Effective Cycling Training

Effective Cycling Basics

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Effective Cycling training covers three types of subjects:

  1. Cycling in traffic
  2. Enjoying cycling
  3. Understanding and working for Good Cycling Policy

The traffic-cycling part of Effective Cycling is based on the five basic principles of traffic operation.

  1. Always ride on the right-hand side of the roadway, not on the left and never on the sidewalk
  2. When approaching a road that is larger than the one you are on, or carries more traffic, or faster traffic, or is protected by a stop or yield sign, you must yield to traffic on that roadway. Yielding means looking left and right until you see that no traffic is approaching so closely as to constitute a danger.
  3. When intending to move your line of travel either left or right upon the roadway, you must yield to traffic in the new line of travel. Yielding means looking in front and behind until you see that both directions are clear, that there is no traffic approaching so closely as to constitute a danger.
  4. When approaching an intersection, you must position yourself according to the direction in which you want to go. Right-turning drivers are at the right, left-turning drivers are at the left, close to the center of the roadway, and straight-through drivers are between them.
  5. When cycling between intersections, you must position yourself according to your speed relative to other traffic. Parked vehicles are next to the curb, slow drivers are next to them, while fast drivers are to the left, next to the centerline.

These principles apply to all traffic. However, they haven't been formalized before. Motorists learn to obey them, without recognizing this, by learning the detailed motions of driving a car. Cyclists used to do the same. However, when I started to work out how to train child cyclists, who had no idea of how traffic operates, I had to formalize the principles to give structure to my teaching and to give the children a structure from which they could learn. Use of these five principles then made teaching even adults much easier.

The cyclist who rides in this way will not cause any car-bike collisions. As the result of learning how to ride in this way, the older cyclist learns what other drivers should be doing, and therefore learns how to detect those drivers who are starting to do something else, probably something dangerous. Then the cyclist can make the necessary move to avoid, or at least ameliorate, the collision.

Enjoying Cycling

In the industrialized nations, cycling competes largely with motoring and secondarily with mass transit. For many trips, cycling has many advantages over motoring, such as health, enjoyment, economy, reduction of urban congestion, and reduction of air pollution, and has the advantage of speed over mass transit (except for long trips on high-speed transit, but here the combination of cycling and high-speed rail works well). However, even for the trips for which cycling is best suited, people won't choose it unless they enjoy cycling as an activity, enjoying cycling for itself. Effective Cycling therefore teaches the enjoyment of cycling, from urban cycling, which is enjoyable for most trips, to club day cycling, short touring, long touring, the beginning of racing for those who wish it, and cycling with spouses and with children.

Understanding and Working for Good Cycling Policy

Safe, convenient, and enjoyable cycling transportation requires both good roads and good laws. Cyclists fare best when they act and are treated as drivers of vehicles. The first aspect of Effective Cycling training teaches cyclists how to cycle properly as drivers of vehicles. The second aspect teaches them how to enjoy cycling, so they will do more of it. This third aspect teaches them to understand that the government's bicycle program was actually devised by motorists with the purpose of discouraging proper cycling, clearing the roads of cyclists for the convenience of motorists, and that this is politically acceptable only because most adults are so afraid of proper cycling that they believe that preventing delay to motorists is the greatest safety feature any bicycle program can have. This aspect of Effective Cycling teaches not only this recognition, but teaches also what individual cyclists, and the Bicycle Transportation Organization, should be doing, and can do, to preserve cyclists' rights to cycle properly with the rights of drivers of vehicles on roads that are designed to facilitate proper cycling.

The Effective Cycling Program consists of four courses, each for a different age group.

Adult Effective Cycling:

The Adult Effective Cycling course is the most comprehensive, capable of training beginners into well-informed and skillful cyclists who have learned more than the skill of lawful, competent cycling in all kinds of traffic. Since acquiring confidence and competence in cycling in traffic requires both time and training (changing one's basic opinions is rarely a sudden process), this course also teaches the enjoyment of cycling. Students learn how to maintain and improve their bicycles, plus the knowledge to enter and enjoy urban cycling, club cycling, short touring, long touring, the beginnings of racing, and cycling with spouses and with children. The graduates' level of knowledge should be sufficient to recognize why vehicular-style cycling is best and to explain its advantages and the disadvantages of the cyclist-inferiority cycling method promoted by the government's bicycle program.

For students who have only the basic bicycling skills of staying up and riding straight, the Adult EC course takes about 10 weekend mornings. It doesn't work to try to rush this training, because, while most adults are qualified to drive motor vehicles, they are so imbued with the idea that they must not use these driving skills while cycling, that it is dangerous to do so, that learning proper cycling technique and acquiring confidence in it is difficult for them. For those students who already have considerable club cycling experience, and need only sharpen up their traffic skills, the course may take only parts of two weekends or one weekend.

Children's Effective Cycling:

Each Effective Cycling Course for Children concentrates only on traffic-safe cycling on roads and in traffic that are appropriate for the age of the child. There is insufficient time to learn other cycling subjects. The training is primarily on the road in traffic, but the training is carefully controlled so that the children do not have to work with situations for which they are not ready. There is very little lecturing instruction, practically all of it is done by showing how, telling why this works, and practice, practice, practice, under controlled conditions of traffic that gradually gets more difficult as each child's ability improves. The final examination is a bicycle driving test on roads and in traffic appropriate to the age of the child. On these tests, nearly all students pass, and the class average scores have been about 95% on a test where 70% is the minimum passing score, and on which the average untrained adults cycling in the same city earn flunking scores around 55% to 60%. In other words, the children, within their scope of qualification, ride far better than nearly all adults riding bicycles.

Each course takes about 15 class hours, with nearly all of that time being supervised and evaluated, repeated practice of proper cycling on the road, in traffic. Each course is designed to start with beginners who have had no real cycling training before. When a school system uses all three courses, it is very likely that the time for the later courses could be shortened, because the incoming students would have learned the skills when younger and need only to be refreshed on much of the material.

Age Eight:

Students of age eight learn the skills of using only the first three of the five basic traffic principles, which is sufficient for cycling on two-lane residential roads with moderate traffic. This enables them to travel about their neighborhoods. For an account of how this course works and the results that it achieves, see: Elementary-Level Cyclist Training Program: Objectives, Techniques & Results

Age Ten:

Students of age ten learn the skills of using all the five basic traffic principles in traffic up to that encountered on four-lane roads with traffic of moderate speed. This enables them to travel to and in the smaller commercial areas and neighborhood centers of interest that are suitable for their ages. For an account of how this course works and the results that it achieves, see: Elementary-Level Cyclist Training Program: Objectives, Techniques & Results

Age Twelve:

Students of age twelve and over learn the skills of using all the five basic traffic principles in all types of traffic.This enables them to travel to any part of town that is otherwise suitable for them. For an account of how this course works and the results that it achieves, see: Intermediate-Level Cyclist Proficiency Training: Objectives, Techniques, and Results.

The course manual, Effective Cycling at the Intermediate Level, can be downloaded.

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