Bike Commuting 101 – starting a class for beginners?
Tagged: commuting class commute
I was wondering if anyone in the Pittsburgh cycling community was doing a Bike Commuting intro class?
It seems we have a bunch of great reading material/literature on the subject (the new booklet) and we have organized rides (Car Free Fridays). I was thinking we might need something in between for folks who want to start commuting but would like a classroom/parking lot type atmosphere to practice hand signals, riding while looking over the shoulder, scenario role play, etc, before hitting the street.
Just wondering if anyone was offering such a thing, and if not, do you think this might be a good idea? Any existing models elsewhere?
There are existing models elsewhere, based on the LAB’s curricula. I know that MassBike does these, as does the Cascades Bicycle Club, and many others. REI sometimes has seminars but focuses more on gear than skills. I talked to a couple of people at Venture Outdoors about doing something, but I’m thinking it’s getting awfully late in the season -things like this tend to require some lead time to get the information out to potential attendees.
Scott, let me know if you get interested in doing this. I can’t handle the whole thing but time permitting I’d be willing to help.
Yeah, I could help out, too.
I think there would be several good times each year to run the class:
3. When the universities start
I agree with Lyle–it’s probably too late to get a 101 class going. But…probably just the right time to plan a “winter commuting” class. I bet there are some new commuters who might like to learn a thing or two about continuing the new habit once the weather cools.
I ran a few winter riding/commuting classes at REI. Probably still have my outline somewhere.
Would be glad to help out with this.
BikePGH started doing a Bike Commuting 101 workshop almost since our inception. We’ve been doing them periodically upon request. One reason for the booklet was to improve the quality of the workshop and increase the amount times we offer it. Until now we’ve only done several each year.
The most recent workshop was more like a forum and I think it was a more successful model because it specifically addressed the biggest concerns people had about bike commuting as oppose to a general overview, which tends to inundate people with too much information.
We definitely want to incorporate more bike commuting forums, BikePools and Car Free Fridays as a consorted effort to help people feel more confident riding in the city. One way we’re trying to build this effort is by developing a Bike Friendly Employer Program.
I think a good way for members to get involved is to help expand this effort in your neighborhood, at work, or with a community group that you feel would benefit. If you have an interest in reaching out to a specific group let us know about it and we can either help support you in doing it or with your help make it happen.
Thanks for all the great info/insight folks!
I was thinking about this for a while now because I actually am a volunteer trip leader with Venture Outdoors and thought it would be a natural “co-sponsored” sort of activity. Never seriously approached anyone from VO or Bike PGH about what that might look like.
Certainly, now is too late for this year, but the perfect time to plan for Spring. Winter commuting would be a pretty cool workshop/class…I would attend!
Lou, maybe I’m wrong about about what the forum looks like but I was thinking more of an action-based class rather than discussion. I think forums are awesome too, but wondering if we could do a more hands-on approach for those potential bike commuters who are convinced to start, but need a little experiential learning before getting into a situation they don’t know how to handle.
You know, we have drivers ed where people get out in the parking lot before going on the road…I’m thinking sort of a similar thing only with bikes. Maybe it can have a focus, like, “Avoiding the most common crashes, 101” or something like that…?
I may be talking in circles…sorry –> external thought-processing! I would definitely be interested in helping implement something like this, but I didn’t want to “reinvent the wheel” if other similar things are already happening.
Scott Gibson at Free Ride would be a good person to talk to about this. He’s done some skill based riding activities for kids.
Over the years I’ve had seniors express to me their fears about road riding. It would be really helpful to have an activity that specifically addressed their needs and concerns, which might be different than younger more agile riders.
Count me in as this develops.
As a note, it is too late for this year, but one week after the students return in in the fall would be great time for this class. The universities might want to get behind it, too.
My head is sort of swimming! Lots of information and different directions we could take this.
I guess one good question would be…who are we trying to target?
We could focus on:
* University Students
* Corporate commuters (of all ages)
Which group do you think is most important to educate on bike safety/street riding?
Topically, we could focus on:
* prep tips (how to pack, clothing/gear, staying “fresh” for the work environment, choosing a route)
* rights and responsibilities as a cyclist (perhaps less of a hands-on deal).
* riding ettiquette and hand signals
* avoiding common crash senarios and general cycling tips
* bike maintenance and year-round cycling tips
I could see a combination of these topics covered in a class “series”…like a Biker’s Ed that isn’t just one class. (similar to the set up of FreeRide’s Bike Maintenance class) After people “graduate” I would see if we could match them up with a Bike Pool/partner to gain practical experience.
Or we could offer individual focused classes throughout the year.
ok, now I really need to get back to work….
oh add to the target audience possibilities:
* School-aged kids (biking to school)
Start em young!
With past cycling clubs we had training for elementary school kids, and held helmet drives to get all the said kids equipped with helmets.
There was also a group ride once a month or so for new comers. Something easy, introductory for first time cyclists or families. People could get pointers from the more experienced cyclists at that time.
Myself, having moved to Pittsburgh from lands of no snow, I’d be very interested in a winter cycling course. What sort of tires do I need? How can I bike up (or down!) a hill covered in snow/slush?
Just thought of another audience. Perhaps this needs its own specialization of the class:
* High school driver education classes.
To cover the basics of:
– How to share the road with cyclists
– What cyclists have to deal with from passing motorists
– Rules of the road that pertain to all modes of transportation
– (My favorite) When safety (&/or the laws of physics) and the law disagree, what you can expect a cyclist to do
Sorry if this is a bit off topic, but it needs to be written down somewhere. The best way to get drivers educated about cycling, IMHO, is via a formal driver’s ed class.
Stu, I totally agree with you on the driver’s ed on sharing the road, though maybe that’s another conversation topic we should start? Definitely crosses over.
To focus this post, how about we talk about which beginner groups would be most important to target? I agree a winter commuting focused class would be a valuable thing to have, but I think we would have had to start planning for such a thing in the Summer (to be held in the fall) rather than now. I’d like to put more thought and planning behind this. We also need time to promote the existence of such a class to the target group.
So say we are shooting for a Spring 2010 (or later) implementation: which beginning group would be most important to focus on and why?
* University Students
* Corporate commuters
* School-aged kids
We can always branch out to other groups later…
I’m really into this idea, especially in regards to having one at the beginning of the school/university campus. This would be a great way to help out-of-town students meet other riders!
Yeah. I have lots of friends at school getting into biking that have been asking me questions about how to bike. A class would be a very good thing; I could probably help out, too.
I think like 50% of the focus should be on routing.
People cant seem to wrap their minds around not
riding on super main roads and how little extra time
it takes to take the road less traveled.
Hey folks, after a long hard winter (not over yet, but the weather this week is giving me new motivation!), I’m bringing back this post!
I’m wondering if this idea of a University focused Biker’s Ed would still be something we should look into? I think now would be the time to start planning such a thing for this Fall. Or earlier if this seems possible.
Looking back on this thread, I really think hitting up the university kids with cycling skills will be an important way to get young talent to stay in the city too.
Thoughts on how to get this sort of thing rolling?
Hey Tricia! I could help a little.
Does the POC have anyone left at VO? Emily’s in Cuba and I think Garth graduated. What contacts do you still have with Pitt (I guess besides me)?
Joe, good point about finding contacts for the universities… Might be good to just start with Pitt since that is the quintessential urban campus…and Oakland is in need of educated cyclists. I don’t really have other Pitt contacts who are/were in the Pitt Outdoors Club…that I know of at least.
I think talking to the Director of Student life might be a good move actually – the idea being that we hook up with freshmen and other students at the very beginning of the year – promote it at orientation and the like. http://www.studentaffairs.pitt.edu/offsa/bios.html
I actually do know the Student Life director at CMU, she used to be at Chatham when I was in school.
I can probably dig up some Pitt Outdoors Club contacts via the climbing gym. If that would be useful, let me know.
bjanaszek, I think that would be great! Talking to a student organization first to get them excited about the prospect (and gauge interest), and then approaching Student Life would probably be a good way of going about it.
Any more schools/contacts we should consider?
Next thing we would need to discuss is content. There are some ideas above – if you were to have 4 – 5 weekly “classes” on Biker’s Ed, what topics/info do you think would be most important to convey?
bjanaszek, I’m your POC contact here. I run the website and a few backpacking trips. I helped with an Ohiopyle-Confluence cycling trip in the fall, and I’ll gladly add a few more. The most difficult part is renting the bikes. College kids don’t like spending money on things like that.
1. How to properly lock a bike.
2. How to not run red lights.
…that’s about it.
haha maybe this is only meant to be a one-day “how to avoid being killed or having your bike stolen” clinic… Start with the basics.
I think the idea would be that these kids would already have their own bike…though choosing a bike fit for commuting might be a topic in itself.
For a university session, I think it would be good to have an instructor in their early 20’s. New students are hungry for information about how to be young, urban adults, but don’t really want instruction on effective geezerdom.
Content is stuff about brain protection, riding at night, taking or not taking the lane, locking bikes.
The hard stuff would be the stuff we argue about here – when to ignor policy in favor of safety or convenience.
I would love to help for a seminar for new commuters.
Hey, I resemble that remark!
Mick’s points are right on, methinks. I think the pamphlet is probably the best source for any clinic, simply because it represents what the community, as led by our advocacy group, thinks are best practices.
oh no, I’m not early 20’s anymore, but I look younger than I am. I agree with using the pamphlet as a guide and covering the very basics of commuting. No need to bog it down with technical stuff.
I’m also beginning to see this as a one-time seminar like you mention Mick. Maybe have multiple days set up for people who have different schedules.
Also, hitting up the students with resources, like the pamphlet, Bike-PGH’s website and message board, bike map, group ride/event info, etc etc.
3. How to not ride on the sidewalk
yeah, getting in touch with Pitt people like the Off-Campus Housing coordinator would be a great start. Pitt just started an Off-Campus Living initiative thing where they give students living off campus things like their legal rights when renting, bus schedules, recycling schedules, etc. It would be SO easy to sneak in at least some information about bike commuting. I’ll see who I can talk to.
You are all amazing. We are stoked that there are so many volunteers to help lead these classes. I’ll make sure to set up a training-the-trainers session within the next month.
@raphael Pitt has a bunch of bike lockers between the Towers and the Union. I rented one when I was in Tower B for the longest year of my life, and it was pretty decent. $25, IIRC. I think a neat idea would be free/discounted bike lockers for Pitt students who are also BikePgh members. Money is usually the biggest qualm students have about anything (unless it’s alcoholic).
when I was in Tower B for the longest year of my life
D00d…the memories just came flooding back. Third floor, Tower B, directly over the greenhouse behind Zelda’s (before the LCB descended like the long-overdue wrath of Dog on the place, that is…)
I always wanted to set furniture on fire and topple it into that bar.
They have lockers at Posvar too. I’ve been renting one since I moved here. They (all the Pitt lockers) cost $40 per semester ($120 year round). The cost seems on the higher end for a locker, but its still cheaper than replacing random shit people would steal off my bike or coughing up an insurance deductible.
I am curious why they do charge so much though. It costs more for my bike parking locker than my other half’s year-round car parking permit at Pitt Greensburg.
Pitt just started an Off-Campus Living initiative thing where they give students living off campus things like their legal rights when renting, bus schedules, recycling schedules, etc. It would be SO easy to sneak in at least some information about bike commuting. I’ll see who I can talk to.
Great idea raphael!
@scott I would definitely be interested in being “trained as a trainer”. I don’t want to be making plans for this without Bike PGH’s blessing, so if you have any thoughts on what channels we should go through to set this up, I’m all ears. (for instance, distributing Bike PGH collateral…I’m not under the illusion that these copies magically appear without some funding source)
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