Rainier Harris

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What began as a noble idea to empower youth to begin cycling has now grown into a “classic urban adventure,” said Kids Ride Club co-captain Karen Overton.  

For over 20 years now, the Kids Ride Club (KRC) has been bringing youth into the cycling world and fostering their development, both mentally and physically. The overall goal is to encourage health and physical activity among young people, with a focus on serving students in Bushwick public schools. 

“[Kids] would never dream of biking from Bushwick to Coney Island and [Kids Ride Club] is challenging car culture and creating a healthy sense of fun [for everyone],” said Overton in a phone interview with Bushwick Daily.

The Kids Ride Club began in 1995 as Recycle-A-Bicycle, a program which did exactly what the name implies, and it was funded by Bike New York. It was founded and is co-captained by Karen Overton, Recycle-A-Bicycle Director at Bike New York, and Dr. Edward  R. Fishkin, internist, associate professor at the NYU School of Medicine, and President of the New York Cycle Club.

The program has been able to run for so long because “bicycles [are] apolitical …people do it for different reasons, you still agree and love the fact that we all cycle,” said Overton.

In the beginning, there were only around 8 to 15 kids participating. Now the program has expanded threefold to 40, just last year. 

Given the startling streak in cyclist deaths this year, concerns may arise over the safety of the kids. “[Kids Ride Club] ha[s] a 1:1 ratio of adult and child so [they] can create a wall of adults if [they] are in hectic traffic,” reassured Overton.

One cause of this is how the program incentivizes longevity and commitment to KRC. For every three rides a kid completes, they will receive a full cyclist bundle, completed with branded hats, gloves, jerseys, and cycling shorts. 

Not only does KRC ensure everyone can pay for lunch by subsidizing the cost for those who cannot afford it, the club  also hosts an awards ceremony honoring the Most Improved Rider and Most Spirited, among other nominations. 

Each year, the club takes a trip to Kissena Velodrome, commonly known in the cycling community as a “track of dreams,” where the youth development team helps the kids ride bikes on the cycling track reaching up to 12 mph. 

Six Bushwick kids from PS 257 and IS 318 will marked the end of the summer season for the Bike New York/Woodhull Hospital Kids Ride Club with an overnight bike trip to Adventure Park in central Long Island. The trip will encompassed 130 miles of bike riding and climbing lessons at Adventure Park.

Cover image courtesy of Karen Overton, Bike New York.

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