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Jun 15, 2010 12:13 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Bike Traffic Skills 101

Jun 15, 2010 12:13 PM

Last weekend, cyclists from across the United States came to Southampton to earn their certification as cycling instructors.

Spokespeople, the East End’s cycling advocacy group, hosted a League of American Bicyclists League Certified Instructor (LCI) course at Southampton High School. With more and more people looking for alternatives to their gas-burning cars for transportation, many are turning to their bicycles for a fun way to get around and stay fit at the same time. Spokespeople saw the need for more cycling education in our community.

As coordinator of educational programs for Spokespeople, I contacted the League of American Bicyclists last fall about hosting an LCI training seminar in Southampton. The league put me in touch with Bike New York, which helped me find the instructors for two prerequisite traffic skills courses, which all candidate LCIs had to pass with an 85 or better. In addition to the prerequisite course, candidates had to complete and pass a rigorous pre-test based on study material sent before the LCI seminar.

The director of Bike New York’s educational programs, Rich Conroy, came out to Southampton to teach the weekend course.

“You’ll be very tired by Sunday afternoon,” he told the candidates Friday evening. He was right. The LCI course started at 5 p.m. on Friday and ended at 4 p.m. on Sunday.

All LCI candidates were there to learn the skills and techniques to teach vehicular cycling to children, parents, teens and adults in their home communities. Vehicular cycling is the principle that bicyclists fare best when they act and are treated as drivers of vehicles. This term was first used in the 1970s by John Forester, a transportation engineer, who emphasized that bicycles are vehicles that must be driven according to the rules of the road that are shared by all vehicles, motorized and non-motorized.

Candidates did class work, presented mini modules on cycling law (same as for other vehicles), lane positioning, brakes, tire maintenance, nutrition and other aspects of being a cyclist that an instructor would have to teach their students. LCI candidates practiced and learned how to teach bike handling skills and avoidance procedures like the quick stop and instant turn. Sharon McCobb of East Hampton, who coaches youth and adult triathletes, said she will “use the parking lot drills whenever I start a new group as an introduction.”

The candidates also took two group rides that taught them how to manage a group of students on the road in various conditions. The road ride also assessed each LCI candidate’s skills at riding in traffic and in other conditions and hazards that could be encountered while on the road.

The ride also emphasized that cycling students need to learn confidence. Alyson Follenius from Springs wants the girls she coaches in her i-tri program to know “not only how to handle their bike safely but also know they have the right to be on the road.” After dinner on Saturday night, students returned for more class work and a night riding demonstration, where Follenius’s orange and reflective striped vest was the most 
visible. “No one’s going to miss her,” said William Gerdes, LCI candidate from Seattle.

Candidates from out of town also praised the LCI seminar and Southampton in general.

“The countryside and village of Southampton is beautiful,” said Allen Smith, a retired school teacher and Ironman triathlete from Waycross, Georgia. Smith is starting his second career as a cycling instructor.

“I want to make a difference in my community in regard to health and fitness,” he said. “Georgia is one of the most obese states in the nation. I plan to offer ‘Smart Cycling’ courses in our schools, local YMCAs and other venues.”

Rich Conroy from Bike New York felt that the LCI seminar in Southampton gave Spokespeople a “great foundation on which to build in terms of holding classes, getting more bicycle education into schools and working with young cyclists.”

He added that these courses would “give Spokespeople the capacity to get more local cyclists prepared for League Cycling Instructor certification.” Smith also said that the courses the LCI candidates learned to teach will “help any cyclist be better prepared to ride skillfully, safely and confidently in the conditions they will normally encounter on the road.”

When asked about the one thing people should know about the League of American Bicyclists’ classes she had just learned how to teach, Jennifer Miller, program coordinator for SUNY Cortland Community Bike Shop and LCI candidate said, “Cycling is fun.”

To have more fun on your bicycle, visit spokespeopleli.org.

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And, since so many have missed this simple fact, bicycles are to travel WITH traffic, not against it.

I so often see bicycles on the wrong side of the road, and even almost had a head on with one in a Kenworth truck.

Thanks for holding the classes!!!!

I hope many will take advantage of what you have to offer.
By Mr. Z (11376), North Sea on Jun 17, 10 8:37 PM
8k run & 3 mile walk, Agawam Park, Southampton Rotary Club fundraiser