Kansas City Changes Streets to Make Life Harder for Reckless Drivers and Street Racers – KCUR | CarTailz

David Johnson lives on the corner of 19th Street and Baltimore. It is an intersection where local residents see many illegal street festivals and stunt rides.

“It’s almost impossible to miss a car squeaking at your intersection near your home,” says Johnson. “So if it happens, I’ll hear it. And what’s interesting now is that the crowd seems to have increased.”

Recently, Kansas City began installing devices that officials hope will deter these illegal activities that police say have increased in number and become deadly in recent years.

Three people have been killed in street racing or sideline activities in the past two months, said Major Dave Jackson, commander of the Kansas City Police Department’s Transportation Department. Two were participants, while one was a pedestrian who was hit when a driver tried to flee the scene.

“These selfish actors who get involved deprive people of the opportunity to use the roads and bike lanes for what they are intended for,” Jackson says.

Three people have died in auto sideshow-related incidents in the past two months, Kansas City Police Department says.

Jackson describes the deterrents as “pucks”. They look like small black disks set into the road at intersections and are designed to prevent cars from skidding or skidding on the pavement.

Several neighborhoods notorious for street racing, including Power and Light and The Crossroads, have already seen the deterrents installed.

“We had tenants who lived in apartments across the city and couldn’t sleep at night because those engines were revving up so loud,” he says.

Jackson says most people who ride bikes or drive normally won’t even notice — the pucks protrude less than an inch above the surface of the road and measure about four inches in diameter.

Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas says the city’s open spaces attract such activity.

“It’s fair to say that Kansas City built some very big streets and boulevards and was part of our ‘City Beautiful’ movement of the 1920s,” says Lucas. “Obviously the downside is you have these spaces, which are great for people who want to either do stunts, spin outs, or do a range of things.”

Johnson, who sits on the board of directors of the Crossroads Community Association, hopes the deterrents will stop what is becoming a nuisance along Southwest Boulevard.

“There are quite a few offices that line the sidewalks,” he says. “And so, one wrong move and you end up in a restaurant full of people.”

There's a black disc on the sidewalk in the middle of the street.  Behind are several buildings and a large events center.

Carlo Moreno

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KCUR 89.3

One of the city’s new “pucks” is pinned along with others near the crosswalk at 13th Street and Grand Boulevard in the Power and Light District, where car shows and illegal street fairs are commonplace.

In addition to causing nuisance to local residents, the shows and races also damage infrastructure such as bike lanes and sidewalks.

Lucas says the pucks are a low-cost answer — the city bought the devices for less than $100,000 and integrated their installation with other road renewal projects.

“I think that’s a smart first step,” he says. “Because what we don’t want is a squad car with an officer intervening in a crowd of hundreds of people, many of whom are often armed in connection with this type of activity.”

In May 2021, the Kansas City Council passed one regulation This led to harsher penalties for street racing and sideshows, including a $150 fine for first offenders and up to 30 days in prison. Vehicles used in these activities could also be impounded, and street race spectators could be fined up to $100.

According to Lucas, the city has been looking at ways to prevent the activities without affecting the freedom of movement of people in the city.

“We will never accept street hooliganism,” he says. “And there is certainly crime prevention through law enforcement. We’ve seen increased activity there, but there’s also crime prevention through environmental design. And that’s the work we’re trying to do.”

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