The news story I’ve been waiting for!

New Bike Commuters Hit the Classroom, Then the Road

The rush of new cyclists, created by high gas prices, is driving up demand for bike safety classes.
By Ben Arnoldy | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor | August 25, 2008

The high price of gas is creating a surge in bicycle commuting across the country, not just in West Coast cities but in places like Louisville, Ky., and Charlotte, N.C. The rush of newbies has triggered tensions with drivers unaccustomed to sharing the road, and driven cyclists to seek out traffic training.

“I’m getting hammered by mayors asking, ‘What are you doing about all these new bikers on the street and nobody knows the rules of the road?’ ” says Robert Raburn, executive director of the East Bay Bicycle Coalition in Oakland. When the organization started classes in 2003, it offered maybe two a year. Now, it has six slated for September with two more to be announced.

In the Bay State, MassBike reports offering two dozen classes this year, compared with three the year before.

In Orlando, we will soon have an LCI meeting to set a class schedule for this fall and next year. That schedule will be advertised on this website. I expect Florida’s bike commuting numbers will surge as the weather becomes more hospitable. Everyone else’s fall is our spring. Hopefully we’ll be up and running with a series of traffic cycling courses.

Cities are also exploring ways to accommodate cyclist needs beyond pricey infrastructure upgrades. Some are painting “sharrows,” a symbol on road surfaces, to remind drivers that cyclists are allowed on the road. “What we are really pushing for is more education both for cyclers and cars …We have cyclists riding down wrong ways in bike lanes. And drivers not looking when they are turning or opening doors,” says Kerri Richardson, spokeswoman for the Louisville mayor.

Yes! Now that’s what I’m talking about!

We can solve 80% of the problems by educating cyclists because an Effective Cyclist can ride safely and easily even in a less-than-perfect traffic environment. Safe and courteous cyclists actually help to educate motorists by example. “You’ve got the power!”

Introduce public awareness, a cultural insistence on better behavior and a sense of community on the road, and what might we create? No one’s tried it because the Cyclist Inferiority Complex has been accepted by national cycling advocates and infrastructure has long been seen as the way to promote cycling. Now cycling is promoting itself. And the economy sucks. The coffers are dry. The people are feeling overtaxed. What a perfect opportunity to try something different!

Infrastructure-first advocacy leads to crappy, substandard appeasement, gratuitous nonsense and stuff that’s just downright deadly. And it offers up this junk to uninformed cyclists who don’t have a clue how to outsmart it. We could solve so many problems with education and an attitude adjustment (one that would benefit all members of the community). Then we can look at where smart infrastructure benefits smart cyclists.

Education • Empowerment • Equality

4 replies
  1. Keri
    Keri says:

    There are 8-10 regular instructors teaching (including LisaB and Mighk and me, from this blog). Once a schedule is set up, the instructors will pick the dates that work for them – several instructors per class.

    One of the primary challenges for the instructors is getting an easy administrative system in place, since we all do this in our spare time. But with the increase in transportation cycling, it’s feasible.

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