians projects in the coming years. It’s a matter of keeping the city attractive to families, he said.

“This disconnect limits recreation and transportation options for our residents,” said Mikkelson. “Investing more in safer bike and pedestrian infrastructure would make our City more attractive to the young professionals and families who tend to value it when choosing where to live.”