What’s the Story with Kansas?

Jul 22nd, 2019

In the summer of 2018, six people were hit while riding one of our routes across Kansas, including the iconic TransAmerica Bicycle Trail (also officially designated as U.S. Bicycle Route 76). 

In order to make the routes safer, we needed to know what happened, and why. What were the factors that led to the crashes? Was there something about the routes themselves, or was there something bigger at play? Would moving the routes solve the underlying issue?

Our first step was to reach out to anyone with knowledge about or connection to the routes and the experience of riding in Kansas, including the TransAm Race community. While Adventure Cycling is unaffiliated with and does not sanction the annual race, stepping into a discussion with the race community allowed us to understand their concerns and connect with people in Kansas who wanted to help. In addition, we reached out to the Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT), which launched a continuing partnership to research the crashes and find solutions.

We solicited feedback about the crash sites. We reached out to Adventure Cycling’s TransAm tour leaders and asked them to note anything that stood out about the route (shoulder width, rumble strips, traffic volume). We hired a route researcher who drove the TransAm (and a suggested alternate route) and recorded details about the infrastructure, traffic culture, weather, and more. We also hired an intern who mapped Kansas roadway data to help us visualize the route conditions from afar. And we read the crash reports and followed up with the reporting officers.

What we came to understand is that moving the route wouldn’t fix the situation, because drivers fundamentally weren’t expecting to encounter cyclists on these rural roads. We needed to work with KDOT to improve the roads themselves, while addressing distracted driving and the general gap in understanding about how to safely pass someone on a bike.

Two bike tourists from Germany visit the John Egbers memorial shortly after its dedication.
Two bike tourists from Germany visit the John Egbers memorial shortly after its dedication.
Laura Crawford

A few of the outcomes so far:

  • Adventure Cycling wrote and submitted to KDOT a 40-page report that details the conditions of the crashes and our recommendations, including: signing designated U.S. Bicycle Routes, widening road shoulders, installing bike-friendly rumble strips, addressing high speed limits on two-lane roadways, and strengthening the 3-foot passing law and its enforcement. Many of these recommendations have been incorporated into KDOT’s Strategic Highway Safety Plan.
  • Adventure Cycling and KDOT attended the memorial dedication for John Egbers, who was hit during the TransAm Race and later died from his injuries. The memorial is located at the Heartland Mill in Marienthal.
  • Kansas Governor Laura Kelly signed a proclamation that declared June to be Bicycle Safety & Awareness Month.
  • KDOT has committed to signing U.S. Bicycle Routes 76 and 66 by the end of 2019.
  • In advance of this year’s TransAm Race, KDOT worked with local media to alert people to the presence of cyclists on Kansas roadways and the importance of passing safely. The comments on these stories point to a general lack of awareness of the existing 3-foot passing law, which KDOT plans to address in the near future.

At Adventure Cycling, we take seriously the safety of our members and anyone else riding our routes. This is just the beginning of our partnership with KDOT, and we look forward to not only improving the cycling experience in Kansas, but also working similarly with other states to improve the bike travel experience across the U.S.

How Can You Help?

We’d love to hear from you. Together, we can improve the safety of bike travel across America.

  • Do you know of an incident on an Adventure Cycling or U.S. Bicycle Route? 
  • Have you been hit or nearly hit while riding an Adventure Cycling or U.S. Bicycle Route? 
  • Are you concerned about narrow shoulders and/or rumble strips on an Adventure Cycling or U.S. Bicycle Route? 

Please use this form to tell us where and what happened. Or email us.