KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas City’s East High School students are getting a chance to find and safely travel to all sorts of new opportunities thanks to free bikes, locks, helmets, and transportation education through the club.

The Club started in 2016, when Faculty Sponsor Andrew Killen was riding his bike to school a lot and administrators noticed. He was encouraged to start the club to help students get on bikes, thinking there would only be a handful who were interested.

Before the pandemic, Killen says there were rides with 30 students with nearly double that many involved in the club.

“I didn’t realize how many kids want to get out and do things in the city,” Killen said.

The Club provides bikes, locks, and helmets to students who sign up, giving them donated equipment from organizations like BikeWalkKC, Children’s Mercy Hospital, and private donations.

In a part of town where many students might not have the means to buy that kind of equipment, those donations go a long way.

“When we look at our school population, we know that they don’t have the financial means for everybody to have a car for the kids, so we know that if we can get them on a bicycle, their opportunities increase,” Killen said.

Opportunities for fun, school, and work.

But that also means learning how to navigate bike infrastructure, city streets, and using public transit to expand how far they can pedal. Thursday’s ride took the group to KCATA, where they were able to practice loading and unloading bikes from a RideKC bus.

“We try to make it so that the students leave the program confident that they can get to a lot of places in the city,” Killen said.

It’s already worked for students like East High School Senior David Dinh, who has been in 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 ride to City Market, I’ll ride to my friend’s house,” Dinh said. “It’s definitely a good opportunity because not all of us know how to get on a Metro.”

Killen said the key is making sure they walk the students through the process so they know exactly what they have to do on their own.

“If they don’t learn to practice [getting on RideKC buses on their own], then the chance of them trying it on their own is relatively low,” Killen said. “But we know that if they go out and try it with us, the likelihood is a lot higher.”