Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Learning the Hard Way

Here's a question to get you thinking.  How did you learn to cross railroad tracks at a ninety degree angle?  Did you learn about the safer method in gym class at school, during your driver education course, or via a public safety announcement?  Probably not.  If you're like me, you learned the hard way - by having your bicycle abruptly disappear and finding yourself pitched head first into the traffic lane.  I won't forget that lesson, but I would rather have learned it minus the crash.  This is but one example of many dangerous situations that arise for cyclists that haven't taken a course in cycling safety.  Based on the crash data, just knowing what those dangerous situations are and having a basic safe cycling skill set can address a large majority of the risk in using a bicycle - for both transportation and recreation.

There is a dearth (scarcity) of education for cyclists that are looking for information and skills on how to ride safely and competently.  From  grade school through teenage years and into adulthood,  there really isn't embedded education that familiarizes cyclists with the tools needed to ride safely.  Imagine if a fraction of the time and effort spent teaching teens how to drive was dedicated to education on safe cycling, pedestrian safety, and transit.  The focus on one preferred means of transportation, the car, biases those teens toward driving as the socially acceptable option.   It also leaves those that choose to do something other than drive a car pretty clueless.  As captured in the introduction, I initially took the clueless route to earning my stripes as an occasionally bruised, but now much safer, bicycle commuter.

It's clearly not efficient, or safe, to learn how to ride by screwing up a lot and gathering advice in bits and pieces from other more experienced riders.  After a lifetime of going about this the hard way, I took Traffic Skills 101 (TS101) and followed that up with the League Cycling Instructor (LCI) training.  Now I can do my part to spread some very powerful information by teaching Traffic Skills 101 to other riders.  The next course in Hartford is planned for Sunday, March 30th.   You can register online through Bike Walk Connecticut.  If you want to spread the word about the TS101 course, you should invite others to this Facebook Event.

Traffic Skills 101 is a  comprehensive, full-day program for adults and mature teens who want to improve their street riding skills and increase their cycling knowledge. The course includes classroom time, parking lot drills, and a road ride.   Many different types of cyclists will benefit from taking TS101.  It is ideal for cyclists who want to build upon the basics, those returning to cycling from a long hiatus, people who want to be more independent on their bike, and those looking for more confidence cycling in traffic. The class also satisfies the requirements to pursue a League Cycling Instructor certification through the League of American Bicyclists.

Part of the reason for holding this early Spring course is to support the League Cycling Instructor course planned for April 17th through April 20th in Simsbury.  The LCI course is a specialized bicycle boot camp to train the trainers, and it is intense.  Those that pass the weekend course go on to teach courses like TS101 and other critical courses, including school based programs that have started in several CT communities, such as South Windsor and Simsbury.  Educating children and teens about bicycle safety is part of the solution to allow a safe transition toward a less car dependent future.

I'm also excited to be organizing a June 7th event in Hartford, Dinner and Bikes.  There will be a vegan buffet dinner, bicycle short films, and a book talk by Elly Blue on Bikenomics, How Bicycling Can Save the Economy.  More info to follow in a later post, but make sure you leave that Saturday night open.  Put it on your calendars now, as I know June can be a busy month.

Note to Loyal BBB Readers - I would love if all 9 of you would share in the comments something  you "Learned the Hard Way".  It doesn't even have to be about cycling.  I've got so many that I could write a book.


9 comments:

dario said...

Thanks, Tony, for the interesting post. I'm not sure this is exactly learning the hard way, but certainly "from experience". I never ride all the way to the right on a road way (unless there is a cycling lane or wide shoulder). It's easier to avoid potholes and sand and I "commandeer" a part of the roadway. I'm more visible to cars coming up from behind and I can easily move to the right to create a safer buffer. I believe this is now standard procedure in bicycle instruction.

Jonathan Fournier said...

I learned the hard way to be very careful using a gas station air pump to fill a bike tube. I got it it almost up to pressure then one little extra push and it blew up.

Sean U said...

I learned the hard way not to carry grocery bags on your handle bars- they will catch in your front wheel. Best case scenario they rip and your groceries are all over the road. Worst case you're heading over the bars...

Chris V said...

I learned the hard way not to ride close to parked cars along the side of the road. Back in college in Philadelphia, I was riding back to my apartment when, bang! Next thing I know I was on the ground. The person in the car yelled at me and took off. I had a pretty big cut on my leg. The bike fared much worse with broken pedal, broken shifter, and front derailed.

Tony C said...

Dario - Yup. You've figured out one of the ground rules of vehicular cycling. "Don't hug the curb."

OK. Here's another gem. Watch the hell out for steel grates, manhole covers, and metal plates when it's wet out. They are slicker than ice.

MysticMom said...

Learned to use a rubber band or clip on those pesky pant legs that get caught sooo easily in the bike chain!

Also, never brake on a downhill with only your front brake.

Los Gamester - Writer said...

At the (formerly) sketchy transition in Bushnell park near the RR tracks don't ride onto the grass to avoid the nasty part and then transition back to the path at a high rate of speed and a low angle. Collarbone.

Tony C said...

Gamester - I've done that one. I drifted off the edge of a road and tried to simply drift back up. Wham! Was my first season road biking.

Tony C said...

And we had a cyclist do something very similar at that location at the 2012 Discover Hartford Tour.