The bikers perspective // Me, in bike school?

The idea of bike education for adults seems absurd at first glance. I learned to ride when I was 8 and it’s still just a bike.

And there’s that familiar phrase: “It’s like riding a bike, once you learn, you never forget.”  

Well, unless you’re still just riding around the block on the sidewalks, you should consider updating not just your riding skills, but also your traffic skills as a cyclist.  

The landscape has changed. There is more motor vehicle traffic, there are more cyclists commuting, there have been traffic law changes, bicycles have changed, and there are new bicycle facilities on the streets and off-street.

Many questions pop up, including whether it’s legal to ride on sidewalks, unlawful to ride without a helmet and which lane is appropriate to ride on — facing with or against traffic.

These are just a few of the things that are covered in a good bike education class. The League of American Bicyclists (LAB) certifies instructors after they have taken a 20-hour instructor class and passed both a written test and a skills test. The curriculum they teach is developed by the LAB and covers a wide range of topics. The nine-hour Traffic Skills 101 course covers basic bike information, bike maintenance, traffic law, equipment, riding etiquette and actual on-road riding with the instructor. Bike handling skills are also taught before riding in traffic. The classroom portion of the class is very good, but the bike riding portion is probably the best part of the course.

Seeing how to ride on the streets after the classroom instruction and discussions is invaluable. Everyone in the class leads the group on part of the ride and the instructors provide good feedback and encouragement during the ride. Most classes also include some night riding, which is necessary this far from the equator.  

The new bike advocacy organization, Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota (bikemn.org), is focusing on bicycle education and is working hard to provide more opportunities for people to take cycling classes. Bike/Walk Twin Cities (bikewalktwincities.org), through the Bike Ambassadors of Minneapolis, has helped increase the number of LAB certified instructors to more than 50 in Minnesota.  

There are several different courses that are taught, including ones for kids, on group riding and commuting. I think one of the best overall courses is the one noted above, Traffic Skills 101. People who have been riding for years or people who are newcomers to cycling can all learn new skills and gain confidence for riding.

It’s spring, if you’re getting back on the bike, start right, if you’re a veteran rider, refresh your knowledge.

Dan Breva is operations director for Nice Ride Minnesota.