Mile 10 Campaign - BikeWalkKC Celebrates its 10th Anniversary!
This year, we celebrate our 10th anniversary! BikeWalkKC was officially launched in April 2011 as a nonprofit organization with a mission and purpose to serve the bi-state Kansas City metro area. We were Kansas City’s first professional advocacy and education organization dedicated to bicycling and walking.
We plan to spend the next 12 months celebrating accomplishments and, most importantly, focusing on a vision for Mile 20 and beyond. Through blog posts, e-news articles, and social media stories, you will learn more about BikeWalkKC and how your support was - and is - vital to our work.
What do you do when your city is named the worst bicycling city in America? You create solutions for the problem.
The beginnings of BikeWalkKC go back to 2008 when the BBC came to town. Kansas City had just ranked dead last in the League of American Bicyclists’ list of bike friendly cities. The BBC wanted to know what it was like to bicycle in the worst cycling city in America, so they came to Kansas City and did a half-hour radio documentary.
The unwanted notoriety got the attention of local leaders. They set a goal for Kansas City to move out of last place and achieve bike-friendly status. It also spurred advocates to address the fact that Kansas City was the largest US city without a professional bike/ped advocacy organization.
After that wake-up call in 2008, Eric Rogers, Eric Bunch, and Sarah Shipley worked with a group of community leaders and founding board members to build a new organization named BikeWalkKC.
BikeWalkKC hit the ground running in 2011 and covered a lot of ground in those first 10 miles. Some highlights include:
- Attracted hundreds of millions of dollars that have been invested in safe and comfortable infrastructure for walking and biking in both Kansas and Missouri.
- Created one of the largest Safe Routes to School programs in the U.S., serving more than 30,000 kids since 2011.
- One of the first, and still one of the few, advocate-owned bike share systems providing mission-based mobility services.
- Helped develop policies, plans, and the political will to make walking and biking simple solutions to complex problems of environment, health, equity, mobility, and prosperity.
Bicycling was not the only poor ranking for KC. We had terrible stats for healthy living indicators like sedentary lifestyles, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and child health. In a city that proudly touted having more freeway miles per capita than any American city, we were dealing with the effects of a community designed for cars and not for people.
Kansas City was also recognized as one of the most racially segregated cities in the nation. The city’s Black and Brown communities had to grapple with the health disparities and economic inequities of systemic racism. The negative impacts on health, wellness, financial stability, and physical mobility is still felt today.
Over the last decade we’ve had some great success tackling the challenges facing our community, but the pandemic has shown how entrenched these challenges are. It has also proven how critical active living options are to preserving mental health and physical fitness. For BikeWalkKC, the pandemic has added a sense of urgency to our work.
We will spend much of 2021 celebrating BikeWalkKC’s anniversary and all that we’ve accomplished together. We’ll also spend time working with you to create a vision for the next ten years - a vision that centers our streets as places for people and paths to recovery from the pandemic.
The state of Kansas City in 2008
- Our rates of walking and biking were less than half the national average
- Our limited trails were short and fragmented
- We had some of the highest solo car commute rates in the world
- People walking and biking bore a vastly disproportionate share of traffic violence, injuries, and deaths
- Both the states of Missouri and Kansas and the city of Kansas City all ranked near the bottom of most public health indicators
Thanks to those who helped us get started
Many people donated their time, money, and talent to help us plan and launch BikeWalkKC. The list is long, but a few key people include:
- Members of our strategic planning group led by Patti Banks of Vireo along founding board members Stephen Rhoades of Vireo and Tyler Hensen of JE Dunn.
- Brad Schrock (360 Architects, now HOK) and Mike Hauser (360 Architects now Design Haus/Global Prairie) for leading our branding and naming process
- Laurie Chipman, Ron Puett, and Sarah Shipley for creating the Tour de Brew (now Tour de Bier) fundraising bike ride - plus Knuckleheads, Boulevard, and the rest of the local brewery community
- The League of American Bicyclists, the former Alliance for Biking and Walking, and bike industry members like Trek and SRAM for the Advocacy Advance startup grant that enabled us to launch in 2011
Building on decades of advocacy
While BikeWalkKC was new on the scene in 2011, the organization was built on the hard work of advocates going back to the first “bike boom” of the 1970s. Advocates like Bob Watts, Art Gough, Helene Miller, Ron McLinden, Brent Hugh, Laurie Chipman, Dale Crawford, and many, many more. They dedicated hundreds of volunteer hours to show up at local City Halls and fight for safer streets where people could build a culture of active living. We are forever grateful for their efforts.
Mile 10 Gift Opportunity - Bike Helmets!
Your $10 donation helps provide a free bike helmet, lock, and lights to kids and adults in BikeWalkKC’s education programs. BikeWalkKC provides 1,500+ free helmets each year, primarily to students in low-income communities. We anticipate a greater need in 2021. Thank you!