For many of us, the "rules of the road" were learned during the process of getting a drivers license. Most people study a DMV manual, complete a multiple choice exam, log an X amount of hours behind the wheel with a certified driving instructor only to finally qualify to take a physical driving test. Then, after satisfactorily completing all the requisites, a coveted drivers license is issued.
But who teaches cyclists the rules of the road? Generally, people learn to ride a bike as a child and understandably use the sidewalk as their learning ground. Rarely do children learn the rules from a structured curriculum in a formal setting. Often times children are left to learn on their own and consequently grow up unaware of the California Vehicle Code as it relates to the operation of a bicycle. Many would argue that "riders ed" should be inherent in school-based educational curricula. Until now, there hasn't been a widely accessible program aimed at teaching the public how to safely and legally ride a bike on public streets.
The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) has received a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) to spearhead a series of "Need to Know" Bicycle Safety Courses throughout Los Angeles County. Metro has contracted BikeSGV to conduct 30, 3-hr courses throughout the Eastern region of Los Angeles County.
The first course took place this past Saturday at the El Monte Senior Center. The class attracted ten participants ranging from 22 to 65 years of age. The first hour consisted of in-class instruction conducted by Dorothy Wong a League Certified Instructor and Jackson Lam as the Assistant Instructor.
The second hour took place in the parking lot where participants learned the basics of riding including a general safety inspection, mounting and dismounting, shifting gears, swerving, hand signals, scanning, quick stops, and much more. Once everyone felt more comfortable and confident, the instructors led the group on a predetermined route throughout the city to practice their new skills.
To ensure a good learning experience, the instructors carefully selected a route that included residential streets, retail districts, minor arterial roads and transportation centers. The ride marshal led the group to the Metrolink station using a calm residential street then cut through the Old Valley Mall in route to a brief stop at Pioneer Park. The ride then traveled South on Santa Anita Ave adjacent to the Metro Transit Center then headed back to the El Monte Senior Center for a complete recap.
Beyond a brief overview of bike riding basics, the participants gained a deeper understanding for the need for safer bicycling infrastructure as one student noted, "even if we [cyclists] do every thing right on the street, we're still sharing the road with dangerous automobiles."
These courses are indeed a good first step toward educating the public about bicyclists' rights to share the road while also informing bicyclists of the on-street do's and don'ts. BikeSGV is looking forward to successfully raising awareness in the many San Gabriel Valley communities these classes will be offered.
For more information or to sign up for the next Need to Know Bike Safety Course, please visit the project webpage, HERE.