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Kansas City Officially Commits To Zero Traffic Deaths By 2030

Mayor Quinton Lucas, left, and City Manager Brian Platt, kneeling, help install a traffic bollard as part of an event officially kicking off the city's Vision Zero initiative.
Luke X. Martin
KCUR 89.3
Mayor Quinton Lucas, left, and City Manager Brian Platt, kneeling, help install a traffic bollard as part of the city's official kickoff of the Vision Zero initiative.

Mayor Quinton Lucas called the event a formal kick-off, and said there’s more work to do to make sure traffic safety isn't an afterthought when developing and rebuilding Kansas City.

Mayor Quinton Lucas kicked off the Vision Zero initiative today, along the route of one of Kansas City’s newest bikeway projects.

The initiative will encourage a fresh look at the way the city designs, builds and evaluates streets, the mayor said.

“We want to make sure that we are addressing avoidable (traffic) accidents,” said Lucas, as lunchtime traffic whizzed through the 31st and Gillham Plaza intersection behind him. “And how we address avoidable accidents is how we build the public realm, how we make sure that we're looking out for so many others.”

Intersection improvements are planned at six pilot locations this year. Officials said the locations were chosen based on high crash, fatality and injury rates. The selected intersections are:

  • 9th Street and Broadway Boulevard
  • Independence Avenue and Van Brunt Boulevard
  • 31st Street and Prospect Avenue
  • 31st Street & Troost Avenue
  • 63rd Street and Prospect Avenue
  • 82nd Terrace and Troost Avenue

“Coming from New Jersey, where I was able to be a part of a team that was on the forefront and on leading edge of a Vision Zero effort … it's really exciting to come to a place, be able to start the process again, and to push even further and be even more aggressive on our approach to making our streets safer,” said City Manager Brian Platt, who formerly served as city manager and business administrator for Jersey City.

Platt said Kansas City, Missouri, is considering 50 intersections for pedestrian enhancements and improvements, and is looking to install 30 miles of protected bike lanes over the next two years.

“That is a huge number. That puts us on pace with any midsize or major city in the country,” he said.

According to the Missouri State Highway Patrol, 989 people were killed in Missouri traffic crashes in 2020, up from 881 in 2019. Preliminary reporting for 2020 indicated Missouri traffic fatalities increased by 12% compared to the previous year, according to the Missouri Department of Transportation.

Kansas City typically has between 60 and 80 deaths each year from traffic crashes, according to Kansas City police, which is reporting 20 traffic fatalities this year through April. Last year the city surpassed 100 traffic fatalities.

“We see too many teddy bears. We see too many crosses. We see too many piles of flowers on our roadside reminding us of all the lives that we've lost,” said Kansas City Transportation Director Jason Waldron. “So today we are saying that we can do better.”

“Vision Zero's not just projects — it's about a policy that puts the safety of our users first and is inherent (in) how we manage our right of way every single day,” Waldron said.

The Kansas City Council in 2020 directed the city manager's office to make Vision Zero a priority.
Luke X. Martin
KCUR 89.3
The Kansas City Council in 2020 directed the city manager's office to make Vision Zero a priority.

The local initiative is modeled on an increasingly popular strategy to eliminate all traffic fatalities and severe injuries, while increasing safe, healthy and equitable mobility, according to the Vision Zero Network website.

The approach focuses on making changes to the road system, not necessarily by changing individual driving habits but by making the roads safer for everyone who uses them.

The Kansas City Council passed a Vision Zero resolution last May that aimed to meet that goal by 2030, and directed the city manager’s office to make it a priority.

The measure was introduced by 4th District Councilman Eric Bunch following the death of well-known cyclist Pablo Sanders Jr. and, according to a press release, in response to a 20% rise in traffic crash fatalities and serious injuries over the last 10 years.

“2030 is not a long way off,” said Michael Kelley, policy director of BikeWalkKC, “but we wouldn't be trying for this if it wasn't necessary. There have been far too many lives that have been lost or altered by traffic violence, and this has to change. So let's get to work.”

As culture editor, I oversee KCUR’s coverage of race, culture, the arts, food and sports. I work with reporters to make sure our stories reflect the fullest view of the place we call home, so listeners and readers feel primed to explore the places, projects and people who make up a vibrant Kansas City. Email me at luke@kcur.org.
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