By Paul Thompson
RideKC sponsored content
What better way to spend a glorious spring afternoon than atop a bicycle?
That was my initial thought, perched merrily upon a rented B-Cycle on a recent picturesque April afternoon, gliding effortlessly – on a largely downhill plane – from the River Market to Berkley Riverfront Park.
To get to that point, I had hopped on the #11 bus just a short walk from the Northeast News office, unbridled optimism in tow. The bus was particularly crowded for a Thursday afternoon, which shouldn’t have been a surprise. The sun had emerged for the first time in days, after all, and who wouldn’t be excited about that?
I requested a stop at 12th and Main, took a casual stroll up the block, and waited a few minutes for the KC Streetcar to whisk me down to the River Market. A more savvy operator would have waited out the streetcar’s north loop, alighting at the 4th and Delaware stop that rests just a few steps from the River Market B-Cycle station. As it transpired, I blissfully exited in City Market and walked the two short blocks to my destination.
I paid for my two-wheeled transportation and headed northeast towards Berkley Riverfront Park. Why don’t I do this more often, I wondered, as I slipped onto a small side street and caught my first, intermittent glimpses of the Missouri River.
Once I entered the East Bottoms, it became immediately clear that the area is ripe for development. Indeed, a left turn north towards the river revealed construction on a massive future apartment complex that will hug the waterfront, just a short walk to the volleyball courts and walking paths of Berkley Riverfront Park. On this day there were City workers mowing the grass around the park, and to my surprise, a handful of pedestrians utilizing the walking and biking paths that line the water’s edge.
The view of the water provided a calming effect, and the look back into downtown Kansas City offered a moment of introspection. Years from now, it’s easy to imagine Berkley Riverfront Park serving a thriving East Bottoms community. The boxes are all checked for an uptick in development: close proximity to downtown, a view of the Missouri River, fancy new housing and perhaps most importantly, the ability to walk to Pigwich – among the finest joints to get a sandwich in the entire city (If you haven’t yet, stop by on a Monday to try the Cuban; merely typing that sentence has me salivating).
I hadn’t been to Berkley Riverfront Park in months, and it was cool to see others enjoying the trails around the Missouri River. I even learned something during the trip. As I peered out over the water, I saw a marker that contained historical information about Native Americans, traders and trappers who used to paddle dugout canoes along the Missouri. According to the marker, whose authority I believed beyond a shadow of doubt, “Native people floated their furs in bull boats, made from bison hides.” Bison hide boats; now that’s an interesting factoid.
As my B-Cycle meter continued to run, I resolved to head back to the River Market and began pedaling. Before long, it became clear that the return voyage would be considerably more strenuous than my cakewalk down into the park. Suddenly, I was lamenting the fact that I did no stretching, hadn’t ridden a bicycle in years, brought no water along for the trek, and had consumed nothing but a cranberry-orange muffin for lunch. I removed my jacket, stood up on my pedals, and began grinding my way up what felt to me like the foothills of Everest.
With legs like jello and a throat filled with fire, I pull ed over to the shoulder and gasped for air, feebly pulling out my phone in mimicry of someone with pressing business. I ended up making it back to the B-Cycle Station, though of course a touch of pride remained somewhere on the path of that godforsaken incline. Still, I managed to unveil yet another connection between the Historic Northeast and the rest of the city, and you don’t even have to own your own bike to get there.
All in all, I’ll chalk it up as another worthwhile endeavor in my adventures on public transportation in Kansas City. I’d even recommend the trip, so long as you bring water and a touch of stamina along for the ride.