Last week I taught a free, on-bike cycling class for adults under the auspices of the League of American Bicyclists and Bicycle Indiana. The class format, which normally consists of four hours in class and five on the bike, was an experiment in making the class, as we state on our flier, “more convenient for active adults.” Instead of a nine-hour class (four hours in class and five on the bike), students could take the classroom portion online at their leisure and then spend four hours with an instructor like me practicing the theory they’d learned online on the street. We publicized this class through fliers in all the area bicycle shops and emails to local bike groups. One student enrolled for the on-bike session.
John D. Yoder is a local cycling enthusiast and president of the Friends of the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail, Inc. You can read more of his work in his community blog
for The Elkhart Truth, Cycling Sense
That’s a fantastic teacher-to-pupil ratio, to be sure, but not an ideal class. I’ve been teaching the one-day, nine-hour class for 15 years with enrollments as low as three or four (though never a class of one) and in that time I’ve come to the conclusion that the vast majority of adult cyclists in this country are very sure they don’t have anything significant to learn about riding a bicycle, certainly nothing that would require them to take an actual class, so why should they? One might as well, they reason, take a class in how to breathe.
Or perhaps the poor enrollment is my fault, i.e., I’m just a bad teacher, and word has gotten around that the class is a waste of time. However, the course evaluations and feedback I’ve gotten from former student indicates that they have learned a lot in the class, became more confident riders and in general felt that the time was well spent – and they were all paying for the class. I also know that cycling instructors similar to me in other communities have the same problem attracting students.
Perhaps the lack of interest results from the fact that every adult who rides a bike in Elkhart County already knows the rules of the road, correct intersection positioning, how to avoid collisions, how to change lanes safely, how to make a box left turn, how to see and be seen at night, how to ride in the rain and how to make basic repairs and adjustments to their brakes, tires and detailers. I strongly doubt that possibility in light of the numerous riders I see ignoring the basic rules of the road (by riding against traffic, for example), blowing through stop lights and stop signs, punishing their knees with a cadence that is too slow and seats that are too low and riding at night with no lights, as if they had a death wish.
And it couldn’t have been the price, since the class was free.
Could it have been the four hours required on a Saturday morning was too demanding? Do adults expect their learning to be even more convenient, like some kind of passive, educational IV drip? I hope not.
That leaves one other option: the lack of publicity. We just didn’t reach enough people soon enough. Since the major publicity for the class didn’t happen until a month before the on-road portion, that is a definite possibility.
We’ve schedule three more on-bike sessions, two in Elkhart on Aug. 9 and Sept. 27 and one in Goshen on August 23, and I’m anxious to see if the longer lead time makes a difference. We don’t want to give up on the idea after just one class.
If you interested in becoming a more confident biker, take the online portion first by going to www.bit.ly/BIRITK. At the top of the second paragraph on that page, click on the words “Traffic Skills 101 Online Classroom” (though they do not obviously appear to be a link). That will take you to the online portion of the class. After you’ve finished that part and passed the test at the end, you can then sign up for the on-bike session on Aug. 9 (Elkhart), Aug. 23 (Goshen) or Sept. 27 (Elkhart). I recommend taking both parts of the class because applying the theory you learn is the best way of remembering it.
Even experienced cyclists can benefit from this class. I know I did when I took it 20 years ago. At the time I’d been riding seriously for 20 years, and I was amazed at what I didn’t know. Since then I’ve had many experienced cyclists as pupils, including a man in his 80s and definitely not a beginner, and all have benefited from it. I’d give everyone a money-back guarantee if they aren’t satisfied with what they learn, but that’s a little difficult when a class is frees.