Mysterious plungers pop up along Wichita bike lane

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – The mystery of who installed plunger-like barriers along a Wichita bike lane is yet to be solved.

Todd Ramsey, an avid cyclist in Wichita, said he noticed the plungers with reflective tape near the intersection of Washington and First Street over the weekend.

“I was riding my bike downtown on Saturday morning. I pull up to this intersection and I see these white posts sticking out of the ground and they look like traffic barriers. They have reflective tape on them and so I’m thinking, wow, the city did something to kind of make this intersection safer,” said Todd Ramsey

Ramsey said he then approached the barriers to get a closer look.

“As I get closer, I realize these aren’t barriers, these are plungers that have been stuck to the ground,” Ramsey said.

Ramsey then snapped a few pictures of the plungers and posted them to social media. He said that’s when the conversation about bike safety, specifically bike-lane safety in downtown Wichita, took off.

“I don’t think the people know the rules about whether they are dedicated turn lanes or not,” Ramsey said.

According to the City of Wichita, drivers are not allowed to cross a solid line into the designated bike lane. The city said the bike lanes go up to the stop bar in order to make people bicycling more visible.

However, Ramsey said it’s not uncommon for drivers to use the dedicated bike lane as a turning lane at the same time a cyclist is using it.

“It’s not very fun. You have to be on your guard at all times because you never know if a car is going to turn into you,” Ramsey said. “I don’t think it’s just a cyclist safety issue. It’s a public safety issue and we can do better.”

Ramsey said he believes the plungers are a sign from someone or some group that Wichita can do better in protecting its cyclists.

“I thought this is somebody who knows about bike safety and is trying to make a point or is actually trying to solve a problem that no one else is trying to solve,” he said. “I think it’s a great awareness point to just let people know they need to stay out of the bike lanes regardless of whether there are cyclists in there or not.”

KSN asked the City of Wichita if one of its crews was responsible for the barriers. A city spokesperson said he is unaware of who put up the plungers. He said the plungers were removed by Tuesday morning, but added the city does not know who removed them.

On Friday, black remnants of the plungers were visible along the bike lane.

Wichita police said the person responsible for putting the plungers on the road could get a ticket for littering.

The city said it has had prior discussions about improving the intersection and is looking at long-term improvement plans as part of the First and Second street enhancements.

Correction: A previous version of the story stated Wichita police said it was legal for drivers to use the bike lane to change lanes or to make a turn as long as a cyclist was not in the area. The city said that information is incorrect. According to the city, drivers are not allowed to cross the solid line of a bike lane. The bike lanes go up to the stop bar in order to make people bicycling more visible.


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