History of the Effective Cycling Program

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1 Starting

I was living in Palo Alto in 1974, had run afoul of their mandatory bikeway law, had joined the California Statewide Bicycle Committee, had been very active in the disputes surrounding the bicycle design standard of the Consumer Product Safety Commission of the United States and in the California Bicycle Facilities Committee. I had started to get a reputation for being well-informed about cycling. One day, an instructor from the local community college called up to ask if I would make an appearance at a cycling course that he was planning. So I asked him about this course, and we ended up deciding that I should be teaching it instead of him.

This was a PE course for 1 unit credit. I thought that I might have to put together the part about cycling in traffic, but could use material from many other publications for the rest. However, I discovered that no reliable material was available, not even for patching tires. Therefore, I wrote the first version of Effective Cycling to use as the text for the course. My object in this course was to get almost beginners up to club cycling standard of skill (you can't start to take a course in cycling unless you can already start, ride, steer, brake, and stop). That meant the ability to keep their bike going, to ride safely in traffic, to know how to keep themselves going in heat and cold, what to do in wet weather and at night, how to carry loads, how to ride in a group, how to obtain and read maps, and introductions to beginning touring, beginning club cycling, and beginning racing. One-third of the instruction was stationary (in a classroom), two-thirds was on the road, with some rides heavy in instruction, others, particularly toward the end, heavy in enjoyment. Whatever the balance, the students enjoyed the instruction.

I insisted on a final examination. As I told the students at the start, they will put in more time than is usually expected for a 1-unit PE course, but they will enjoy it, even with a final examination. The final examination had three parts. The first part was written essay questions about cycling. The second part was the road test, having their actions measured while riding on the roads that we had ridden before. The third part was the second time trial, and I smilingly said that it was a course requirement to do a faster time than for the first. (Of course they did better on their second time trial than on their first, about 10% better on average, just from knowing the course. This was California, in which I could count on dry weather.)

I forget how many times I taught this course, working up the first real edition of Effective Cycling.

2 Initial Conclusions

I had long recognized that adult cyclists had long been a minority in the USA and that real cycling knowledge was known only to the few. My clashes with the bikeway design and bicycle design regulations had taught me the extent to which American public policy was being driven by what was essentially a childishly ignorant view of cycling. (Did you know that, by law, bicycles are regulated as "toys or other articles intended for use by children"?) In looking for material to use in class, I was surprised to discover that the material written by cyclists for cyclists, which did not really consider traffic behavior, was also disorganized, ill-conceived, and inaccurate. Some of the better material was by Fred DeLong, but even that was limited in scope. It was easy to see that if the government was left free to impose its childishly ignorant view of cycling on us, the sport I loved and the friendships I had made would all be going down the drain.

Several actions were necessary to stop and reverse this trend. Legal actions can oppose bad laws and influence discriminatory police enforcement. Far better technical education could influence highway designers. However, all of this depended on disseminating accurate knowledge of cycling among the public. Not all the public, of course, would be interested, but at least among those who chose to cycle, having them form a cadre of well-informed cyclists able to influence those organs of government with cycling responsibilities.

It was not enough to teach Effective Cycling in one community college; the program had to be spread nationwide.

3 Giving EC to LAW

I was familiar with the League of American Wheelmen, and I knew the N. California representative, Clifford Franz. I had begun to understand the fractured history of LAW, how it had died about 1912 and been buried in a file cabinet from 1919 to the Great Depression. It came back to life in the Depression, and continued through WW 2. In the middle 1940s I had cycled with various LAW members, but the League had died again when cars again became plentiful after 1949. It had then been resurrected again in the 1960s, and had done moderately well through the "bike boom" of that decade. I thought of the LAW as the American Cyclists' Touring Club, and considered that it had the potential, even in the USA, of emulating the CTC's advocacy of cyclists in England.

I attended the annual rally of the League of American Wheelmen in 1976, and presented the Effective Cycling Program to the League for its use in spreading nationwide the accurate knowledge of cycling, increasing both the skills and the number of its members. I did not know it at that moment, but the League had just been driven to the bankruptcy wall (more debts than assets) by the "more butts on bikes" efforts of its Executive Vice President, Morgan Groves, whose employment had been subsidized by the bicycle manufacturers. "More butts on bikes" is a losing strategy.

4 EC in LAW

A nationwide program of instruction requires a nationwide supply of instructors. I undertook the task of developing a program of selecting and training instructors across the nation. Considering the very low level of knowledge generally available, and having seen the results of cycling activities by people with that general level of knowledge, I knew that I had to be very selective in order to get instructors who already knew vehicular cycling (not that I used that name then), felt in their bones that vehicular cycling was right. I knew that such were available, for I had met some. I just had to seek, find, and attract them. So I set up a system for considering applicants.

I developed a lengthy questionnaire that elicited, as much as I could, of the applicant's cycling history, type of cycling, and views about cycling. I insisted on evaluations from other responsible persons in the cycling world, mailed to me directly from the originator in response to a question sheet I sent out. Using this method, I was able to select applicants whom I thought had the necessary attitude and knowledge to teach cycling, particularly the traffic part, according to the vehicular cycling principle.

The next step was to teach the candidates how to teach Effective Cycling. I wrote The Effective Cycling Instructor's Manual to teach them how to teach cycling and to prepare them for teaching the course. The candidates had to study the Manual thoroughly; it discussed how to teach by example and repeated evaluation. It outlined the course, and gave instructions on making demonstration equipment, materials to take to class, sections of EC to be covered, and assignments to issue. It discussed problem areas, such as students with difficulties, both physical and mental. It discussed the conflicts between vehicular cycling and the public perception of cycling. It discussed methods of setting up courses and seeking students. It instructed how to give and how to score the bicycle driving test on real roads in real traffic. It provided forms for equipment, routes sheets, time-trial results, and for driving test scoring, and suggested some essay questions for the final examination.

Each student was encouraged to contact me with any questions for which he might need answers, to seek help whenever needed.

It was then necessary to see whether or not each candidate showed mastery of the subject, both cycling and teaching of cycling. The first determination was by written examination. I had the candidate request some person with a responsible position in the cycling world, say a club president or similar, to proctor the examination during a given week, during which all ready candidates would be taking the exam. If I agreed to that choice of proctor, I sent him the examination, a blue book, and a return envelope. He had to hold the examination at the agreed time, for the agreed time duration, and proctor the examination to see that the candidate was working alone without outside information. At the close of the examination time, the proctor was to collect the papers and return them to me. I read and graded the examinations. I insisted on very good answers, for the instructor has to provide answers to students' questions while working on his feet, has to know the subject intimately.

This did not determine whether or not the candidate actually cycled in the proper vehicular manner. Therefore, I held road tests for instructor candidates. These were observed and scored exactly the same as the instructors were expected to do when teaching their classes, but were a bit longer, to get in the full range of problem types that were available within cycling range, and on which the candidates had to have practically perfect scores. At first, when I was working alone, arranging for travel, by examiner and examinees, to the road test sites was the greatest problem. So, early on, I certified a few others, scattered across the nation, to give instructor candidate road tests. Bill Hoffman was the first, if I remember correctly.

This still did not determine whether or not the candidate could teach. After all, there are some who know a lot but who cannot teach it. The previous work had given good indications (One of the questions I had asked those evaluating candidate applicants was: "Do you think X is good at instructing?") Therefore, each candidate successful so far had to student-teach a course, with satisfactory results. It was best if the candidate could teach supervised by an existing instructor, but, since we were starting the program, that could not always be arranged. Therefore, I required that each candidate who could not arrange to teach under an existing instructor would arrange a course and teach it, then sending me all the materials for my evaluation: course schedules, outlines, examination questions, all the examination answers as written, with the candidate's grading marked on them, the road test score sheets, and whatever else. Although this procedure represented some risk, no student teacher following this procedure failed to hold a good course, as far as I could determine.

As the program grew, I developed Master Instructors in each geographical area to provide the individual coaching and examination holding nearer to the candidates, just as I had initially been doing for the nation.

I also developed a bank of questions for examinations, some essay and some multiple-choice. Using a pre-PC text editing system I developed a system for making up examinations from a guided choice among the whole bank of questions, trying to get the appropriate mix of types of subject covered. Multiple-choice questions are much harder to invent than are essay questions. I developed a record-keeping system (again, pre-PC) for recording the frequency of each answer given, to evaluate whether the question was properly worded or not. I kept records of the typical errors on essay questions also.

By the way, I was not paid for this work; I gave it. Effective Cycling did earn royalties through its publisher, The MIT Press, and I printed and sold copies of the EC Instructor's Manual myself.

5 Teaching Children

One of the middle-school principals in Palo Alto, a city in which bicycling is popular, decided that his school needed a proper bicycle safety program in which almost all students would be required to participate. I designed such a course, and Diana Lewiston and I worked out the details in the first teaching cycle. From then on it was her responsibility, and she made some improvements, such as radio communication with students on the road.

Because there was limited time and the intent was restricted to safe cycling, and there was no need to entice students with visions of learning how to tour in Europe, or some such attraction, I used the traffic-safe cycling portions of the adult course. The students were 7th and 8th graders. For each of the several classes, we used one "class-hour" per day for 15 school days, three weeks, and ended with the standard bicycle driving test. Time was short; we wasted not a minute. We inspected the bicycles a week before the class started, and issued repair instructions to ensure that all bicycles were in proper operating condition when the class started.

Each session started with a very short explanation of what we were to do, followed by going out on the roads and doing it, spending as much time as possible in actual riding on normal streets in normal traffic. We had about twenty students in each class, under control of one instructor after Diana took over. As always, the recipe was to explain the movement, to demonstrate, and then have all students do it while under observation, generally in sequence as the group rode along, We evaluated and explained the errors until all had got it right. At the end, all members of the class who had attended all sessions passed the bicycle driving test with high scores. There were a few who had had attendance problems. The same instructional methods that had worked for general adult students worked for these middle-school students.

Then I was contacted by the PTA of Menlo Park, adjacent to Palo Alto, to provide instruction in the summer vacation for elementary-school children. One group of these were children who had either just left third grade or were preparing to enter it. I knew that children of that age could do it, because I had seen enough competent child cyclists from cycling families. What I did not know was how to teach this skill in a class setting, as opposed to having children learn it by cycling with their parents. How do you explain proper traffic behavior to someone who knows nothing at all about traffic? The second group were two years older, fifth graders.

This is when I worked out the five principles of traffic behavior, now so familiar, upon which to base my instruction. I knew that the groups had to be small because each student would need more practice rounds of each movement to get it right. One reason the PTA wanted this instruction was because cycling was popular in that city and many of the mothers were utility cyclists. Therefore, I had a source of assistant instructors. In the end, we had one assistant instructor for each group of about seven students. We again had 15 class hours for each course, done in 1.5 hour sessions five days a week for two weeks.

The third-grade students learned to operate according to the first three of the five basic traffic principles, sufficient for cycling on two-lane residential roads. The fifth-grade students learned to operate according to all five of the basic traffic principles, qualifying them to ride on multi-lane roads with moderate traffic.

For training each movement, I had beforehand selected sufficient locations (driveways, intersections, etc.), within easy cycling distance from our base site, to accommodate all the groups. I had initially trained the assistant instructors in the movement, how to make it, how to teach it, and how to evaluate the student's performance, and I assigned each instructor, with her group, to their specific location. We operated on normal streets in normal traffic. At the start of each session, we met at base, had a very quick explanation ("twenty-five words or less", children can't learn about traffic from words), and then all groups cycled to their sites for that movement.

At each site, the instructor first demonstrated the movement and then had each student in turn run through it alone. While he was returning to the starting line, the next student was making his run. The instructor evaluated each student's performance, and told him about his performance either while he was doing it or before he started his next run. With only seven students in the group, the students had the advantage of watching the others do it, including hearing what the instructor said about their performances, before repeating it themselves enough times to get it right.

Furthermore, I felt that I had to demonstrate that the final road test would be both familiar and fair. During the classes, each student wore a number patch, same number each session (easily laced about the body, designed by Diana), so I could identify each one. During the portion of time in which the whole class rode together, to and from practice locations and some other times, I recorded my observations on audio tape, just as for the final examination. The kids weren't fazed at all by this; they took to calling each other by their numbers, and jeered a bit when my replay at the end of the session disclosed that someone had done something wrong. The kids realized that, while I missed a few errors, those that I recorded were accurate.

I did all the final examination road testing myself, again in small groups, on the same roads on which we had trained. While I rode the tests, the assistant instructors did other things to keep the kids busy. Again, the third-graders qualified with high scores to ride on two-lane residential streets, and the fifth-graders qualified with high scores to ride on multi-lane streets with medium-speed shopping traffic.

The program demonstrated what Americans thought impossible, that children can be trained to ride responsibly in the vehicular manner on streets suited to their ages at an operating cost, after setting up the program, of about 2 assistant-instructor hours per student.

6 LAW Degrades EC

I became a director of LAW in 1977, serving through 1983, and was president for the year 79-80. When I was first on the Board we were struggling to recover from the technical bankruptcy caused by Morgan Groves, volunteering much of our time to do so. During my presidency, I emphasized vehicular cycling, opposition to bikeways, and got into the rear light controversy. In 1982 the League's Board was taken over by associates and supporters of the bikeway activists in Ohio, with the aid of very sharp, unethical practice by the then president, Garnett McDonough. Through a long and complicated process, the League gave up the historic name and became the League of American Bicyclists.

At about that time I was turning over the operation of the Effective Cycling Program to the League's Education Committee, as was planned. The League was to carry on the program into the indefinite future.

The first controversy that I remember was during a later Board meeting. The EdComm told me that they were taking out all the political stuff, because saying that the government was doing the wrong thing for cyclists simply kept students away. Two things wrong with that. First, that hadn't kept my students away, they were interested in learning why they did the right things while the public and government did the wrong things. Second, that destroyed the ability of the League to create a population of vehicular-cycling minded members, which was one of my prime objectives. However, I had given the EC Program to the League; it was their responsibility.

The second controversy concerned trying to shorten the course because the general public would not bother with a course that took ten Saturday mornings. I always said that nobody wants to take "bike-safety" courses; that you had to provide enjoyment and the prospect of learning about more enjoyment to entice people into a course that contained more serious cycling. Well, that's all still a subject for controversy.

Then the League went right to the cyclist-inferiority, bikeway-building, "more butts on bikes" advocacy, and went broke in consequence for the second time. EC largely fell apart.

Because I felt that the League was a goner, I started the Effective Cycling League to carry on what the League had failed to do. I used the same framework that I had developed for LAB, and trained a few instructors. Then the reformers took back the technically bankrupt League and started rebuilding it again. So then I put the Effective Cycling League to sleep, in the expectation that LAB was back on the vehicular-cycling track and would carry on with the program as any right-minded organization of cyclists ought to do.

Along about this time, the League's officers became concerned about the legal or contractual status of the EC Program and materials. We reached a formal, signed agreement that the LAB had my permission to use the EC materials and that, if it continued to carry on the EC Program until I died (or became otherwise incapacitated), the copyrights to my cycling materials would become the property of the League.

7 The Break with the League

The LAB then reworked the EC program to make it into a series of shorter durations that were thought to be more attractive. As I say, that is still controversial. The greatest disadvantage that I see is that the student can get some training without progressing far enough to be able to operate safely in the normal traffic that he is likely to encounter. It is like giving a motoring license to someone who is only qualified for driving on two-lane residential streets. This is not only bad for the individual cyclist, but it is bad for vehicular cyclists and for society as a whole, because it trains people to think that bikeways are needed for riding in any more difficult traffic than that on two-lane residential streets. I don't think that the League's officers are smart enough to have deliberately figured out such a devious procedure themselves, but that is the result.

Then LAB produced its instructional materials for children. I read this material, and saw it taught. The League had completely ignored my work with child cyclists and taught the usual absurd and dangerous superstitions instead.

Therefore, I wrote to the League saying that because it had not met its condition of carrying on the Effective Cycling Program I was revoking its permission to use the name Effective Cycling and the promise that when I died it would receive the copyrights to the material.

Subsequently, I attended the new version of the Instructor Qualification Seminars, in Davis CA in 2001. That was a disaster, qualifying as instructors persons whose road tests (and whose general cycling knowledge) I would have flunked as students, let alone as instructor candidates. That disaster was so notorious that, finally, again, once more, some brave souls are trying to regain control of the League to rectify its grievous errors.

Simultaneously, another group, organizing themselves as the Bicycle Transportation Institute, are considering restarting the Effective Cycling Program as it was before degradation. But nothing much has been done, and the individuals have devoted themselves to working on video presentations of vehicular cycling. Good stuff, but it is not the training program that is required.

There is also a group of people, me among them, who have been working to regain political control of the League and return it to a cyclist membership serving organization rather than an anti-motoring advocacy organization. This is the League Reform Group, to be found at: http://labreform.org.

As always, I am willing to assist, but the outcome is as unpredictable as ever, and I am too old to take the leadership position.

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