Posts Tagged ‘Traffic Safety’
Last weekend I got to help teach another Traffic Skill 101 class, at the Allen Community Outreach center, in Allen, Texas. It was a good group of about a dozen students, mixed in experience and skill levels. We also had some graduates of the course, visit and observe, in preparation to taking their own LCI class next month.
I hope to see more of these classes open up this year and get more cyclists on the right track to becoming better and safer riders. It’s also great that students are striving to become instructors. Below, are some pics from the class. You can also find the entire set here.
Last Saturday was a pretty big day for me. I got to help teach a Traffic Skills 101 class for the first time. Co-instructing with me, was fellow League of American Bicyclists LCI graduate, Jenny. As recent graduates, we both have to co-instruct two classes before we can teach on our own. We were there to assist head instructor-extrodinare Mike and veteran instructor Brad, with 11 students in Garland.
As part of our instructor training, Jenny and I had to scope out locations for our parking lot drills, as well as map out the road course. We took a field trip to the area and decided that a local DART parking lot would work best for the parking lot drills. While out there, we decided to drive the road course that Jenny had plotted using Google maps – addressing any potential issues and altering the course as needed. We wanted to get a wide selection of roads to give us the opportunity to teach the students about a variety of road conditions. Also, since the road course was new to both of us, we returned to ride it the weekend before the class – just to make sure.
On the day of the class, Jenny and I carpooled. With bikes balanced on the bike rack, we rolled into the parking lot of local bike shop, Don Johle’s Bike World. My car was full of gear, forms, certificates and – most important – breakfast. The students were already gathering in front of the shop, ready to learn. So, after getting everybody introduced, registered, fed and ABC Quick Checked, we all rode to the DART parking lot to start the parking lot drills.
Parking Lot Drills:
Since Jenny and I were co-teaching our first class, Mike let us take the lead on giving instructions. Jenny and I tag-teamed this task, each helping the other fill in the gaps of information that the other might have missed. Once each drill was discussed and demonstrated, the group would split into two for practice runs. I worked with Mike and Jenny worked with Brad – who happened to be one of our TS101 instructors, when we took the class.
After lunch at Taco Cabana, it was time to do the road portion of the course. This can be taught a few different ways, as long as you are exposing your students to a variety of road conditions that they will encounter when they are riding on their own. We opted to ride as one group, while giving the students a few small exercises of riding solo. This gave them the opportunity to individually read, process and execute their routes using the information learned with the online course, as well as what we taught them with the parking lot drills.
When finished with the road course, the group returned to the bike shop, where the instructors were able to evaluate each student. Each scored very well and earned their Traffic Skills 101 Certificate.
Both Jenny and I appreciated the chance to co-instruct with great teachers, as well as this group of fantastic students. We couldn’t have ask for a better class to be our first. We hope that as we teach more of these classes, we get more refined and are better prepared to confidently teach on our own.
Raise your hand. How many of you ride a bike without ever learning how to ride a bike? I’m not talking about that moment when you discover your balance on a two-wheeler and the training wheels come off. I’m talking about actually learning the skills and rules that will actually keep you safe on the road.
Like most of you, I was given little to no training on a bike. My parents sent me to a traffic safety course when I was a kid, but that was just to teach me basic knowledge of stop signs, yield signs, crosswalks and traffic lights. If anything, we learned how to make hand signals. I remember years of my childhood, carelessly riding around the neighborhood without helmets and barely watching out for traffic. It’s amazing that I’m still alive.
As I got older, most of my road travel was by car. My road knowledge came from driver’s ed and years of experience while navigating through rush hour traffic. Even so, I felt that riding my bike around town required a new level of training.
I’ve been wanting to take the League of American Bicyclists, Traffic Skills 101 course (hosted by BikeDFW) for a while, but was never able to make the time. Last weekend, I was finally able to attend.
The local class has been modified so that the first part of the course is done online. That portion had to be completed and passed, prior to meeting up for the bike skills training. The online course is relatively easy, as long as you pay attention to the materials. It consists of 4 chapters that cover everything from Bicycle Parts, Bicycle Selection, Adjusting Your Bicycle, Clothing & Equipment, Pre-Ride Safety Check, Tools, Tires, Gears, Adjusting Derailleurs, Adjusting Brakes, Bicycle Handling Basics, Bicycling in Traffic, Emergency Maneuvers, Crash Avoidance, Road Hazards, Riding Enjoyment, Energy Maintenance, Trail Etiquette, to Educating Motorists. The online course can be finished in a couple of hours (more or less, depending on if you are watching TV at the same time).
The classroom portion of the course took a good part of a Sunday, where I wasn’t sure what to expect. Was this going to be a reprise of my slightly useless childhood traffic safety course, or was this going to he a hardcore drill that would toss me in the middle of a major road with hundreds of cars speeding around me? I soon learned that this part of the class was divided into two sections. The morning was set aside for the parking lot drills, while the afternoon was left for the road portion.
After a nice morning of breakfast, introductions and a quick review of the online course, we went out to do our first lesson – the ABC Quick Check. Here we learned how we should be inspecting our bikes to ensure a safe ride to our destinations. This is something that should be practiced every time you go out for a ride. Steve A from DFWPointToPoint, who was there as an instructor, pointed out that a quick release always seems to work itself loose and you should never assume it’s locked. Sure enough, mine were loose.
Next, we rode out to our first destination, a parking lot down the street so that we could learn and practice some basic handling and safety skills. There, we divided up into two smaller groups, where two instructors, each, took us through several drills. Our instructors, Renee and Brad, taught us quite a bit, including starting and stopping, scanning, signaling, rock dodge, quick stops and instant turns all while maintaining good control of our bikes. Quite frankly, I thought this would be the easiest part of the class. To my surprise, I found the drills to be somewhat challenging – especially the instant turns.
Once we had completed all of the parking lot drills, the instructors took us out on the streets to familiarize us with the route of the bicycling in traffic portion of the course. After that, we took a break for lunch.
After lunch, the instructors separated us into even smaller groups. Each group rode a few loops of the street course with an instructor following close behind – offering up instruction, tips and feedback as we utilized the skills we had learned earlier at the parking lot. The route covered several lane changes, obstacles and challenges all while riding in moderate to heavy traffic. Riders had to think ahead, observe all the traffic laws, communicate with drivers (via eye contact and hand signals), be predictable, handle hazard avoidance and deal with lane position – all while keeping their cool and maintaining control of their bikes.
I was most apprehensive about the road portion of the class. Although I ride on the streets, they’re usually back roads with low traffic, so I wasn’t sure what to expect getting on this busier route. Again, to my surprise, I found that it wasn’t at all what I was expecting. The online course and the parking lot drills helped build my courage for bicycling in traffic. My fellow rider, Steve and instructor, Brad also helped me ride confidently when it was my turn to lead the group.
It was a good day of quality training that made me a better bicyclist, while undoing many years of bad riding habits.
Overall, I felt that the Traffic Skills 101 course is well worth it, and everybody who rides should take this class. Even if you find yourself a confident road rider, it’s always nice having some knowledge and a few skills to take on the ride with you.
Just to tease it a bit, the course was both harder and easier than I expected. Until my review, I highly recommend that if you get the chance – take the course. You will become a better cyclist.