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