Friday, August 15, 2014

Fall Bike Clubs

Why Bike Club?

I grew up on bike trails, first around my neighborhood, then from Shawnee Mission Park to the Kaw River and back again probably hundreds of times. I didn't worry about traffic, no one leaned on the horn behind me, and I didn't have to learn how to ride like a vehicle (and like it's a chore) until I was an adult.
Where FreeWheels works and rides, we face busy "arterial connectors" and KDOT designated highways everywhere we turn, kids regularly live 5 or more miles from their school, and the little green space we have is typically off-limits to kids and families. Some parks or green spaces are only accessible via highway, some are given over to illegal uses and (often rightly) considered too dangerous by parents, some are intentionally isolated by authorities, and some are just plain marked "no trespassing".  The kind of mobility I enjoyed is simply impossible, because the built environment of KCK doesn't allow it. But a built environment can be rebuilt. 
Every single Bike Club has identified great green spaces that they love, green spaces that they can't or won't use, and ideas to make it better.
Bike Club participants are between the ages of 12 and 18, and are not interested in Master Plans, feasibility studies or Requests for Proposals.  They are interested in results. That means that where city planners might see a future bike and pedestrian friendly corridor (or serious obstacles to making a road people-friendly), students see a missing link in today’s transportation network.  Where a city planner sees an “improved” intersection, students see a place where they might be struck with a car on their way to the store after school. Where a city planner might see an “arterial connector” in need of eventual repaving, students see a dangerous, run-down mess in front of their school. 
Bike Clubs in 2013 identified bike lanes and sidewalk improvement on 10th St, which passes in front of schools serving over 1200 students in grades k-8, as major needs.  Now in 2014, sidewalks are in place, and bike lanes are moving as fast as they can through the funding process, thanks to a responsive UG.

Rosedale and Central students teamed up to help ERTA and RDA build 2.5 miles (4.0 soon!) of off-road trail near Rosedale Middle School, and we are working to connect the trails from the school all the way to Rosedale Park and beyond.

We are still working on sidewalk and crossing improvements near Northwest Middle School, motorist education and community policing in the Leavenworth Rd. area, and a north-south off-road connector in Shawnee Heights.

We are very excited to note that there is a small amount of public access to the Kaw Levee, and look forward to pushing for access to more of the public levees in KCK.

Most of all, Bike Clubs are about empowering kids to take leadership roles in their communities. Last year at a County Commission meeting, one student, a 12-year-old Eritrean refugee, actually took the lead in explaining trail-building techniques, erosion control and contour lines to commissioners. The students surveyed a nearby wooded area to build the trails Abdulahi described this Spring, and we hope to be out breaking ground and clearing trash and brush this fall.

My goal for Bike Club is to give kids a chance to define what a safe, healthy community looks like, and then to work with them to make their vision a reality and build great communities. I hope to see you out there helping us make it happen!

No comments:

Post a Comment