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Old 04-15-10, 06:50 PM   #1
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LAB's Traffic Skills 101 - My Impressions

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Traffic Skills 101 Impressions
April 15th, 2010

Over the last weekend, I took part in the LAB’s Traffic Skills 101 course. The league describes the course as:

Gives cyclists the confidence they need to ride safely and legally in traffic or on the trail. The course covers bicycle safety checks, fixing a flat, on-bike skills and crash avoidance techniques and includes a student manual. Recommended for adults and children above age fourteen, this fast-paced, nine-hour course prepares cyclists for a full understanding of vehicular cycling.

I found the course quite interesting and useful. It is a rare situation when you get cyclists together from all walks of life. We had a man about my age there who didn’t even own his own bicycle – he borrowed his friend’s Huffy. We also had a few cyclists who had done some amazing road rides such as the Triple Bypass. We had a director from the local bike advocacy group there – as a participant! – as well as other people from various advocacy groups.

As for the actual course content, it was a mix of discussing the local traffic laws, bicycle maintenance and vehicular cycling. Despite the description above, there was very little trail discussion.

The “classroom” discussions were kinda dry and boring. Involved talking about local traffic laws (such as Colorado’s Three Feet law), types of crashes and how to avoid them, and the ever interesting discussion on bicycle clothing (*yawn*).

The fun came with the part where you actually sit on the saddle. We started out in a parking lot where the instructors had placed halves of tennis balls in various configurations.

The first exercise was the quick stop maneuver. Easy enough, simple pull on the brakes, the front harder than the rear, and slide your ass back off the saddle as far as you can.

Second exercise was a quick turn. We approached the turn, and just right before the turn, flipped the handlebars to the left, then punched it to the right. This made for a very high speed right turn. Perfect for avoiding those right hooks.

Third exercise was a rock dodge. Simple, just flick the handlebars in either direction to avoid the rock and with some miracle of physics, the front wheel goes on one side of the rock and the rear goes on the other side.

The final exercise was the funnest. Involved going through a slalom at varying speeds and varying “tightness”. Helps you get a feel for how the bike handles with just leaning. The tough part was to make it through the slalom without turning the handlebars at all. Doable, but very difficult.

Then came the road course. We took off on a few (of like a billion) of Aurora’s high speed arterial roads. Even involved a bit of a six lane road with 45mph speed limit. Using proper Vehicular Cycling techniques, one can easily ride on these roads without too much headache. The one big advantage we had was being a group. Its hard to miss eight cyclists in one big long line.

We maybe spent a total of 15 minutes on a local bike path. This is understandable. IMO, a bike path is easy to ride. The biggest rules are keep it slow and yield to pedestrians. Its also nice if you keep right and announce your passes (please, please, please announce your passes).

Do I think TS101 is a necessary course? Oh god no. However, if you live in neighborhood where your local road opens up to a high speed arterial and you’ve had too many close calls on them sidewalks, you might wanna look into it. It may give you the confidence and necessary knowledge to handle it safely.

(Disclaimer: This does not mean I’ve become one of the John Forester, anti-bicycling facilities maniacs. I’m still all for well designed infrastructure for cyclists, including bike lanes, sharrows, bike paths, separated bike tracks, bike boulevards, etc)
Anyone else take this course? What's your take on it?
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Old 04-15-10, 07:39 PM   #2
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Was that all the on-bike work you did? I thought TS101 included at least 2-3 hours on roadways in traffic out of the 9 hours total. That's what I do using the original Road 1 curriculum.
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Old 04-15-10, 07:58 PM   #3
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Probably about 3-4 hours on the bike. That included the parking lot skills and stuff. I really just did not find the off the bike stuff interesting - but I knew most of that stuff already.
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Old 04-15-10, 08:18 PM   #4
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Probably about 3-4 hours on the bike. That included the parking lot skills and stuff. I really just did not find the off the bike stuff interesting - but I knew most of that stuff already.
My favorite thing about teaching the class is seeing the beginners gain confidence in traffic as we progress from neighborhood streets to busier urban streets. A lot of students have never controlled a travel lane before while on a bike, and they seem very excited once they are able to merge with traffic and make left turns with confidence.

By comparison, I don't think I'm terribly good at bike handling - I have to practice it a lot before class in order to be able to teach it effectively. I rarely push the bike anywhere near as hard in corners or in stopping as I we do in the class drills.
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Old 04-15-10, 09:15 PM   #5
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Was that all the on-bike work you did? I thought TS101 included at least 2-3 hours on roadways in traffic out of the 9 hours total. That's what I do using the original Road 1 curriculum.
I took a road 1 and road 2 course several years ago... the description by the OP sounded about right, but of the three days of the class of about 4 hours on consecutive Saturdays, almost half was on road cycling. The road 2 class involved more bike maintenance, and ultimately more left turns on arterial roads.

Bike lanes were all but ignored, and there was very very little if any strict vehicular philosophy preached. The book Effective Cycling was mentioned as were several other book such as Hurst's book and Franklin's book.

The course I took was not the Traffic Skills course, but the regular Road 1 and Road 2 courses.

As a long time cyclist, I really gained little new information... except how to adjust index shifters (all my gear at the time was friction). I took the classes just to see what it was all about.

In the classes I too were a number of folks of various cycling skill levels, some folks needed the class, just to get the basics down, others were getting a bit of new info and folks like me were right on the edge of being able to teach the class.

I saw a couple women progress from curb huggers to being able to comfortably make left turns on 45MPH arterial roads... that was good progress.

Perhaps my biggest disappointment is that the classes are not more available and connected somehow to bike shops... the "tupperware style" of making the public aware of the classes is really not a good method of getting the word out to the public. The folks that need this knowledge the most are the least likely to find out about such classes. Close connection with bike shops would be the best method of promoting bike education... or public school versions of the classes.

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Old 04-15-10, 09:19 PM   #6
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It's a great course, I took it, I teach it. Everyone should take it.
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Old 04-15-10, 09:21 PM   #7
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My favorite thing about teaching the class is seeing the beginners gain confidence in traffic as we progress from neighborhood streets to busier urban streets. A lot of students have never controlled a travel lane before while on a bike, and they seem very excited once they are able to merge with traffic and make left turns with confidence.

By comparison, I don't think I'm terribly good at bike handling - I have to practice it a lot before class in order to be able to teach it effectively. I rarely push the bike anywhere near as hard in corners or in stopping as I we do in the class drills.
The ironic thing about both classes I took was being honked at by motorists... in spite of our proper road positions and lane control. To me it just said, no matter what, there are still ahole drivers out there.
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Old 04-16-10, 11:04 AM   #8
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Perhaps my biggest disappointment is that the classes are not more available and connected somehow to bike shops... the "tupperware style" of making the public aware of the classes is really not a good method of getting the word out to the public. The folks that need this knowledge the most are the least likely to find out about such classes. Close connection with bike shops would be the best method of promoting bike education... or public school versions of the classes.
I agree; I was excited when a local bike shop owner approached me about organizing Road 1 classes through his shops. Unfortunately, that was the year that my twins were born, and I've had too little free time left to take on the endeavor.
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Old 04-16-10, 12:48 PM   #9
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I agree; I was excited when a local bike shop owner approached me about organizing Road 1 classes through his shops. Unfortunately, that was the year that my twins were born, and I've had too little free time left to take on the endeavor.
Well how about the opposite... why don't LCIs approach bike shops and leave literature... at least that way half the bridge is crossed. In my area there are only two ways that this cycling education is promoted. LCIs email former students and tell them about upcoming classes to tell others, and the local advocacy group (that is tiny and doesn't even have the membership of the local watercolor society) posts the upcoming classes on their web site.

Frankly there should be "SCUBA shop" type relationship between cycling classes and LCIs... if you are in a shop and buying a bike, the sales guy should hand you information about where to obtain class info. On the plus side, at least one bike manufacture has started including "Street Smarts" with every bike. (I think it is the Breezer line of bikes).
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Old 04-16-10, 12:55 PM   #10
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Yep... LCI's are "independent contractors" (as they phrase it) with the League, so we're fairly much on our own as to how we market and present the classes in our communities. We do have to stick pretty close to the script, and keep the League informed of what we're up to, but what you basically have are individual LCIs or small groups who partner up and work together.

I've had pretty good luck working through some of the local bike shops. Others flatly aren't interested. In the same manner, there are mixed results in marketing and presenting the classes through advocacy groups and bike clubs. You've pretty much got to hang your shingle out there, offer some classes, and start getting a feel for what works in your little community.

The Bicycling 123 program was kicked off last year at Interbike, designed specifically to run through the bike shops for both youth and adult clinics. I've had some fair success in marketing the youth clinics through the Safe Routes to School program, but derned few takers on the adult skills clinics... at some point the bike shops are interested primarily in getting bikes out the door, and not so much in spending a couple of hours out in the parking lot with each new customer going through starting, stopping, shifting, scanning, signalling, and turning. There are more bikes waiting to be built up and sent out the door...

I use a mix of marketing resources... through the local bike shops, through the advocacy groups and bike clubs, and by word of mouth. And while I cover each of the "need to know" items on the course checklist, I don't thing I've taught it exactly the same way twice over the past three years, except maybe for the parking lot drills, where there's a fairly fixed sequence in order to build the new rider's skills and confidence. But ultimately my best advertisement and marketing for the courses are happy students, who go off and tell their buddies, "hey, you ought to go take this class..."

Tom
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... and yes, we occasionally get honked at when on the road rides, and when I'm bringing up the rear in this yellow jersey that's got "LEAGUE CYCLING INSTRUCTOR" emblazoned across the back, it rarely fails that some wise-ass will pull up in the next lane and yell, "You ought to teach them to ride somewheres else."
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Old 04-16-10, 01:10 PM   #11
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This course was done with collaboration between the local advocacy group (BikeDenver) and a local bicycle shop (Bicycle Village).
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Old 04-16-10, 01:35 PM   #12
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Beginning women cyclists seem to be the most interested in taking an adult class about cycling. They seem more likely than men to be willing to admit some trepidation in taking to the roadways, and seem interested in getting a more friendly orientation to road cycling techniques than simply jumping in with both feet and trying to figure it out on their own. I've taught one class that was all women, and the group dynamic was especially positive and enthusiastic. As a guy I'm not comfortable marketing my own classes to women (my wife probably wouldn't appreciate it either), but I think a female LCI would do well at this.
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Old 04-16-10, 01:54 PM   #13
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Yep... LCI's are "independent contractors" (as they phrase it) with the League, so we're fairly much on our own as to how we market and present the classes in our communities. We do have to stick pretty close to the script, and keep the League informed of what we're up to, but what you basically have are individual LCIs or small groups who partner up and work together.

I've had pretty good luck working through some of the local bike shops. Others flatly aren't interested. In the same manner, there are mixed results in marketing and presenting the classes through advocacy groups and bike clubs. You've pretty much got to hang your shingle out there, offer some classes, and start getting a feel for what works in your little community.

The Bicycling 123 program was kicked off last year at Interbike, designed specifically to run through the bike shops for both youth and adult clinics. I've had some fair success in marketing the youth clinics through the Safe Routes to School program, but derned few takers on the adult skills clinics... at some point the bike shops are interested primarily in getting bikes out the door, and not so much in spending a couple of hours out in the parking lot with each new customer going through starting, stopping, shifting, scanning, signalling, and turning. There are more bikes waiting to be built up and sent out the door...

I use a mix of marketing resources... through the local bike shops, through the advocacy groups and bike clubs, and by word of mouth. And while I cover each of the "need to know" items on the course checklist, I don't thing I've taught it exactly the same way twice over the past three years, except maybe for the parking lot drills, where there's a fairly fixed sequence in order to build the new rider's skills and confidence. But ultimately my best advertisement and marketing for the courses are happy students, who go off and tell their buddies, "hey, you ought to go take this class..."

Tom
LCI #1853M


... and yes, we occasionally get honked at when on the road rides, and when I'm bringing up the rear in this yellow jersey that's got "LEAGUE CYCLING INSTRUCTOR" emblazoned across the back, it rarely fails that some wise-ass will pull up in the next lane and yell, "You ought to teach them to ride somewheres else."
Good comments... and frankly I have to laugh at your last comment... that is almost exactly what happened to us. This is why in spite of the best intentions of the LAB and all the LCIs in the world, there is one form of education that is missing... and that is to teach motorists that they DO NOT in fact "own the road."

That has been my biggest headache over the years (some 40+ years of cycling) that no matter how well I do my job, there are motorists out there that firmly believe that bikes do not belong on their streets.

Of course it is a load of BS, and of course we know better, and of course I ride like I belong, but until I can stop having to TEACH those dunderheads what the truth is, cycling in America will always take a back seat to motoring and be choice of the few and the brave.

It shouldn't be that way, but when even the Transportation Secretary is called on the carpet by blowhard congressmen for stating that cycling and walking are valid forms of transportation... then we've got problems right here in River City!

Cycling as a mode of transportation needs a far better "publicist" in America.
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Old 04-18-10, 05:30 PM   #14
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Good comments... and frankly I have to laugh at your last comment... that is almost exactly what happened to us. This is why in spite of the best intentions of the LAB and all the LCIs in the world, there is one form of education that is missing... and that is to teach motorists that they DO NOT in fact "own the road."
There are efforts aimed towards motorist education.

Most of the LCIs in Illinois are associated in some way with the League of Illinois Bicyclists and the Active Transportation Alliance. A couple of LCIs with The League of Illinois Bicyclists worked with the Illinois High School and College Driver's Education Association to produce materials for driver's education classes. The materials include a 7 minute Share The Road video featuring Robbie Ventura, a five page Driver's Education Teacher's Guide, and a student test. http://www.bikelib.org/safety-educat...ver-education/

There have been presentations to IHS&CDEA training sessions and the material is in use in some NE IL high schools.

Materials for law enforcement officials have also been developed. http://www.bikelib.org/safety-educat...ent-resources/

Both sets of material can be downloaded for your own use.

Larry
LCI # 1823M

Last edited by Recycle; 04-18-10 at 05:36 PM.
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