Can you believe it? Over 40,000 students have learned walking and biking confidence and safety with BikeWalkKC since 2012!
What do we want for the kids in our lives? Do we want them to enjoy the freedom to walk to school, ride their bikes to the park, and play outside in their neighborhoods?
BikeWalkKC’s bicycling education program seeks to tackle all of that. Bike education was one of our very first programs. In that first year, we served over 1,000 kids in 11 school districts throughout the urban core and the first-ring suburbs of Kansas City, and we’ve been expanding ever since. Now, we teach kids and grown ups how to walk and ride safely and confidently, do their own bike maintenance, and share what they know with their friends and families.
In our school-based youth education programs like Bicycling Lessons and Safety Training (BLAST), sometimes as much as 40% of students have never ridden a bike. They may not have a bike at home, or they live in an area without safe streets or sidewalks, or they don’t have the family support to begin pedaling, BikeWalkKC’s expert instructors work with students to remove those barriers to riding, and patiently build the students’ confidence and skills until they are riding independently.
Biking and walking programs are growing in popularity, and some schools are building on the foundation we laid with them. The day after BikeWalkKC staff finished BLAST with Quindaro Elementary’s older students, Coach Kovac began fundraising for a fleet of balance bikes for their Kindergartners and has now expanded their school’s fleet to include larger bikes for the first and second graders!
We helped Pioneer Trail Middle School in Olathe get funding and support for an Outride program, which helps teens use bicycles to develop confidence, emotional wellness, and physical health. Our Education team has also trained school staff in farther afield communities like Lawrence, Kansas to deliver BLAST, spreading the curriculum across the state.
The next step is getting our students a bike to ride at home. Maintain Your Ride is a class we offer for adults and kids, and our partner organizations or schools can add an Earn-A-Bike component that allows students to get hands-on experience in DIY bike maintenance. In programs like our Bike Club with East High School, the students learn how to fix a flat tire, adjust braking and shifting, keep their drivetrain clean and lubricated, and how to fix a dropped chain. At the end of the class, the students get to keep the bike they practiced on, plus a helmet, set of lights, and a lock.
But what about those students who don’t have a safe place to ride? The young people at East High’s Bike Club practice riding on city streets together, and they feel confident in their own skills. However, poor street design and reckless drivers are dangers that are out of their control. If we truly want a brighter future for our young people, BikeWalkKC believes that we have a moral responsibility to not only give people the skills and the tools to walk and bike more, but to also advocate for safer, more connected neighborhoods.
In many cases, our students are eager to speak up for themselves. On multiple occasions, the East High Bike Club has invited city leaders, school board members, and local journalists to ride with them and experience firsthand the challenges bicyclists face in Kansas City.
In Kansas City, KS, former Walking School Bus students won a new sidewalk along a busy street, connecting their neighborhood to Frank Rushton Elementary and providing a safe route to school for their younger neighbors.
In Kansas City, Missouri, Académie Lafayette families supported protected bike lanes and safer streets around the Cherry Street and Armour Campuses, won a new crosswalk, and built a culture of walking and biking among both students and school staff.
Woodland Elementary in Olathe, Kansas, anticipates unprecedented growth after developers announced plans to build hundreds of new homes nearby. The school asked for our help to plan for better, safer, and more comfortable ways for kids to get to and from school, and to make the drop-off/pick-up experience better for all road users.
To serve more than 40,000 students is a proud milestone for BikeWalkKC. It means 40,000+ students (many of whom are now adults!) in the Kansas City metro have experienced the joy and confidence that can be found moving at human speed and under their own power. They become kinder neighbors, safer drivers, and bolder community advocates, all because they learned that a person’s value isn’t derived from driving a car.
Thank you to everyone who has volunteered, donated a bike, made a financial gift, or funded a grant in support of BikeWalkKC’s youth education programs!