La Crosse Western’s Technical College invited me into their Wellness Today classes in September to introduce their students to the concept of using their bicycles for transportation,
Over the course of six days, I worked with three instructors and 72 students. The most important concept I tried to convey to the students was that their bicycles are their vehicles and people riding bicycles fare best when they obey the rules of the road in traffic. This means following the laws, but also riding predictably and staying off the sidewalk except to park.
We spent the first part of the class talking about the rules of the road and how they apply to bicycles. The next part of the class involved some bike handling skills, such as the ability to look over your shoulder and continue riding in a straight line. The classes work up to a bicycle ride on busy streets through downtown La Crosse where people can incorporate proper the theoretical skills they learned in traffic. It is very difficult to teach proper lane positioning next to parked cars and through intersections without that real-world bike ride.
The ride started out taking a left turn onto Main Street to try riding on some Sharrows. Many of the students didn’t realize the symbols are meant to indicate bicyclists and motorists are sharing the lane. We also rode on narrow streets with on- street parking and wide streets with much more room. We ended our riding on Fourth Street. The students were thrilled to ride through downtown traffic on bicycles.
Although most of the students hadn’t ridden their bikes in traffic regularly prior to taking the class, armed with their new skills, they were enthusiastic about riding on roads they usually use when traveling in a car. I think the most interesting comment I heard was, “Thank you, I learned a lot, and now I feel more comfortable riding and driving.”
While riding a bike is something most people learn to do as kids, I have yet to have someone take one of these adult cycling classes who didn’t learn something and leave feeling safer and more confident riding a bike in traffic. If you are interested in having getting an adult bicycle class in your area, contact us at the Bike Fed. We have staff around the state who can help.