Location: Kansas

Kansas Drops to #34 in 2012 Bike Friendly States Ranking

Bicycle Friendly StateThe League of American Bicyclists has just released the 2012 edition of their Bicycle Friendly State rankings, and Kansas has dropped from #23 to #34, a discouraging slide from just two years ago, when Kansas was ranked #13 in the nation.

Here’s how the League graded the state:

  • Legislation and Enforcement: 3
  • Policies and Programs: 2
  • Infrastructure and Funding: 2
  • Education & Encouragement: 3
  • Evaluation & Planning: 2

All grades are on a 5-point scale (1=low, 5=high).

In 2008, Kansas was ranked #25. In 2009, we dropped to #33. In 2010, we jumped way up to #13. In 2011, we slipped to #23. Now we’re back at #34. That’s not an encouraging trend…

But does it say more about how what’s happened in Kansas, or about what’s happening elsewhere around the nation?

On the positive side, over the last few years Kansas has launched a statewide advocacy organization (KanBikeWalk), implemented a safe-passing law, added a dead red law, and strengthened the hit-and-run law. Earlier this year, the Kansas Senate passed a Livable Streets Resolution (though it does not actually commit the state to implement anything concrete).

Kansas has added several bicycle friendly businesses and increased the number of bicycle friendly communities (from 2 to 3).

So progress has been made.

But we have no silver, gold, or platinum-level bicycle friendly communities, and the number of bicycle friendly businesses is still quite small. None of our colleges have made the Bicycle Friendly University list. And most of our largest cities remain ambivalent towards bicycle transportation.

Facility-wise, Kansas has added a few miles of bike lanes, and the trail network continues to grow (largely due to the initiative of private organizations, and in spite of government resistance). But streets, roads, and highways are still routinely built with little consideration given to non-motorized transportation.

The LAB’s Kansas BFS Report Card offers these suggestions for improvement:

  • Develop a Police Officer Standards and Training (POST) curriculum for bicycling enforcement both for new officers and continuing education –- focus on laws related to bicyclists, interactions between motorists and bicyclists, and bicycle collision investigation.
  • Adopt statewide National Complete Streets Policies. The National Complete Streets Coalition has a model state policy and a variety of other resources to ensure adoption and implementation.
  • Adopt federal funding project rating criteria that incentivize bicycle projects and accommodations. The state is spending a low amount, less than 1.18 percent, of federal funding on bicyclists and pedestrians.
  • Hold a bicycle ride sponsored by the Governor and/or legislators to show their constituents that their elected officials support bicycling.
  • Update the statewide bicycle plan that addresses each of the five “Es”, has clear implementation actions, and performance metrics to gauge success.

This quote from Andy Clarke, president of the League of American Bicyclists, says it pretty well: “There’s much work to be done in critical areas like infrastructure and funding. Overall, we see states — and especially state Departments of Transportation and state legislatures — lagging behind cities and the expectations of local cyclists, despite the many well-documented benefits of a more active lifestyle.”

Bike Friendly States In Our Region

Here’s what happened with the Bike Friendly States rankings in nearby states:

  • Arkansas: #50 (#48 in 2011)
  • Colorado: #4 (#12 in 2011)
  • Iowa: #16 (#6 in 2011)
  • Missouri: #28 (#26 in 2011)
  • Nebraska: #43 (#45 in 2011)
  • Oklahoma: #35 (#43 in 2011)

So, our neighbors went up (CO, NE, & OK) and down (AR, IA, and MO). The region as a whole dropped slighted (from a #29 average to a #30 average).

See also: 2012 State Rankings Released, 2012 state grades by category.

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About The Author

By Randy Rasa, editor/webmaster at Kansas Cyclist, the web's premier Kansas cycling information site, featuring authoritative guides to Kansas cycling clubs, bike shops, organized bike rides, touring, trails, and much more. [learn more]

3 responses to “Kansas Drops to #34 in 2012 Bike Friendly States Ranking”

  1. Brian L. says:

    Great summary of the LAB report and the encouraging progress KS has made (despite the ranking drop). It’s interesting that Colorado is ranked so high — I’ve never ridden there (well, not since grade school, at least!), but from what I’ve read on bike touring journals (e.g., crazyguyonabike), CO drivers are among the most hostile to cyclists.

  2. MarkS says:

    Colorado has some great riding. Boulder isn’t a “platinum” city for nothing. I haven’t riddden there, but driving, seeing hoards of cyclists, it’s inspirational. In the last five years, I’ve ridden around Steamboat, Gunnison and Crested Butte on pavement and dirt roads. A great time!

    LAB’s metrics don’t measured a lot of things, but if they did, Kansas would still rank low.

    Horrible winds, like yesterday 36 mph gusts were trying to blow me all over the road, and I had to ride “tight”, which exhausted me after 21 miles. Where I grew up (LA/SD) average wind speed was 1.7 mph, soo easy to ride relaxed, while going fast.

    Very few rideable shoulders here, road-building cost-minimizing. On the positive, if you have a DiNotte taillight, the vast majority of drivers, seeing you 200-400 yards ahead, will move into the left lane, or over the median line, to pass, without riding their horn. The country roads are great re courteous drivers, but the wheatfield prairies are really windy!

    I was hit last fall by an uninsured driver. He showed the cop an outdated “proof of insurance” card, and should have been cited for inattentive driving, but was not. It was partially the city’s fault: a T- intersection that required drivers going west to either turn left (south) or right (north), with them getting a green light the same time as peds/ bikes got a white “walk” light. The driver, just off work, was possibly texting. He made a LT into me, I mean he T-boned me. Fortunately, he wasn’t going too fast. It still wrecked my bike, and I slid into his windshield, cracking it with my head and shoulder. My winter riding was killed, due to soft-tissue injuries, w/ back pain and spasms.

    I was in a crosswalk for goodness sakes! With a white “walk” light authorizing me to cross.

    This weekend my wife was almost hit by a cellphone-using driver. If there were more cyclists here, it might be safer. But it’s so windy, cold in winter, torpid in summer. Last July, when afternoon riding here was torturous, I went to Cal, rode wine country, SF, Morgan Hill (Specialized’s headquarters area) and Monterey, riders all over the place. It was a total blast.

    Kansas, not so good. The climate is the main impediment. (In winter 08-09 I rode down to -4 F turned home after a mile, lots of 20 mi plus rides in 20-35-deg conditions. I should have gone to Austin or Cal.)

  3. Randy Rasa says:

    Sorry to hear about the wreck, Mark. That definitely sucks. Hope you’ve fully recovered. Uninsured and distracted drivers are a huge problem, nationwide.

    Should climate be factored in to a state’s bicycle friendliness? On the one hand, it’s perhaps unfair to penalize a state for something that’s out of their control; on the other hand, it is certainly reality that some conditions are less pleasant than others, and that some, like Kansas, have pretty severe wind and temperature extremes at times…

    Agree about the shoulders … wish there were more, and that so many weren’t ruined by rumble strips.

    There’s another positive for Kansas (and many other rural states), though — gravel roads. Kansas has one of the largest network of gravel roads in the nation, and the vast majority have very little traffic, and easy riding (for many types of bikes). I doubt that the rankings take into account this 100,000+ miles of (virtual) bike trails (and, since they’re not bicycle-specific, they probably shouldn’t). But it’s a great asset — unless a person lives in the central part of the Wichita or KC metro’s there’s always hundreds of miles of nearly car-free roads just waiting to be ridden, only a few miles away..

    Anyway, thanks for the comments!