How we’re helping grown-ups ride more
It’s that special time of year again, when the flat tires, the rusty chains and the cobwebbed bike frames get some extra consideration. People who don’t normally ride may be inspired by the gorgeous spring weather or may consider participating in Bike to Work day.
They might brush off that bike, maybe even fix that flat tire (or take it to a shop and pay them to do it) and get back in the saddle again.
Some lucky people work in a setting where their wellness committee or HR department is also inspired to encourage more bicycling this spring. Increasingly, workplaces are encouraging their employees to participate in events like Bike to Work Day, biking to meetings or offering lunch rides. “Wheeling” not just to and from work, but also during work hours, is becoming more supported in the workplace. We are very excited to be a part of this growing trend.
As a result, we have been out teaching. In May and June, we are teaching or have taught classes for employees at the cities of Commerce City, Golden, Greeley and Littleton.
Teaching bike commuting basics
We first cover commuting basics and confident cycling and then get our hands dirty with flat changing. For our last class, all participants bring a bike and learn safety maneuvers, lane positioning, group riding etiquette, rules of the road and other valuable lessons that often seem to arise as we ride. Combined, these three classes comprise our Bicycle Commuter Services (BCS) program—though I wonder if we should call it “Safe Routes to Work!”
Squashing common fears: changing flats and riding in the road
When teaching these classes, I am always reminded of the extreme intimidation people feel about two particular things—changing a flat tire and riding in the road. In a one-hour flat changing class, I can visibly see confidence levels rise.
Women in particular begin to ooze empowerment as they see how easy it is to take a back tire off and on the bike (manipulating the derailleur with their left hands to clear the path). The smiles grow, the jokes flow and suddenly we hear statements like “Now I don’t have to rely on my husband” and “I didn’t realize that it was so easy.”
Diminishing the other major intimidation factor—riding in the road with cars—takes a little more work and practice. It begins with telling people over and over again that they have a right to be in the road. In fact, the law tells them to be there.
We talk about and acknowledge feeling intimidated and pressured by cars. We all know that feeling. But talking about lane positioning and then taking people out on the roads to show them exactly where they can and should be is the only way to really get people over that hump. My hope is that after our classes not as many people will feel they need to drive to a bike path to go for a bike ride.
Get back in the saddle!
Every spring, when bikes are getting dusted off and shops are getting oodles of flat tire jobs, I am reminded of what it can really take to get people out there. The easy thing is to leave the bike in the garage. The harder and really brave thing is to start riding it again.
So for all of you out there that want to get more people riding, talk to your workplace about supporting a commuting or bike-to-meetings culture. Maybe start a “bike buddies” program and pair new commuters with experienced ones who can help them to find a comfortable route.
These are just a few ideas that we have, but what other ideas do you have to get more friends and co-workers out there pedaling?