East High School Bike Club
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Students at East High School in Kansas City have the chance to find and travel safely to all kinds of new opportunities with free bikes, locks, helmets and education about transportation through the club.
The club started in 2016, when faculty sponsor Andrew Killen often cycled to school and administrators took notice. He was encouraged to start the club to help students ride bikes, thinking there would only be a handful of people interested.
Before the pandemic, Killen says there were rides with 30 students with nearly double those involved in the club.
“I hadn’t realized how many kids want to go out and do things around town,” Killen said.
The club provides bicycles, locks and helmets to students who enroll, giving them equipment donated by organizations such as BikeWalkKC, Children’s Mercy Hospital and private donations.
In a part of town where many students may not be able to afford this type of equipment, these donations go a long way.
“When we look at our school population, we know that they don’t have the financial means for everyone to have a car for the kids, so we know that if we can get them on bikes, their opportunities increase,” said said Killen. .
Opportunities for fun, school and work.
But it also means learning to navigate cycling infrastructure, city streets and using public transport to extend the distance they can pedal. Thursday’s ride took the group to KCATA, where they got to practice loading and unloading bikes from a RideKC bus.
“We try to have students leave the program feeling confident that they can go to many places in the city,” Killen said.
It has already worked for students like East High School Senior David Dinh, who has been part of the Bicycle Club since he was a freshman after only learning to ride a bike a year before.
“Now that I have this, I will go to the city market, I will go to my friend’s house,” Dinh said. “It’s definitely a good opportunity because not all of us know how to get on a subway.”
Killen said the key is to make sure they walk students through the process so they know exactly what to do on their own.
“If they don’t learn to practice [getting on RideKC buses on their own], so the chance of them trying it on their own is relatively low,” Killen said. “But we know if they go out and try with us, the likelihood is much higher.”
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