Thursday, April 15, 2010

Bicycle skills classes

We've started teaching Traffic Skills 101 courses in Fairfax this year. For many years Allen Muchnick has taught this course in Northern Virginia, mostly inside the Beltway. The course was developed by the League of American Bicyclists with the goal of teaching bicyclists to ride safely in traffic.

Vehicular cycling or effective cycling "is the practice of driving bicycles on roads in a manner that is visible, predictable, and in accordance with the principles for driving a vehicle in traffic." The concepts are embodied by the statement that "Cyclists fare best when they act and are treated as drivers of vehicles."

Through the use of vehicular cycling techniques, cyclists can learn to control traffic by lane positioning. When a lane is too narrow to share, "taking the lane" is the best, safest strategy. With practice this technique becomes second nature. It improves cyclists' visibility, both between and at intersections. Cyclists also learn how to avoid dangerous situations by practicing skills such as the quick stop, rock dodge, and instant turn. These skills will become second nature and could save your life.

Most people in the U.S. have never been taught how to ride properly in traffic. They may have learned how to "ride" a bike, basically how to propel the bike forward without falling. This has nothing to do with learning proper riding techniques or understanding the principles of traffic law. Is it any wonder that many people don't really know how to ride in traffic?

The classes are 9 hours over two or three days. The first class was held at the Vienna Community Center, with classroom instruction for three hours on a Thursday, and classroom instruction, parking lot drills, and the road test on Saturday. Three completed the course. The second class was held at the Reston Community Center on two Saturdays. Four students completed the course and received certificates.

Two additional spring courses are scheduled for April 22 & 24 and May 13 & 15 in Herndon through Fairfax County's Adult and Community Education program.

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