May is National Bike Month, and tomorrow is National Bike to Work Day. There’s still time to join in the activities planned by the good people a BikeWalkKC. Take a look at the calendar of events and try to participate in at least one!
By Sarah Shipley, Director of Marketing and Communication, BikeWalkKC
Imagine you are taking a ride — a lovely bike ride on a beautiful spring day, the birds are tweeting, the sun is shining and your entire day could be spent outside — but then your bike ride ends…and so does your fun. Abruptly your access to the world is cut off because the bike lane ends and merges with the street. Without a bike lane or bike route markings, your ride is not as pleasant and can even become dangerous if you continue.
It’s not hard to imagine, because many cities are not built to accommodate both automobiles and bicycles sharing the same roadways.
Research shows a strong link between a city’s built environment and its public health. The way a city’s streets, homes, businesses and transportation systems are physically arranged has real and significant impact on the health of residents. Well connected cities show lower obesity and asthma rates, and more abundant, vibrant downtowns where people linger and support local businesses.
Many areas in our region have trails and parks, and they are beautiful but trails and parks are only part of the active living solution. Cities must also be designed to allow for active transportation that allows people to get exercise when going about their daily business, not just when they make an effort toward recreation or fitness. People need safe and convenient sidewalks and bike lanes connecting their neighborhoods to key destinations like work, school, shopping, libraries, services, etc.
Sidewalks, bike lanes and projects like bike sharing connect people through transportation and bike sharing is another powerful way to encourage more activity by reducing the logistical and financial barriers to bicycling. This summer BikeWalkKC, supported by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City (BlueKC), will be launching a public sharing system in the Greater Downtown Area. Self-service kiosks of bikes for short trips will provide both a transportation and healthy, active living option for residents and visitors.
Downtown residents and employees will be able to use the bike share to run errands, bike to lunch, or extend the reach of the transit system. Lower income residents can get an annual bike share membership for less than $100: less than the cost of personal bicycle or a a monthly bus. Annual members always get the first half of their ride for free, with no hourly charge, so it’s very affordable to use bike share to get your doctor’s recommended 30 minutes of daily exercise.
Bike sharing will increase awareness of bicyclists and bicycling, create a critical mass of bikes on city streets, and encourage the city to develop more bike lanes – all part of making it safer and more comfortable for everyone to bike more in Kansas City.