One of the barriers families find difficult to overcome when they decide to travel by bike is simply owning a bike. Even used bicycles can be expensive! And once you get a bike, you have to maintain it– there are lots of moving parts that need to be kept clean and lubricated, and you can’t get very far on a flat tire. BikeWalkKC established the Earn-A-Bike program in 2011 to address this challenge, and since the very first session at Linwood YMCA, we’ve equipped hundreds of youth and adults with pedal power!
At our Earn-A-Bike sessions, students learn basic bicycle mechanic skills with weekly, hands-on projects. A small class allows for individual instructor training to ensure concept comprehension, and students are tested on their knowledge of the subjects through occasional worksheets and a pre- /post- quiz. With successful completion of the program, students receive a bicycle they helped to fix and a new helmet. Until this year, we’ve focused primarily on Earn-A-Bike for youth and through our Transportation Equity outreach because RevolveKC does a great job with adult programming. Recently, however, we piloted a family session in KCK to offer families the chance to learn and ride together! The program continues to evolve, and this latest experiment was a smash hit. We are looking forward partnering with more schools and organizations to expand Family Earn-a-Bike next year.
Earn-A-Bike would not be possible without the generous bicycle donations from around the metro. A big, heartfelt thank you to the Trek Store, Velo+, Midwest Cyclery, the City of Shawnee, the City of Mission, RevolveKC, Merriam Police Department, Lenexa Police Department, and the KCK Police Department, as well as countless neighbors and friends who donated their pre-loved bikes. In 2018 alone, this support directly contributed to 250 youth and adults earning bicycles which they now ride to school, to work, and with each other. Students from the East High School Bike Club earned 50 of those bikes, and they have ridden them to city hall to accept the Bike Month Proclamation from Mayor James, with city council members and school board officials, and used them to win a grant from REI to build a mountain bike/hike/cross-country trail on school property. And students from Youth Build KCK’s bike club earned 25 of those bikes, breaking them in with rides through KCK’s Northeast neighborhood, Kaw Point Park, River Market and the River Front Trail, and the pop-up traffic calming demonstration in Downtown KCK.
We discovered further exciting outcomes when we asked “do participants actually use these bikes?” in a recent research study. With help from the Aetna Foundation and Children’s Mercy, we used pre- and post- behavior surveys, as well as accelerometers and GPS devices to measure physical activity before and after Earn-A-Bike sessions. Preliminary results show that student activity levels increased by 35% following the completion of the Earn-a-Bike program. Additionally, students reported in post- survey responses measurable increases for enjoyment of cycling, frequency of cycling, and helmet use. We are enthusiastic about these findings and aim to publish a comprehensive report in early 2019 to highlight evaluation outcomes.
From transportation, to mobility advocacy, to neighborhood health outcomes, Earn-A-Bike is making a difference for families throughout Kansas City. We are truly grateful for every bike shop, municipality, and individual for sharing the bike love with our students and families!
Have a bike to donate? Want an Earn-A-Bike session with your organization? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more!