What's That Big Green Box Downtown? It's Kansas City's First 'Bike Box' | KCUR

What's That Big Green Box Downtown? It's Kansas City's First 'Bike Box'

Nov 26, 2015

If you've driven past 11th and Main Street in downtown Kansas City since Tuesday morning, you've probably been a little perplexed about the large green rectangle that now adorns the pavement.

What is that strange new addition, you might very well ask? It's Kansas City's first "bike box."

Bike boxes are spaces just before traffic lights that give cyclists a slight head start when signals turn. It lets them pull ahead of cars by a few feet to safely make turns from bike lanes over to adjacent streets.

The National Association of City Transportation Officials reports that many European cities use bike boxes as part of their cycling infrastructure, as well as American cities like Portland, New York and Chicago.

Kristen Jeffers with BikeWalkKC says the addition is a welcome one for Kansas City cyclists. 

As cyclists head west on 11th toward Main, the bike box will let them pull slightly ahead of cars so they can turn right or left more safely.
Credit Cody Newill / KCUR

"When done right, bike boxes make cycling a whole lot easier," Jeffers said. "This is just another step for safety and saying, 'Hey, we treat our cyclists just like we treat pedestrians and our drivers."

Currently, Kansas City holds a "Bronze" rating from the League of American Bicyclists in terms of bicycling friendliness. Jeffers says adding more bike boxes will only help to bump that rating up.

"They're getting us closer to that 'Platinum' bike friendly status that any city would want," Jeffers said. "Protected lanes, two-way cycle tracks, [bike boxes] are up there with those things, and the fact that Kansas City is adding something that is state of the art puts us on the map again."

Now, we know there's a question going through your head: why is the box green? Deb Ridgway with Kansas City Public Works says the loud color is meant to get the attention of drivers.

"Portland has been testing these for a while, and they tested blue, red and green pavement," Ridgway said. "Red pavement tends to become invisible during rain, and blue was the same color as handicapped parking. Green just held up over time and is highly visible." 

Ridgway says Public Works has planned the box for the last two years, and they've got several more planned over the coming year. The next boxes will pop up along Grand Boulevard at 11th, 12th and 18th streets, as well as along Benton Boulevard.

Cody Newill is a reporter for KCUR. You can reach him on Twitter @CodyNewill or send him an email at cody@kcur.org. He will be in a food coma for the next two days though, so your mileage may vary.