Kansas City, Missouri, is a sprawling Midwest metropolis with thousands of miles of paved streets. Approximately 2,700 miles of paved roads are primary and connecting streets, while another 3,300 miles are in residential areas. These roads and the interstates that surround and run through the city serve its population of over two million metro residents.

These roads, along with the area’s numerous trails and paths, are home not just to cars, trucks, and motorized vehicles but also to countless bicyclists. When cars and trucks share the same space as bicyclists, accidents can happen. Over 800 bicyclists across the nation are killed each year in bicycle accidents and collisions.

Is Kansas City a Bike-Friendly City?

In determining whether a city like Kansas City is friendly and hospitable toward bicyclists, much more than people’s attitudes need to be considered. The League of American Bicyclists looks at measures such as safety statistics, bike-friendly ordinances and laws, and the efforts made to encourage more bicycling. 

According to these measures, Kansas City earned a bronze rating from the League in a recent year. While noting some positives about the city, several areas needed improvement:

Bicyclist Safety

The League relied on data showing that in one year, 427 bicycle crashes occurred, resulting in 46 bicyclist fatalities. While the total number of accidents is below the League’s target of 498 for its Silver award, the number of fatalities far exceeds the League’s target of eight.

Percentage of Riders

Only 0.4% of Kansas City residents commute by bicycle, far below the League’s target of 2.8%. This number could be the result of several factors. For example, Kansas City only scored a two out of ten when it came to enforcing bicycle safety laws, and only six percent of the city’s roads are equipped with dedicated bicycle facilities.

High-Speed Roads and Bicycle Facilities

Finally, the League’s research revealed that none of Kansas City’s high-speed roads have bicycle facilities like repair shops and other bike-friendly businesses. This can make it difficult for bicyclists who would like to use their bicycles to commute more.

Kansas City Bicycle Infrastructure

Bicycle lanes are a feature on some Kansas City roads. These lanes of travel along existing roads are meant to accommodate not just bicycles but also scooters and powered wheelchair users. The city has recently begun purchasing street sweepers and plows to help maintain these lanes.

Protected bike lanes are another feature on about six stretches of Kansas City roads as of December 2022. These are bike lanes that include a physical barrier to separate the bike lane from lanes meant for motorized vehicles. These lanes are designed to make bicycling more appealing and safer for riders.

Although not a common feature yet, Kansas City hopes to add bicycle-specific lights at intersections to help guide the flow of bicyclists through these dangerous areas.

Besides bike lanes, there are numerous bike trails in and around Kansas City. These include trails that link Kansas City with other parts of Missouri. The Katy Trail runs 369 miles across Missouri, and the Ozark Trail spans 392 miles in Missouri and has a total length of over 700 miles as it travels through Arkansas and Missouri.

Within Kansas City, there are numerous trails and shared-use paths in and around the area. The majority of these are south and west of downtown, especially near Overland Park, Leawood, and Olathe on the Kansas side of the border.

Missouri Bicycle Safety Laws

There are several Missouri bicycle safety laws that apply to riders in Kansas City. These include the following:

Required Equipment

No specialized bicycle equipment is needed when riding during the daytime. However, if you ride after dark, your bicycle must have a white light on the front that can be seen for at least 500 feet and a red reflector on the rear with light visible for 600 feet. 

You should also wear lights or reflective material along the pedals, your legs, or the bike’s crank arms that are visible for 200 feet and similar materials on the bike’s sides that can be seen for 300 feet.

Bicycle helmets are not required in Missouri. However, wearing a bike helmet can significantly reduce the risk of a serious head injury in a crash. Ensure your helmet is properly fitted and approved for use as a bike helmet. 

Follow Traffic Laws

In Missouri, a bicyclist must obey all traffic laws, including stop signs and traffic control lights. When riding on the road, a bicyclist should follow the same laws that a motorist would need to follow. This includes giving hand signals to indicate their intention to turn or stop.

Use Bike Lanes When Available

Bicyclists must use bike lanes when they are available on roads. When they are not available, they should ride as far right on the street as they can safely. You may not ride more than two abreast unless you are in a bike lane.

Riding on a Sidewalk

Within Kansas City, bicyclists may use sidewalks instead of the road or bike lanes. However, if you choose to do so, you must yield the right of way to pedestrians who are also using the sidewalk. When crossing the street at a crosswalk, bicyclists using the sidewalk should follow the directions and signals applicable to pedestrians.

Safe Passing Law

A motorist seeking to pass a bicyclist on the road should leave a safe distance between themselves and the bicyclist. This distance will depend on the surrounding circumstances, including traffic volume, weather, and visibility.

Kansas City Has Room To Improve For Bicyclists

While Kansas City has made some efforts to encourage bicycling within the city, such efforts need to be increased. A high number of crashes and fatalities, coupled with lax enforcement of bike safety laws, help contribute to a low use of bicycles among commuters. 

Nonetheless, the efforts the city has made so far, including adding bicycle lanes and protected bike lanes, are a step in the right direction for this major city.