Hi my name is Ruth Anne French-Hodson, and I am here with my grandma Ruth Terrill, and my mother Lisa French and I know them because they are my family. I am a member of BikeWalkKC and on the board, and I am excited to share this event with my family. One of the things that I found really interesting when I invited my grandma to come along with me is that when she lived in Kansas City when she was right out of high school, she had some biking experience right in this area and so I wanted to take the time to come in and have her share this story. [To Grandma Ruth] So maybe you can start telling the story and we might ask some additional questions as you go along.
Grandma Ruth: Well my experience riding a bicycle in Swope Park was at the end of the World War in Europe, on D-Day, and my friend and I came out to Swope Park and rode bicycles around the park.
Lisa: So did you have a bicycle in Kansas City?
Grandma Ruth: We just came out at Swope Park and rented a bike! We would ride out on the streetcar or bus, and that was a big treat to go out at Swope Park and ride our bikes. Come out here with our boyfriends we met or the soldiers we met in advance or whatever.
Lisa: And was bike rental pretty common?
Grandma Ruth: Yes, yes. We never tried to ride in the city that I remember.
Ruth Anne: But biking around the park.
Grandma Ruth: Yep.
Question: Can I ask you guys what does it mean for you to be here as a family and a family interacting as cyclists, but what motivated you to come here?
Lisa French: I just recently got a bicycle after not having one for quite a long time, so the bike 101 is inspiring to start thinking about bicycling again.
Ruth Anne: My family wasn’t huge bicyclists growing up where we lived in the country, but I started bicycling to school when I was in 7th and 8th grade and it was about probably four miles away on dirt roads. One thing about the women in my life is they are all fearless adventurers and we are outdoorsy. We are farm kids and we go camping, and we are independent. And so the fact that I could ride my bike to school and take independence over that, and you know show up early and do stuff afterwards. Go on adventures on my own. I loved doing that and then when I did more walking when I was an undergraduate, but when I went to graduate school in England, I mean it’s the difference in cultures about bikes. Everyone there in Oxford biked and it was difficult to park. It was obvious that you would get a bike and you would ride. My commute then was probably five miles each way with huge hills. It was interesting, I was just on the bike thinking people might think I need to shower at my workplace. That wasn’t a question in England, everybody was a little bit dirty, a little bit smelly, because we all biked, it just wasn’t a big deal. We didn’t have a car for three years and I had to kind of adjust to different cultural norms about biking in Kansas City and I love that there is a community of people thinking about how to make Kansas City more livable, bikeable, walkable, all kinds of transport that is not just on vehicles.
Lisa: I might just mention how bicycles really resonate with everybody because it seems like most people have had some experience on a bicycle at sometime that was positive, you know thinking of your childhood. So in our little community of Partridge for a number of years we had Pedal Party and it was kind of our annual town event and everything was themed around bicycles. There were so many funs things costumes, and decorated bicycles, and crazy bicycles, and had bike sculptures, and bike events, and judging bicycles.
Grandma: Gave away bicycles, too, that we had gotten through the free box. Pictures about bicycles, poetry contests, everything and then lots of fun!!