By JENNIFER BOYETT
SPECIAL TO THE LOG CABIN
As an experienced recreational cyclist, I wasn’t quite sure what more I could learn about riding in traffic, but last fall I decided to take the League of American Bicyclists traffic skills course, which was offered through Conway Advocates for Bicycling.
I was pleased to discover that the course is designed with just about everyone in mind, young and old, beginner and experienced.
The local course it co-taught by Jim Bruce and Chad Files, two league-certified instructors with more than 50 years of combined cycling experience. Part of the course is classroom instruction and another portion is practical application on a skills course and then a group ride in traffic.
While I was familiar with some of the classroom information such as how to choose a bicycle or how to adjust certain parts, other information like properly identifying bicycle parts and how to perform routine maintenance proved invaluable.
One of the lessons was how to repair or change a flat bicycle tire. The following weekend I experienced a flat and was proud to be able to temporarily repair and finally replace my own tire tube instead of having to call for help.
Upon completion of the classroom instruction, we moved outside to an empty parking lot to practice some of the riding skills we had discussed. For example, in certain situations, cyclists may be forced to quickly stop or maneuver around an obstacle. Practicing the quick stop and instant turn taught us proper form and braking skills to help avoid potential accidents.
We bobbed and weaved through the course learning how to safely dodge road debris, and practiced proper signaling, shifting, stopping and turns.
The final portion of the course included a group ride. Upon completing the pre-ride safety check of our bicycles, we took off for a leisurely ride through the streets of town. With one instructor in front guiding the ride and another instructor in back reminding us of how to apply the skills we had learned, we found that when riders are equipped with the proper skills, riding in traffic is not as scary as it may seem.
Another lesson we learned is that only a small percentage of bicycle accidents actually involve motor vehicles. According to the League, about half of all bicycle accidents are the result of falls. Another 33 percent of accidents involve animals, other bikes or something besides motor vehicles.
The traffic skills course is something all cyclists could benefit from, but you don’t have to take my word for it. You have the opportunity to see for yourself when Conway Advocates for Bicycling offers the two-day course at the McGee Sports Center on May 14 and 16.
Want to get some experience riding in traffic before then? Join Conway Advocates for Bicycling for their monthly RideCivil where cyclists take a leisurely ride through town. The RideCivil will provide an opportunity to practice riding in diverse traffic situations including crossing busy roads safely, navigating roundabouts and making left turns, in addition riding along the Tucker Creek Trail and a refreshment stop at Tropical Smoothie Cafe. The group meets at 2 p.m. on Sunday, April 25 at the First United Methodist Church parking lot off of Duncan St. Everyone is invited to participate. When cyclists learn and practice the proper skills for riding in traffic, everyone is safer.
Jennifer Boyett is an avid cyclist who serves on the Bicycle Advisory Board and is a member of Conway Advocates for Bicycling. For more information about the traffic skills course, RideCivil or how you can become involved with cycling in Conway, visit www.cycleconway.org.