December 14, 2019

Ever since I was 5 years old, I have loved riding bikes. It gave me freedom and allowed me to appreciate nature. The liberating feeling of biking for me has always surpassed the experience of driving.

Even when I received my driver’s license, I continued to bike frequently because you are never too old to ride a bicycle. My passion for environmentalism has kept me motivated to not drive and continue riding bicycles as a mode of transportation. I became a year-round bicycle commuter three years ago when I was 17. It has changed my life for the better and it inspires me to change the world in positive ways. I joined the Livable Streets Advisory Board in August to promote bike lanes and bicycle culture in Lee’s Summit to make it safer to travel on two wheels. I am going to discuss all the wonderful benefits of bicycling, my daily commute, best practices, tips, safety, and how to drive safely with bicyclists.

Bicycling has so many benefits beyond surface level environmentalism and healthy living. It has kept me physically healthy, mentally healthy, active, and has allowed me to connect with nature daily. Nothing feels better than biking to work on a beautiful morning. My ride to work takes between 20 and 25 minutes one way. I’m usually at work by 7:30 a.m. I am less tired and more motivated to work when I bike to work versus driving. Exercise in the morning is an amazing way to wake up and biking to work is a good way to manage your time when exercising. Getting exercise when you are traveling to work and back home takes less time than having to change your schedule to go to the gym. Alternative modes of transportation, like bicycle commuting, walking, and transit are the solutions to reducing traffic congestion, air pollution, and noise pollution. These bicycle trips could be a small as going to a restaurant, the store, a coffee shop, work, or school. People making small bicycle trips will have a huge impact on the city in making it safer and healthier. Another benefit of riding bicycles is that they do not require gas. Bicycling is one of the best ways to reduce your trips to the gas pumps. Plus, it is rewarding to get around using your own energy instead of a motor vehicle.

I work as a Web Design and Developer Intern at the Lee’s Summit School District office off NE Tudor Rd. My commute is approximately 4 miles one way, which means I bike around 8 miles a day. However, my daily biking mileage can range between 12 and 20 miles if I bike to work, school, and run errands. Other places I commonly bike in Lee’s Summit are Post Coffee Company, Downtown Lee’s Summit, Sprouts, Hy-Vee, and Lee’s Summit’s UCM campus. The winter weather doesn’t stop me from bicycling. Biking in the winter is not as bad as people may think. On a cold morning that is between 20 and 32 degrees, I will wear gloves, a thick jacket, and a scarf around my face. If you like keeping your head warm, wearing earmuffs, a hood, and a helmet helps. Biking in the winter isn’t too bad because once I get about a mile into my commute, my body starts to warm up and that heats will take trapped in my jacket. If you see yourself as a fair-weather biker, you can always skip biking on the cold days and wait for warmer days. Spring and fall are the best times of the year for commuting.

Bicycle commuting can be more enjoyable and comfortable with the right accessories. My Bianchi road bike has saddlebags that are attached to a rack that is over the rear tire. I will put my backpack, phone, wallet, groceries, and other objects in there. Not wearing a backpack keeps my back cooler and more comfortable, especially in the summer. The bicycle accessories I recommend are a front/rear lights, u-lock, a rear wheel rack, and saddle bags. To make sure car drivers can see you, turn your bike’s front and rear lights on at night or on cloudy days. A u-lock is better against theft protection than a cable lock. It is also important to be aware of where you are riding on the road. To safely bike around Lee’s Summit, use shared-use trails, shared-use sidewalks, and shoulders if they are available. On very busy roads, I will ride on regular sidewalks and use crosswalks. The Livable Streets Advisory Board is working to make recreational and transportation biking safer.

There will always be people who won’t ride bikes or can’t physically ride bikes. However, it is important for car drivers to acknowledge bicyclists so that both can co-exist safely. If you are driving a car and you see a person on a bike, there are two main ways you need to do to make sure the bicyclist feels safe and respected. The first thing to do is slow down. Lastly, you want to pass them after you have slowed down and make sure to give them a safe distance. I recommend not passing people on bikes in dense areas, like Downtown Lee’s Summit. Driving slow and taking your time will keep you, other car drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians safer. Keep in mind that according to Missouri State Law, bicyclists are allowed to use roads without bike lanes and that cars have to pass safely. It is common for bicyclists to feel unsafe and uncomfortable when cars pass them at high speeds and with little room. Try to be patient and take your time when traveling through the city.

This article was submitted by Zachary Burton, a Lee’s Summit resident and member of the Livable Streets Advisory Board, a Mayor-appointed, volunteer board whose goals include working to make our community and our streets more “livable”, safe and accessible for all of our citizens.