How is this relevant to Kansas? We’re about to spend $200 million over the next couple decades on a mere 3-mile section of highway in our downtown corridor. At what scale will that ever be sustainable? Click through to Strong Towns to read why #NoNewRoads makes sense for Texas (and for Kansas, too).
Here’s a great, simple graphic from Katja Leyendecker. The better your cycling infrastructure, the more diverse your cyclists will be. Perfect!
A bicycle education program for Topeka Unified School District 501 elementary students will begin this spring, due in large part to $23,500 the program received on Monday from the Topeka Community Foundation and the Heartland Healthy Neighborhoods coalition.
“It will allow us to reach a whole other demographic of Topekans in offering safe-riding courses for fourth- and fifth-graders within (USD) 501 schools,” said Andy Fry, of the Topeka Community Cycle Project. “We’ll be able to offer them the basics of how to navigate the roads safely. For the kids who don’t know already how to ride a bicycle, we’ll be able to teach them balance and the basics of riding a bicycle.”
In partnership with Safe Kids of Shawnee County and the League of American Bicyclists Instructors, Fry said the weeklong course will be taught by USD 501 physical education teachers beginning this spring for the next five years and will be integrated into USD 501’s physical education curriculum.
Fry said the Topeka Bike Lessons and Safety Tools, or Topeka BLAST, is modeled after a similar program in Kansas City.
“We wanted to bring that here,” he said. “We don’t have the resources to provide our own instructors, so working with 501, we can harness the partnership of their existing P.E. instructors and have it during their P.E. time of the day. It will be a mobile unit that will go school to school.”
The Topeka Bikeways Committee also received $16,500 on Monday from the Heartland Healthy Neighborhoods coalition to complete the first phase of the committee’s project to provide 422 street signs, 24 over-the-street mast signs and construction of wider sidewalks along 54 miles of bike routes across Topeka. The second phase of the project will begin in the spring and is estimated to cost $400,000 — 20 percent of which is private funding — which will add more signage and wider sidewalks to additional streets.
Ralph Krumins, of the Bikeways Advisory Council, said when the push started in 2009 to make Topeka safer for bicyclists, it seemed like an uphill climb. However, he said with the Complete Streets resolution passed that same year by the Topeka City Council, acceptance for a variety of transportation has steadily grown throughout Topeka.
“It’s a lot safer to be able to get around when you have streets that are marked for bicycles,” Krumins said of the recent progress made by the Complete Streets and Bikeways council in the past several years. “We still have some education to do and get people up to speed on what has already happened, but we’re really very excited about it.”
The gifts for the Topeka USD 501 bike program and bikeways signage were presented during the Heartland Healthy Neighborhoods meeting Monday at Lake Shawnee. Several Shawnee County partner organizations reported on progress they have made in the past year and plans for 2016 on a variety of health-based initiatives.
Also during Monday’s meeting, John Calbeck, the outgoing chairperson for Heartland Healthy Neighborhoods, announced the Wichita-based Kansas Leadership Center is donating $50,000 of in-kind funds for 2016 strategic planning by the Heartland Healthy Neighborhoods partner organizations.
“They’ve (Kansas Leadership Center) been a major supporter of us the whole time,” Calbeck said.
Tomorrow, Topeka Metro is offering free rides on all its fixed routes in the city, in recognition of the 60th Anniversary of Rosa Parks’ bus protest.
Have you ever wanted to try out the bus? Tomorrow would be a great day for that! Check out the system map and find the route that suits you best – either one that goes close to home or close to work. Metro uses a hub-and-spoke system, so if you need two routes to get to your destination, that might mean transferring at Quincy Street Station downtown.
If you live in city limits, chances are good that you live near a bus route. Almost 75% of Topekans are within a 1/4-mile of a bus route – that’s just a 10-minute walk!
Topeka, like many cities, is immured in a ring of ailing interstate highways. This network of roads had lofty goals at its onset, but its effects have produced unintended consequences.
The Polk-Quincy Viaduct in Topeka is particularly perplexing. Why, in the 1960s, would the City of Topeka agree to route a highway through the center of its densely-peopled downtown corridor? Surely it wasn’t meant to decimate the core of black-owned businesses east of Kansas Avenue between the river and 6th Street — but that’s what it effectively did.
In the process of Urban Renewal (or Urban Removal), Topeka lost out on property tax revenue for hundreds of acres of land, in the name of un-taxable state right-of-way and the lure of tourism-driven sales-tax dollars.
Political missteps aside, we have an opportunity to discuss. Design standards in the 60s were not as stringent as today’s, and in the last decade, the state Department of Transportation has determined that the Polk-Quincy Viaduct section of I-70 is one of the most dangerous stretches of highway in the country.
What’s proposed by KDOT is a redesign.
What’s proposed here is abandonment.
Take another glance at the map. What is achieved by I-70 that is not achieved by I-470? Here’s a list: convoluted access to US-75, induced demand and excessive congestion between downtown and West Topeka (frequently bottle-necking at MacVicar), and a whole lot of expensive highway roads to maintain all year and in all weather indefinitely into the future.
If we want to make the highway safer, reduce our burden of infrastructure maintenance, and improve the ability to collect sustainable property taxes, let’s close I-70 from K-4 highway to US-75 highway.
We’ll route through-traffic to the smoother and newer I-470 south of town. We’ll reclaim a ton of territory for our strong central neighborhoods and the steadily-growing downtown corridor. We’ll improve property values along the whole route. And Kansas can free up part of its $1 billion highway budget to tackle a few of the 347 substandard bridges in the state.
There’s a lot of value in the study produced by KDOT and the Metropolitan Topeka Planning Organization. It discusses the purpose and need for a change along the route, as well as some alternatives. But the underlying assumption of the study is that the highway is needed. That’s the idea we’re challenging.
And for the below-grade sections through downtown, how about a downtown riverwalk and canal?
This sounds like a radical solution, but it is not made in jest. Our highways are expensive. It has been decades since the gas tax fully replenished the Highway Trust Fund. All roads are heavily subsidized. Highways simply don’t pay for themselves.
Knowing that, why would we propose to spend $200 million to correct a design error on a 50-year-old highway and further displace downtown residents and businesses, rather than look for creative, time-tested, and less-expensive solutions? It sounds a lot more radical to fix the old highway than to look for a proven alternative.
Addendum 2016/2/3 —
What if we vacate only the section of highway in question in the Polk-Quincy Viaduct study? That leaves highway access at both Adams and MacVicar open.
Through-traffic could still be routed to I-470, and any industrial traffic heading into the city could still get to Adams St. from the east, or to MacVicar from the west.
Even now, it’s barely any difference in travel time.
The City of Topeka has completed 9 miles of the Bikeways Masterplan (red), will complete 32 miles during Phase I this fall and next spring (yellow/black), and will complete another 13 miles of bikeways facilities in 2017 (blue). Download a hi-res PDF here. On-street infrastructure includes street signs, bike lanes, sharrows, trail/link improvements, and sidepaths.
6:30-8pm, June 15, 2015
Mulvane Art Museum, Washburn University
10-mile round trip
Glenda Taylor was a beloved cyclist, artist, and community advocate in Topeka. She was hit by a car and killed last Sunday, June 7, during a warmup ride as part of a time trials series in Crawford County.
Tonight, the Kaw Valley Bicycle Club will host a memorial ride in her honor, starting and ending at Washburn University, where she was the chair of the Art department. The ride will convene at the Mulvane Art Museum, just south of 17th Street on Jewell Ave. in Topeka.
Taylor was an accomplished artist and athlete, having won awards for her achievements in both ceramics and cycling.
The driver has been charged, and the Crawford County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the crash.