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Kansas City added bike lanes to make Truman Road safer — but business complaints may kill one

Traffic moves east and west along Truman Road on Tuesday morning near Wabash Avenue where bike lanes run on the north and south side of the street.
Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
Traffic moves east and west along Truman Road on Tuesday morning near Wabash Avenue where bike lanes run on the north and south side of the street.

Some council members are proposing that city officials remove one of the bike lanes on Truman Road. They say the current design is unsafe and hurts business owners.

Kansas City is considering removing the bike lane on one side of Truman Road after weeks of opposition from a group of business owners on the crash-heavy street.

The city started building the bike lane along Truman Road last fall, but paused construction last month as business owners voiced frustration with the project and what they say was a lack of engagement from city officials. People who own businesses along Truman Road argued in previous public meetings that it negatively impacts their businesses.

Advocates for safer streets in Kansas City say the bike lane makes the dangerous road safer for drivers and non-drivers by slowing traffic.

Last week, Third District council members Melissa Robinson and Brandon Ellington proposed removing all bike lanes from Truman Road. Now, council is considering a compromise — only removing the bike lane on the north side of Truman and adding other safety improvements, like making the remaining south side lane two-way.

Robinson said the city can support both pedestrian safety and small businesses, adding that the 3rd District cannot afford to lose businesses.

“We have to make sure our roads are safer for everyone, pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists,” she said. “I will never leave the side of our small businesses, and I will never leave the side of vulnerable road users. We can thrive together.”

Bike lanes came out of effort to reduce crashes

In 2018, the city studied how to make Truman Road — which city officials say is one of the most dangerous streets in Kansas City when it comes to traffic crashes — safer.

When City Council passed its Year One Bicycle Implementation Plan last year, it selected Truman Road and 12 other streets for protected bike facilities based on crash data. Construction on the contested lanes began in October.

Right now, there are bike lanes on the south and north side of Truman Road that are protected from cars using tall, white bollards. The bike lanes reduce what was once a six-lane road prone to traffic crashes to four lanes for cars and a center turning lane.

Robinson said during Wednesday’s committee meeting that current implementation of the bike lane is unsafe, because when drivers on Truman Road park their car next to the bike lane, they are exposed to oncoming traffic when they exit their vehicle.

She said the bike lane on the south side of Truman could be turned into a two-way cycle track, similar to what exists along Gilham Road.

4th District Councilman Eric Bunch said the proposed changes are a reasonable solution.

“A big reason why we got to where we are with this particular design and the public dialogue is that it's a confusing and seemingly dangerous design,” he said. “I think we should expand that conversation to all streets.”

City Council will take up — and possibly vote on — the proposed changes to the Truman lane later this month.

Most who publicly testified want lanes to stay

More than 80 residents submitted public testimony in response to the ordinance, with a majority opposing the removal of the bike lanes on Truman.

David Dye is a 3rd District resident. He told City Council on Wednesday that the bike lane on Truman Road was an important part of the city’s plan to improve road safety for everyone.

“It needed to be calmed in some fashion,” Dye said of Truman Road. “The mobility lanes as installed seem to meet that need.”

Laela Zaidi, a member of the Kansas City chapter of the Sunrise Movement and a 3rd District resident, said six-lane roads are unsafe.

“As young folks, we don't have businesses. We are oftentimes seen as not contributing to the economy, but we wanna become permanent members of these neighborhoods for life,” she said. “And part of that is having bike lanes that we have a voice in shaping that we have a voice in making permanent.”

But some Truman Road business owners remained opposed to the bike lane, saying it has hurt their businesses.

John Mika owns Venus Restoration Center, an auto body shop on Truman. He said it’s been almost impossible for his customers to come into the shop and drop off their cars since the bike lane was installed.

“The delivery people that drop off 10 to 15 deliveries a day have to park in the turn lane, walk across a lane of traffic, rolling tires or bringing in parts,” he said. “Somebody's gonna get hurt out there. I mean, it's very dangerous. There's no loading zone now. There's nowhere for them to park.”

A man wearing jeans and a black sweatshirt stands to the left of a large, hand painted sign that reads in black and red letters "Are you aware of  Vision Zero? Wanna End it??"
Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
Shawn Arcidino, the owner of Atomic Collision Body Shop, shows off one of his recent "Street Tweets" that he displays outside his business along Truman Road.

Shawn Arcidino owns Atomic Collision, another auto shop on Truman Road, and has been one of the most vocal opponents to the bike lanes. During his public testimony in front of City Council, he read online comments directed toward him and his business.

“I see the bike crowd as a hate group directing hate towards me,” he told City Council.

He said he does not support the compromise of removing one side of the bike lane, and wants to see the bike lanes removed from Truman Road completely. He said he intends to move forward with a referendum to remove all bike lanes from Kansas City.

As KCUR’s Missouri politics and government reporter, it’s my job to show how government touches every aspect of our lives. I break down political jargon so people can easily understand policies and how it affects them. My work is people-forward and centered on civic engagement and democracy. I hold political leaders and public officials accountable for the decisions they make and their impact on our communities. Follow me on Twitter @celisa_mia or email me at celisa@kcur.org.
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