Lenexa looks to ‘complete streets’ approach to improve pedestrian, bike access

Overland Park is among the cities to expand bike routes in recent years.

By Roxie Hammill

Lenexa has begun a process to ensure its streets are more accessible to pedestrians, bicyclists, bus riders and the handicapped. The city will begin looking for a consultant this month to begin a “complete streets” study that city staff hopes to have finished by the end of 2018.

The aim of the study is to promote street design and signage to make things safer for all travelers. The study will look at such things as street light timing, transit stops, roundabouts and bike lanes.

The city has made some improvements on streets the past few years, concentrating on roundabouts and other traffic-slowing design as well as traffic signal timing and more wheelchair-accessible curb cuts. But city council members have been under pressure from a group of bicyclists in recent months to improve bike infrastructure.

The group iBike Lenexa has pressed for bike lanes and share-the-road signage that the city now lacks. Some have questioned why they city has not already adopted a complete streets plan.

Council members got an introduction to “complete streets” last June and decided to take steps to do a study this year.

“Complete Streets” is a national initiative. Eleven governments in the Kansas City area have adopted it, with the most recent being Kansas City, Mo. last year. In Kansas, the cities of Overland Park, Roeland Park, Leawood, Kansas City, Kan., and Johnson County (for unincorporated areas) have complete streets plans, according to the website of BikeWalkKC, and advocacy group.

“I think there’s a misconception that just because we have to date not formally adopted a complete streets policy we are somehow opposed to complete streets,” Lenexa Community Development Director Beccy Yocham told a city council committee meeting Tuesday. “That couldn’t be further from the truth.

The study will ultimately show specific locations where things could be improved, such as links between sidewalks and trails and better bus stops.

Having the study “clarifies the city’s position” on inclusiveness, Yocham said. “It makes it clear to the community we are embracing these concepts.”

A complete streets policy also could open more doors for related grants, she said. The city is pursuing a $64,500 grant through the Mid-America Regional Council for a bike-sharing program for fiscal year 2019. If successful, Lenexa would have 25 BCycle Smart bikes at five locations. A MARC committee recommended approval of that grant this week, but final approval is still pending.

Council members hearing Yocham’s presentation were generally supportive. “I very much like it,” said City Council member Joe Karlin. He suggested an advisory committee to include street users and developers for input.