What a year. Never could have believed there would be such a steady stream of clients to teach road biking to. In 2007 I was working freelance before a big 6 year project with Sustrans, we used to get a few summer clients then doing ‘Women on wheels’ or similar, the last year of in demand work is a brilliant increase on that time. I’ve taught 75 individuals on my books through Lifecycle and the Council funding of this work over the last year, this post celebrates that. Summing up the year isn’t that hard- its six entire days on the road and ladies. Other than a few guys it’s been all women asking for training for confidence on the roads, and what a variety! Early on the type of clients were those who are keyed into the media streams and heard about the training, they might have been staffers at J.P Morgan or other places where it was advertised in house. This meant that the training was about a road ride from Boscombe to Parley Cross or similar, commuters that are making 45 minute journeys by bike each way. At this level they are looking to learn the full range of Level 3 Adult training including following techniques- riding multi-lane roads, large roundabouts, filtering past queuing traffic and moving in and out of traffic streams. A couple of these people had experienced minor crashes and wanted to get more confident. Much of the difference between using the roads on a bike and in a motor really comes down to correct positioning, looking at the way lane discipline works around junctions and when riders need to be assertive. I teach that there are really only 2 places on the roads for bikes, either inviting or asserting. If we are a metre away from the kerb in what’s called ‘secondary’ position in Bikeability training we are inviting vehicles past, conversely when around junctions we take ‘primary’ position and therefore are asserting our place on the road. Moving between these modes just takes awareness and decision making. All the riders who took the training said they felt way more confident after seeing how this works for me after 30 years riding on the roads.
Some of the other abilities that came to me were less able and enjoyed doing the level 1 syllabus, learning how to effectively handle a bike, signal, turns and becoming more dynamic. The older generations were great fun and very rewarding to work with, as getting them to be able to make active travel journeys into old age is linked to my main aim of showing people how they have so much choice of routes in Poolemouth that don’t need to be on major roads. Obviously if you’re retired its unlikely you need to be mixing it with the rush hour (happy hour as I call it) traffic, and can really get into discovering the best routes vs queues that the area has to offer. Some of the riders simply fell into the ‘cyclist inferiority complex’ bracket, and needed to know that they weren’t in the way, confidence building stuff. A few also held onto the type of aggression that drivers save for each other, really do think that when we take control of a car we fall into a different perception of other humans and treat them in a way we would never do in face to face interaction, its wierd but every one else seems to be a rubbish driver. One way around this is taking a more relaxed approach, if you’ve got the best possible route without any queues sussed out, then you know how long it’s going to take you every day, there’s no need to get stressed about ‘the traffic’ (you are the traffic) Best way I can explain this is the way I teach managing traffic light junctions on the bike. You will have seen plenty riders who feel the need to squeeze up inside a line of waiting cars to the light which is at red, this move as well as being a chance to assert some sort of imagined superiority, arouses irritation in the other people waiting. Instead of this choice, if riders just move into the centre of the lane in advance of the junction, finding themselves waiting third or fourth vehicle back from the lights at red, when they might be turning right or left and need to move off the road ahead anyway, they will get given space behind by other road users that can see they are taking a place in the traffic. Bikesnob NYC writes loads about road use by cyclists which is far more entertaining than I could ever be, Im with him in lots of themes hes well worth checking out. Policeman taught me once that behaviour breeds behaviour which is totally true, when were out driving and get a tailgater behind us, its irritating, in any situation when you calmly use the road giving and taking space in acknowledgment of others journeys immediately become more pleasant. This is what I teach and after a near death incident myself Im happy to be a road peace missionary. Linked to this work is a project up at West Howe called ‘wheely inspired’ where 10 locals were given a bike to use on loan, I taught all these riders who are going to benefitting from their free loans. So a couple of photos here show recent clients, Frida from Sweden studying in Boscombe who has a different road system at home and learnt the U.K roads. Jacqui whos 71 from West Howe out and re-discovering local healthy travel again, and a couple more. Thanks to Lifecycle.org.uk for this work.