There’s a gender gap in bicycling. From utility cyclists who ride everywhere they go because that’s their sole mode of transportation, to mountain bikers and professional racers, more men ride bikes than women and non-binary people. BikeWalkKC launched an initiative to address that disparity in 2014, and we’ve come a long way in the last 6 years.
Our staff and volunteers formed Women Bike KC to ask what barriers are keeping women off bikes, and how can we dismantle those barriers. Both active riders and potential riders said catcalling made public spaces feel unsafe, so we advocated for, and won, an anti-street harassment ordinance in Kansas City, Missouri. Friends said lack of representation and lack of community made the local cycling scene feel lonely and unwelcoming to women and non-binary people, so we organized events like Bike to Yoga and classes like Confident City Cycling and Maintain Your Ride just for the Women Bike KC audience. We worked with veteran riders and groups like S.T.A.R.S. (Sisters That Are Riding Strong) to plan the first Women’s Bike Summit in 2014, an event that brought together riders of many disciplines and comfort levels to talk about all things bike-related.
Demographics in bicycling in the Kansas City region are changing as active transportation has grown in popularity, and we are excited to see new opportunities for riders to connect. Established ride groups like S.T.A.R.S. are welcoming newer clubs like Women Cycle KC, Velas, Black Girls Do Bike, and Bell Joy. Earth Riders Mountain Bike Club hosts the Kansas City Dirt Summit every fall. Several yoga instructors and studios are hosting their own yoga-for-cyclists classes. As more people discover the joys of bicycling, more people see themselves represented in the cycling scene and more people feel comfortable inviting their friends to join the fun.
The Women Bike KC team cancelled the biannual Women’s Bike Summit due to the pandemic. We’ve been thinking about our impact on bicycling and gender in Kansas City over the last six years, and considering our role going forward. We are privileged to be a part of this community, and it’s hard to adequately express how proud we are of the individuals and organizations carrying this work forward. This fall, we’re amplifying and collaborating with Black Women Get Fit, the Girl Scouts, and Black Girls Do Bike to provide bicycle and pedestrian education. We’re working with neighborhoods to reach families while schools are closed. And we’re working with partners across the region to redefine our streets as places for people of any gender to create a culture of active living.