Beyond Our Borders
2:42 pm
Fri May 23, 2014

Cycling Group Gets Women Pedaling East Of Troost

The female cycling club, Sisters That Are Riding Strong, takes a 10-mile ride every Sunday. It sets off from the Southeast Community Center, at 4201 E. 63rd Street Trafficway in Kansas City, Mo.
Credit Courtesy photo / Denesha Snell

Denesha Snell remembers the first time her cycling club rode through Swope Park and down the Paseo.

"There was a guy in the park, and he said, 'Somebody told me there was a bunch of black women on bikes.' And he didn't believe it. We rode past him, and his mouth dropped to the floor because he could not believe it," says Snell. "The myth is that we don't work out and we don't exercise."

But every Sunday, Snell gets on her bike and meets the rest of Sisters That Are Riding Strong – they call themselves "STARS" – at the Southeast Community Center for a 10-mile ride.

Snell, who has diabetes, started cycling because she was looking for low-cost ways to exercise and get fit. A friend introduced her to the sport. But when Snell would see cycling on TV, she didn't see anyone who looked like her.

"And that was one thing that got me a little more interested and involved in cycling is because you did not see a large representation of people of color in that sport," says Snell.

So Snell and fellow rider Kim Cole started STARS to encourage more women in the city's urban core to get on their bikes. Right now, Snell says, people in her neighborhood ride their bikes to the corner store. But there's a reason why they don't venture out farther.

"If you come east of Troost, you rarely see bike lanes," she says.

And that's a problem. Snell says she mostly rides her bike for leisure. She's a mom, and she doesn't feel safe letting her kids ride on streets that aren't designed for cyclists.

Elsewhere in the city, bike lanes make it much easier to get around. But sometimes Snell feels left out. Her hope is STARS can help improve the visibility of cyclists east of Troost Avenue.

"You know, remember us over here," she says. "Make it something normal for our children to see. Because if our kids see it and their moms are doing it, they know this is something they could do on a regular basis and it's OK to maybe ride my bike halfway and catch the bus the rest of the way."

The Sunday ride is for women only, though riders of all skill levels can participate. It sets off at 3:30 p.m. from the Southeast Community Center, 4201 E. 63rd Street Trafficway, Kansas City, Mo.

And if you don't have a bike, Snell says she has one you can borrow. Email her at starscycling@gmail.com.

This look at Kansas City's east side is part of KCUR's months-long examination of how geographic borders affect our daily lives in Kansas City. KCUR will go Beyond Our Borders and spark a community conversation through social outreach and innovative journalism.

We will share the history of these lines, how the borders affect the current Kansas City experience and what's being done to bridge or dissolve them. Be a source for Beyond Our Borders: Share your perspective and experiences east of Troost with KCUR.