By Kevin Collison
After years of coasting when it comes to shielding cyclists, the city is racing to finish its longest protected bike path to date, a 3 1/2 mile, north-south route along Gillham Road from near Cleaver Boulevard to the East Crossroads.
The completion of the Gillham route, already the city’s longest protected bike path at 2 1/2 miles, was shifted into high gear by the arrival of the new City Manager Brian Platt in late 2020.
“The new city manager is not shy about saying we need to build out (our bicycle routes) and saw the need to go forward to 19th Street,” said City Councilman Eric Bunch.
“I’m excited to finally see a commitment to multi-modal transportation.”
City workers are marking the final stretch of the Gillham route from its current terminus at McGee Trafficway near 31st Street to 19th and Oak in the heart of the East Crossroads. Gillham becomes Oak north of 22nd Street.
The Gillham bike project began construction in spring 2020 at its south terminus at Brush Creek Boulevard about a block from Cleaver. The route was recommended by a mobility committee established by former City Manager Troy Schulte.
“It connects five parks, and four or five neighborhoods,” said Maggie Green, a city spokeswoman.
“It’s pretty impressive we were able to build a 3 1/2 mile facility in about a year. Our goal is to build 30 miles of protected bicycle lanes next year…the new city manager is passionate about it.”
Green said the new Gillham path is both pragmatic because it piggybacks on a larger street resurfacing project and visionary because it’s part of the city’s Vision Zero KC plan to provide safer streets for all users.
Once completed to 19th and Oak, plans call for 19th Street to include a protected east-west path as far Grand, Main and Southwest Boulevard. The existing painted bike lane on Grand through downtown would be upgraded as well.
The city already has completed a protected bike lane along 18th Street between the East Crossroads and 18th & Vine District, and another east-west route in Midtown along Armour Boulevard from Gillham to Broadway.
Bunch is an avid cyclist who co-founded BikeWalkKC before being elected to the Council. He said the new Gillham lane has not only encouraged more bicyclists over the last year, but runners and e-scooters as well.
“I’m a person who’ll ride about anywhere, but I go out of my way to go to Gillham,” he said. “I feel safer and I bring my kids there. I’m seeing lots of families on weekends and people also are using it to run.
“There’s a good portion of the public who want to ride a bike, but they’re too nervous to. Facilities like this make it feel more like a bike path.
“Our medium- to long-term goal is to continue to work with city staff to see how we build out our bicycle network as we resurface streets…You can get miles done for a marginally extra cost.”
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