Suburban Assault

My Perspective On Cycling Savvy – Bicycle Empowerment Course

with 5 comments

Road Drills

I’ve grown in my bicycle commuting experience, to where I’ve become more confident with getting around my suburban part of north Dallas. As I read about and experience more on the road, I’m discovering that there are better and safer ways to ride my bike to my destinations.

Education has been the next step in the evolution of my cycling journey and my goal is to gain the most knowledge and skills available so that the risk I take on my commutes is greatly reduced. The first step in this journey was the League of American Bicyclists Traffic Skills 101 course that I took last month – which was really informative.

Last weekend, I got the opportunity to take the Florida Bicycle Association‘s Cycling Savvy course through their local group, CyclingSavvyDFW.

I was invited to take the course last year by one of the instructors, but the timing and money situation wouldn’t allow it. Before that, I had never heard of the course and wasn’t sure what to expect. Their website says:

The CyclingSavvy workshop is a 3-part program carefully designed to help you explore proven methods for safely and confidently navigating anywhere* in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex by bicycle. You will learn strategies for safe, stress-free integrated cycling and come away with the tools to read and problem-solve any new traffic situation or road configuration … You will cycle away excited, empowered, and ready to enjoy cycling anywhere* in Dallas/Fort Worth.

When I had asked around about the course, some folks had warned me that this was a hardcore cycling course with an agenda against bicycle infrastructure like bike trails and bike lanes. I was informed that, at least one of the instructors, has been outspoken on his criticism of the Dallas Bike Plan – which I am a supporter of. Not to dig too deeply on this topic – which might make it to it’s own post later – I decided to try the course out an form my own opinion about it.

Day 1 – Truth and Techniques of Traffic Cycling (the classroom portion):
This was a pretty informative presentation. They discussed bicycle traffic laws, “traffic dynamics and problem-solving strategies” and some techniques for better riding. They went through some statistics about cycling accidents, broke them down and explained their causes. Although a large portion of cycling accidents were not cause by collisions with cars, we did focused on that and went thought some animations and videos to learn techniques to avoid them. It was a lot of really good information in just 3 short hours. My only criticism with the course is that there wasn’t an extensive recap of all this information in the packet provided – for quick reference later. However, there are links on their site with many of the resources available.

At the end of the class, I felt very informed and inspired. Not only did I feel that it was a good course for cyclists, but also for drivers. I strongly recommend it for anybody who drives or rides on north Texas roads.

Class

Day 2 (morning) – Train Your Bike (parking lot drills):
This part of the course was very similar to the Traffic Skills 101 parking lot drills, and quite frankly, much needed in my case. We went through the ABC Quick Check as well as mounting, starting, shifting and stopping on our bikes. We went through several handling drills which included scanning and signaling. We then did hazard avoidance maneuvers such as quick stop, rock dodge and instant turns. Having a smaller class helped us get more practice time in.

Instant Turn Instruction

Braking

Day 2 (afternoon) – Tour of Dallas (road skill drills):
This part of the course was very different from the road skills portion of the Traffic Skills 101 course. We did travel as a group to each location, but each exercise was performed as a solo ride by each student. Before each exercise, thorough instructions were given on how to ride, what to expect and where to go. Maps were also chalked out when visual aid was needed. This was followed by a demonstration by one of the instructors, with a play-by-play given by one of the others. Then, one-by-one, each student executed the exercise.

Class Instruction

Instruction

Admittedly, some of the exercises seemed intimidating at first. However, with careful instruction, and more practice throughout the afternoon, we were feeling more and more confident as we worked through them. Plus, if we felt too nervous on any of the drills, we had the option to ride with an instructor. Nobody felt the need for that.

Door Zone

During the afternoon’s tour of Dallas, we practiced several skills, such as being predictable with lane position and hand signals. We learned ways to read and problem-solve traffic situations – even on major roads with heavy traffic. We learned how to politely control and release traffic, making it easier for drivers to make good decisions around you. We also learned how to deal with hazards, such as the door zone and traffic on single lane neighborhood streets. Most importantly, we learned how to feel confident and ‘empowered’ in any traffic situation.

At the end of the day, I felt more in control of my safety on the road. Riding has become less stressful on my commutes to work.

Conclusion:
Unlike what I was lead to believe, there was no political agenda against bicycle infrastructure or to get people out of the bike lanes or off the bike trails. In fact, there were some useful instructions on how to safely use and avoid hazards that may occur while using bike lanes. There was no scheme to force you to ride on busy Dallas roads or to become a Vehicular Cyclists. However, the class does instill enough confidence, that inspires you to make better decisions with your bicycle rides.

I feel the Cycling Savvy course is a great resource for bicycle education – which I greatly support. The class has provided me with many tools to help me be a better cyclist. Overall, this course was well worth the money and time. If you are a serious about riding confidently around Dallas for commuting, sport or pleasure, you should take this course.

On Road Instruction

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5 Responses

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  1. If there is a packet, they are learning as they go, because there was none in my class last September. What you were told about politics really is about stuff people say about the course or its teachers – pro and con. There was no politics in my course, either. Just teaching. Ditto for the course I helped teach.

    Steve A

    May 20, 2012 at 8:47 am

  2. [...] when it comes to safety. In addition to the skills that I’ve learned from TS 101 and Cycling Savvy, my goal while commuting is to stay visible. Along with my front and back lights, I’ve [...]

  3. [...] Fortunately for us, there are some really good options near by. I am the recent graduate of both the the League of American Bicyclists, Traffic Skills 101 course (hosted by BikeDFW) and Cycling Savvy DFW‘s bicycle empowerment courses. Both are excellent resources for anybody wanting to become a better cyclist and make more valuable and safer decisions while riding. You can read my reviews here and here. [...]

  4. [...] • Education is fundamental for a confident ride – I can’t tell you how much TS101 and Cycling Savvy have reduced my stress level and increased my ride enjoyment. • Headwinds suck • Lighten your [...]

  5. [...] to help out with the Ciclovia de Dallas. – I got to take Traffic Skills 101. – I got to take the Cycling Savvy DFW class. – I helped my local bike group set up my city’s first bike to work day, energizer [...]


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