Tresa Carter loves to walk. She enjoys spending time in nature, even when the nature is nestled in between houses and sidewalks in her KCMO neighborhood. Her dog, Winnie, takes in the scents and sounds while Tresa waves to her neighbors and soaks up the sunshine.
As BikeWalkKC’s Director of Community Planning, she wants to encourage more people to leave the car at home. But it’s not practical for her to walk to work, and riding the bus requires a couple of tight transfers, so she mostly drives to the office. Tresa has been working up the courage to bike to work for six months, and this week, she finally took the leap!
Tresa pedaled to work (with a boost from a RideKC e-bike) for the first time, and she discovered that many of her favorite things about walking were also her favorite things about riding: she loved feeling the sun and the breeze on her skin, and appreciating sights she had never noticed while driving. But most of all, she loved the connection she felt with other people walking and biking: “Drivers don't smile and wave at each other, but everyone in the bike lane greeted each other like old friends!”
So why did it take so long? Tresa’s hesitations might sound familiar:
- Biking takes longer. On busy days, it’s easier to choose a 10 minute drive over a 45 minute bike/walk commute.
- Getting dressed feels more complicated. “What can I comfortably walk up and down hills in, in the heat, and then comfortably (and safely) ride, mount, and dismount a bike in?”
- Carrying a laptop can be tricky. “A tote bag in the basket with a backpack on my back was not ideal and I wondered many times if my computer would fly out onto concrete this morning, which might upset my employer. Although my computer made it, my white sweater had a rude encounter with the roadway thanks to some gigantic construction divots.”
Finding the right clothing and gear takes a little bit of research and planning, but Tresa says that the harder part was emotional: “The biggest barrier of all was my fear. Like every person who drove past me could just tell it was my first day riding a bike to work. I was scared of getting hurt, of being embarrassed, of getting lost, and worst of all, turning home because I just couldn’t do it.” Those fears are based on real hazards. Tresa found refuge on the protected Gillham bike path, but not before dragging a heavy e-bike down a set of stairs to the Brush Creek Trail, sliding through muddy trails, and picking her way through road construction on busy streets.
Many adults have years of experience driving in cities built for cars, and watching for potholes or red light-runners is just part of getting where you’re going. “But on a bike,” Tresa says, “it feels like there’s a lot of first times you will encounter that’s different than being in a car. Driver behavior you don’t expect, getting a flat tire, falling down, and feeling like everyone is watching you scramble back onto your bike.”
So was it worth it? Did the sunshine and bike lane camaraderie outweigh the fear and overflowing bike basket? “Of course,” says Tresa. “I ripped the band aid off and now I know I’m capable.”
What if walking and biking were the easy choices? How would your life improve if you felt comfortable navigating your community without a car? Together with our members, we are building a brighter future in the KC metro. Become a member today and join the movement for safer streets.