By Bruce Cohen - December 16, 2014
We had our winter Everyday Cycling Made Easy this Saturday, December 13th at the Coldspring Community Cottage. The weather was surprisingly warm, in the upper forties, and clear, which was a great reward for those interested bicyclists who attended. Some expressed concerns about on-street bicycling in the city, others were looking for a way to meet their fitness goals, and yet another saw people biking and wanted to be able to do the same.
Marla and Katie started the presentation with some information about the benefits of bicycling, like saving on parking expenses if you are biking to an urban area, burning fat and gaining muscle as you pedal to your destinations, and cutting down on greenhouse gas emissions and other motorized-transport related pollutants. Of course, we joke that we are preaching to the choir when we host these workshops since interested cyclists have self-selected and clearly understand that bicycling is good…they just need to get comfortable doing it!
They covered lane positioning, how to safely go through intersections (don’t ride too far to the right, cars will think you’re turning right), and strategies for making left-turns. If you can’t make a left turn, either because traffic is too heavy and you cannot merge over travel lanes or are too nervous, you can always make a right turn to go straight with the light. Katie stressed making eye contact with drivers and biking defensively, because even if you are 100% in the right you will bear the brunt of the damage if a driver makes a mistake.
Katie shared her personal story of getting hit by a left turning driver when she had the right of way to go straight through the intersection. At the workshop, Katie stressed that the collision was not her fault, but that by being an extra-defensive bicyclist she could have escaped without long-term injuries. She maybe could have seen that the driver wasn’t paying attention and maybe she could have avoided the collision. It’s a sobering reminder to us all that we can be right 100% of the time, but when drivers make a mistake we’re the ones that get hurt.
The workshop was also light-hearted, talking about bike fashion and middle-aged-men-in-lycra. We looked at how some of us were wearing florescent colors with bike tights while two cyclists wore jean shorts. Bicyclists wear all sorts of different things, but we all experience the same conditions. We giggled about orange vests, and we know they’re dorky looking, but they’re yet another way to make yourself visible. As Katie said, do anything to make yourself noticeable to cars, because it can hurt to be right. The bikes also varied, with mountain bikes, road bikes, and hybrids represented. One even showed up on an old bike from his attic to participate.
After the lesson we headed out on our bikes to the Jones Falls Trail, which offered a mostly off-road, paved trail experience where our riders practiced cornering (keep the inside pedal up!), signaling (okay, not always), and even a little riding in traffic on a road where it is hard for cars to pass. This was the beginner route but it introduced riders to how easy it is to bike along the Jones Falls Trail, and how it takes you all the way into the Inner Harbor (we didn’t go, but Katie pointed out the sign and direction). Everyone made it back, despite the long and steady climb back up the trail.
It was great seeing so many beginners willing to brave the cold and learn about safe bicycling. We know that December is a rough time to get motivated to get bicycling, with cold temperatures and busy holiday schedules, to a big thanks to everyone who made it.
A huge thanks to the Coldspring Community Association for hosting us!