A Decade of Difference: city efforts encourage healthier communities

complete streets

A number of municipalities in Kansas and Missouri have adopted complete streets ordinances.

Since 2010, a dozen municipalities in the region have implemented complete streets resolutions. A “complete street” is a street that allows for multiple modes of transportation, such as walkers, bikers, bus riders and wheelchairs, in addition to cars.

Many municipalities in the region are also working to create areas more conducive to physical activity. Johnson and Platte counties have trail systems financed by dedicated sales tax. Lee’s Summit and Blue Springs have developed several bike lanes. A bike/pedestrian crossing of the Missouri River has been established.

This kind of visible leadership and financial investment have played a crucial role in setting the stage for other organizations to extend and invest in the efforts.

Kansas City, Missouri, has taken that lesson to heart and emerged as a leader in expanding active living access. In 2008, the city created Bike KC, a long-term plan to install 600 miles of bike lanes and 50 miles of trails throughout the city. So far, nearly 200 bike lanes have been added, along with signage and bike parking facilities. The city also has worked in concert with the local cycling community to improve safety by removing hazardous drainage grates and other obstacles from bike lanes and trails.

Another city program, Active Living KC, has partnered with the Hickman Mills School District to promote safe routes to school, walking school buses and more biking opportunities for the children. By 2012, the group, which is sponsored by the Kansas City Public Works Department, had established walking school bus routes at three schools and participation has continued to grow as the group has matured.

A partnership between Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City and the non-profit BikeWalkKC, meanwhile, gave rise to Kansas City B-Cycle. B-Cycle is a bike-sharing program that, for a small fee, allows individuals to check out a bike at various sites in downtown Kansas City. The bikes can be used for short bike trips and then returned to any of the bike share sites.

These efforts and others resulted in Kansas City being awarded bronze status as a bike-friendly community in 2013 by the League of American Bicyclists.

Thrive Allen County spearheaded the development of the Southwind Rail Train in 2013. Built from a converted railroad corridor between Iola and Humboldt, Kansas, the 6.5-mile stretch is now used for recreational biking and is maintained and managed by the county.

Ed. Note: This is an excerpt from our Decade of Difference report. Read more about how communities in our region have become healthier over the past decade.


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HCF's Local Health Buzz Blog aims to discuss health and health policy issues that impact the uninsured and underserved in our service area. To submit a blog, please contact HCF Communications Officers, Jennifer Sykes, at jsykes@hcfgkc.org.

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