Become a more confident cyclist

Photo by marcel maia, via Flickr creative commons

Does the thought of riding a bicycle on city streets during rush hour traffic seem horrifyingly dangerous to you? If so, you’re definitely not alone.

For many Americans today, the fear of riding a bike in traffic is one of the top reasons for choosing not to commute by one. Many first time bike commuters initially have the idea that riding a bike in traffic is more dangerous than driving a car, and find it to be a daunting task. Even I had moments when I would get butterflies in my stomach at the thought of cycling to work, and end up taking the bus instead by talking myself out of it.

“What if a car hits me? It’s much safer to just drive or take the bus, why risk it? The roads are really narrow, and the cars go super fast! Cycling is just too dangerous for me! There’s really no safe place for me to bike around my area.”

A lot of us become paralyzed as we think about such questions and statements as above. And, to make matters worse, we always seem to hear from news outlets about confrontations between cyclists and drivers. Then there are those hit-and-run stories we frequently hear about as well, which further encourages most of us to keep the bikes stored and collecting dust in our garages.

Like with any new experiences in life though, there will be that initial fear to create doubt and question your ability to take a step forward. The trick, however, is to not let such fears completely discourage you from experiencing the joys of commuting in a bike, but to use it to build your self-confidence as a cyclist. For me, my early fears of cycling led to days of watching various bike safety videos online, reading up on cycling forums, and studying current state laws regarding bicycles before I gained enough confidence to start commuting daily on my bike.

As most experienced cyclists will agree, with the proper education on how to correctly maintain and operate a bike, as well as learning the correct way to deal with everyday situations you’ll face on city streets, there will eventually be nothing for you to fear. With knowledge and experience, you too can easily quell your fears and be the confident bike commuter you’ve always dreamed about being.

And, as luck would have it, there are several classes throughout the Greater Los Angeles area that you can take to develop the skills you need to be a confident urban cyclist. With an extremely supportive cycling community out there to help you, there’s no reason for you to have to go through it alone. If you’re interested, check the list below for classes and workshops that are being offered.

Cyclists practicing bike control. Photo by Confident City Cycling

Confident City Cycling

Price: Free
Info: “Confident City Cycling builds your personal confidence for riding a bicycle on city streets.  Participants take away an understanding of their rights and duties as a driver operating a bicycle safely and legally on public roadways.”
More info: http://sustainablestreets.org/education/ccc/

C.I.C.L.E. Workshops

Price: $10.00 – $30.00
Info: “Education provides the knowledge, skills, and the confidence to get people bicycling safely, whether it’s for health, transportation, or to improve one’s quality of life. We’ve designed our workshops to meet with the varying needs of individuals—developing the skills and providing the knowledge that is appropriate for each person at his/her specific stage of learning.”
More info: http://www.cicle.org/learn-to-ride/our-workshops.html

Bicycle Kitchen Workshops

Price: Free (Suggested $30.00 donation)
Info: “This workshop is a 2 hour primer on bicycle basics. We will cover: bicycle anatomy, how to clean your bike, basic maintenance, how to change a flat and how to patch a flat. We will also introduce you to tuning brakes and derailleurs.”
More info: http://www.bicyclekitchen.com/index.php?/projects/workshops/

Bike Oven

Price: Free (Suggest $5.00 donation per hour.)
Info: “The Bike Oven provides all the tools and supplies you will need to do most minor or major repair jobs. Volunteer mechanics are available to assist you if you need guidence or instruction. We have a large supply of used parts available for a small donation for replacing damaged parts, building up your bike, or doing that one speed conversion you’ve been planning. We are not a retail bicycle shop and do not make repairs or sell new parts and bicycles. But if you want to learn to fix your own bike or build a project up from scratch, we will assist you no matter how much help you need.”
More info: http://bikeoven.com/about/

REI Outdoor School Classes

Price: $45.00 – $85.00 (Prices vary for REI members and non-members.)
Info: “Feeling wobbly on two wheels? Or do you want to hone your biking skills? REI Outdoor School has a full selection of cycling programs to suit your needs. Our road biking courses teach you everything from balancing on the bike to bike commuting. Our mountain biking courses help you get off the road and onto the trails with a variety of obstacles to suit your level of skill. We provide Novara bikes and professionally trained cycling instructors.”
More info: http://www.rei.com/outdoorschool/162/programs/22

Take a class, get confident, and safe riding!

Categories: Bicycle

4 replies

  1. The same safety and confidence approach is done with new motorcyclists these days as well at motorcycle safety programs.

    http://www.ca-msp.org/

    For those who are interested in something that has the agility of a bicycle but faster, but with the cost efficiency that is better than the bus or the car, you also have the motorcycle or scooter option.

    Yes, I know first timers may get butterflies in your stomach to think of sharing the roads on a motorcycle that travels at the speed of other cars. We get that concern from first time bikers or those who are considering getting a motorcycle endorsement on their licenses at many safety courses. But in many places around the world, the motorcycle is actually the preferred way of getting around the town. It’s popularity is steadily rising in many US cities as well.

    But if you can handle driving a bicycle on the roads, motorcycle riding can be safe if you know the right skills. Knowing the do’s and don’ts of riding a motorcycle and understanding basic motorcycle safety will bring in a whole new perspective to motorcycles as a true alternative to getting around town.

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  2. The only way to become a confident and safe rider is to ride. Practice makes perfect. Start out on weekends, using quieter roads, know alternate routes, know the rules of the road and be aware of your surroundings, including road conditions; know how to handle your bike, have the bike repaired and maintained, be prepared for everything – DON’T RIDE and TALK ON YOUR CELL PHONE. Be courteous of drivers, pedestrians and other cyclists. Yes, there are idiot drivers, just as there are idiot cyclists and pedestrians. Don’t take it for granted that a driver sees you, don’t take it for granted that you have right of way; even if you do. Treat other road users as you would want to be treated, ride smart and be safe.

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