The city loses its new bike lanes. And we tally the metro's Iraq losses.

The Lost Bike Lanes 

The city loses its new bike lanes. And we tally the metro's Iraq losses.

This summer, bike enthusiast Eric Rogers posted a morbid map on his blog, www.kcbike.info. It plotted where metro bicyclists have been hit and killed over the past decade. In his research, he also determined a gruesome trend: This year's five cycling fatalities match a record set in 2002.

Back in 2002, Kansas City, Missouri, City Council members were so appalled by the blood on the streets that they launched the Bike KC initiative, a comprehensive, federally funded $1.7 million plan to make roads safer for bikes. It was supposed to pay for fixing potholes, "share the road" signs and more bike lanes.

But the plan has stalled (Wheels of Misfortune, July 27), the streets are still filled with tire-sized holes, and pro-bike signs and lanes are rarities.

So after seeing Roger's death map, the Pitch wondered just how many miles of fresh bike lanes have been added to keep the spandex-clad set safe.

Public Works information officer Dennis Gagnon confirms that the city is so far behind on the Bike KC initiative that no new lanes have been constructed using the program's funds. The plan did lead to a new city ordinance that mandates bike lanes for all new roads. This has led to a hodgepodge of short lanes such as those lining Zona Rosa on Barry Road. The idea is that these scattered bike lanes will someday connect to create corridors for commuting bicyclists.

The only problem? The city has no idea where the new lanes are.

"Regretfully, after numerous inquiries in the various departments that are involved in street issues, it appears that this statistic does not exist," Gagnon wrote by e-mail, when the Pitch requested a map of the city's bike lanes. "Since it has not been required internally by engineers and planners, the data for it has not been captured or compiled."

How can you create a circuit of bike lanes if you can't even find them?

Last week, the city finally posted a help-wanted ad on its Web site for a bike and pedestrian coordinator. The Mid-America Regional Council, which granted the Bike KC funding, has been requesting a coordinator since 2002, according to Aaron Bartlett, MARC's bike and pedestrian planner. "I've recommended they have a person like that because it is a full-time job," Bartlett says. "One person is a huge improvement because things need to be coordinated. And right now, you have many different people trying to piecemeal it together."

Gagnon says the new job posting isn't related to this year's cyclist carnage. "It was not triggered by fatalities," he says. "The fatalities are a concern, but the push for a coordinator had been ongoing for some time." One of the coordinator's first assignments will be to find the lost bike lanes.

Of course, by then the bikers who have survived will have already gone indoors for winter.

The Cost of War

With October one of the bloodiest months of the Iraq conflict so far, it seems time to tally what the war has cost the metro, in money, and more important, in lives.

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