Preliminary data showed that the addition of protected bike lanes along a busy road that travels through downtown North Kansas City, Missouri, would improve safety and increase bike traffic, a new report from Streetlight Data found.
North Kansas City, a small city that is surrounded by Kansas City, Missouri, added protected bike lanes down a less than one mile stretch of Armour Road. The project — part of a larger complete streets effort by the city — also added brightly colored crosswalks, landscaping and pedestrian islands, among other improvements.
Streetlight Data, a company that provides mobility analytics, measured traffic volume and speed from January to March 2019, before the city added the bike lanes, and again during the same time frame in 2020 and 2021, after they were installed.
The data indicated that the new bike lanes succeeded on several measures.
Streetlight did not examine whether the project affected crash rates, but it found that cars were traveling more slowly. Before the bike lanes, around 5% of autos traveled over 40 mph on that stretch of road, well above the 25 mph speed limit. Afterward, almost no cars traveled that fast.
Meanwhile, bike traffic more than doubled, from a daily average of 50 to 114. The report notes that bike traffic didn't decrease on a parallel road that was used as a control for the project during that time, indicating that more people were riding, not transferring from nearby streets. Still, bicycles were only 2% of the traffic along Armour Road after the addition of bike lanes.
Streetlight conducted the study from January through March, which is off-peak biking season, but “this increase is notable, and I think the data support that,” said Emily Adler, Streetlight’s director of content. “The pandemic hitting in April  impacted the months” chosen, she said.
On the downside, congestion on the street went up. “When looking at congestion rate, or the proportion of hours of the day in which congestion occurs, there was an uptick from 13% to 20% between the 2019 and 2020 study periods. In 2021, however, the congestion rate slipped back to 18%,” according to Streetlight Data's report on its findings.
Streetlight chose this site as a trial and didn't partner with the city. Xue Wood, North Kansas City’s community development director, said she wasn't even aware of Streetlight's data.
Several cities have been building out networks of protected bike lanes in recent years, including New York City, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Chicago and Washington, D.C.