May is National Bike Month, providing opportunities to showcase the many benefits of bicycling for all ages and skill levels. BikeWalkKC, the Mid-America Regional Council, and many other partners have created a regional Bike Month calendar to help folks from around the region find activities and events that celebrate cycling, including National Bike to School Day (May 10) and National Bike to Work Day (May 19); although, it is absolutely allowed and encouraged to bike to school and work beyond these two days!
Cycling has myriad demonstrated benefits: improved personal health, enhanced air quality due to reduced emissions, reduced congestion and traffic noise, decreased use of and dependence upon finite energy sources, and increased economic and neighborhood vibrancy. When kids bike to school, they not only get a dose of much-needed physical activity, they also burn off excess energy and arrive at school ready to learn.
BikeWalkKC recognizes that cycling in Kansas City is not without its challenges. Built environment concerns such as a lack of bike lanes and lack of a connected bicycle infrastructure may prevent the more than 60 percent of “interested but concerned” individuals from using a bike for transportation on a regular basis. Safety concerns such as traffic speed as well as real or perceived physical crime are barriers as well.
Several cities in the region, including Kansas City, Missouri, are actively working to implement bicycle plans that will improve the built environment and advance the city’s Bicycle Friendly Community status. Passage of the recent General Obligation Bonds measure means that any new streets in KCMO will be built as “Complete Streets,” meaning they will be built for all modes of transportation and users of all abilities. These may include physically protected bike lanes, which research shows can greatly increase rider comfort and safety.
Through support from the Health Forward Foundation and other partners, BikeWalkKC works to provide advocacy, programming, outreach, and education to directly respond to the current barriers. Activities such as those included on the regional Bike Month calendar will bring people together around cycling. Parents, children, educators, elected officials, cyclists of all skill levels, and advocates will literally “take to the streets” for events such as bike rodeos, group rides, bike commuter stops, bicycle safety and maintenance classes, Earn-a-Bike programs, and fitness fairs. These activities provide encouragement and support to engage people with cycling and hopefully provide momentum toward increasing safe and supported biking in Kansas City.
From reducing obesity rates to increasing mobility, riding a bike brings people together, encourages discovery, and fosters community connectivity. Bike Month events provide the social support through diverse activities to grow riders’ skills and confidence.