On the Move
Female riders in Kansas City are hitting the streets and changing the face of cycling.
Bettys. Bunnies. Look in any cyclists’ dictionary online and you’ll find these two terms used to describe female riders. However, women would rather you call them something else: Cyclists.
Many well-respected advocacy organizations such as Bike Pittsburgh, Philadelphia Bicycle Coalition, and Washington Area Bicyclists Association have ramped up their women’s bicycling initiatives to try and eliminate the gender gap among cyclists. Momentum is also building in Kansas City, a city not normally touted for its bicycle friendliness. The city still lags in bike rankings, but new data from the U.S. census showed a 42% increase in bike commuting in the city, moving the city up from #59 to #49 among the largest 70 American cities.
Only 33% of those biking to work in KC are women. BikeWalkKC, the region’s bicycling/pedestrian advocacy group, launched its Women Bike KC initiative earlier this year to improve these numbers with the KC Women’s Bike Summit in May. The event attracted more than 150 women to learn about touring, try their hand at maintenance and repairs, and discuss how they can encourage more women to bike.
During the summit, women were asked what the biggest obstacles were to riding. 24% said they didn’t bike because of a lack of a network. 34% said safety and lack of confidence stopped them from riding their bikes. Throughout the day women expressed feelings of vulnerability while on the road. Because of that, BikeWalkKC has begun work on establishing an anti-harassment ordinance.
Women on bikes may be a minority in Kansas City, but they are a very passionate and diverse group of women, and they’re working hard to build a network of female riders.
Getting More Women of Color on Bikes
Denesha Snell, a public health specialist, started Sisters That Are Riding Strong (STARS) in 2013 to get more women of color on bikes.
“Looking at things from the viewpoint of an African American woman, I didn’t see any of us riding bikes when I was growing up, so it wasn’t something I thought about at all.”
Snell’s brother is a cyclist and she grew up watching him race. “It was just never something I thought I could get involved in myself.”
According to Snell, Troost Avenue, a historical racial dividing line in Kansas City, also becomes a dividing line for women like her. “You will see women riding west of Troost, but you aren’t seeing any African American or Latino women on bikes east of it.”