Smart Cycling 101: More to bike safety than knowing how to turn

Being that we work for a bike shop, most of us at BBP are avid bike commuters. If you ever get the chance to look at our staff bike parking at the shop, you’ll see all the commuting knick knacks and accessories kitted to our bikes. Lights, helmets, that one little bell that always doesn’t work… We definitely have all the gear to be safe while biking on the road. Pair that with our hand turn signals and knowledge of stop signs, and that’s all we need as bike commuters, right?

Last Tuesday, after our team took the Smart Cycling class, I realized there’s more to bike safety than just having the right gear and knowing how to turn.

Starting up in the BBP classroom early in the morning, with coffee breath and helmet hair, we geared for a day of learning about the rules of the road. For those unfamiliar with the Smart Cycling class, its a curriculum developed by the League of American Bicyclists that your can explore here! They are one of the nation's largest bicycle advocacy groups that promotes safer roads and a bicycling friendly America. Some of our team members have already been through the course and have been certified to teach bike safety at our monthly Kid's BASHes, but for most (like me) the majority of what we were covering was new—sometimes confusing—information.

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After going through the "Basics" of biking (i.e knowing that a bike has two wheels and can shift: we're bike shop people, we got this!), everything soon got a little confusing as we started to go through various scenarios of road situations and bike facilities.

Can bikes ever leave a bike lane, and should they? What are the differences between different types of bike lane?. How do we navigate traffic if there isn't even a bike lane there? Questions like these fostered great discussions within our group.

One of the main phrases we learned, which was repeated by our instructors perhaps 20 times throughout the day, was: bikers should position themselves in the rightmost lane that serves their destination.

I think out of all the silly jargon and acronyms we learned, that simple phrase opened my eyes (and most likely the eyes of others) of how to be a safer biker. And I also realized that me being a safer biker also makes it safer for every other biker that other drivers see!

With that excitement, we ended our classroom session to get on the road to practice our skills. I haven't been more excited to ride than the first time I road my bike with training wheels.

And riding on the streets of downtown really felt like my first time riding again. I stuck my hand out to signal very assertively (scanning before I signal of course!) I did an ABC (Air, brake, chain) quick check on my bike before riding. And the quick overview of certain preventative bike handling skills like "rock dodge" made biking fun again.

The weather wasn't as fun as our spirits, with the clouds starting to rain, but we eventually went back to the shop to take our final test. 7 hours of bike education and safety really paid off as everyone of our team passed!

With our Kid's BASHes rolling around soon, I'm glad we had the opportunity to experience this class.

I think there is still a lot more to learn as bikers and motorists to make our roads and communities safer, but going through this curriculum is definitely a start. 

-N