On The Road

Smart Cycling Rules for the Road improve safety for all

I recently took the second part of the League of American Bicyclists Smart Cycling training program. 

I’d like to thank not only the Valley Transportation Authority for making it available, but also the reader who asked me to address training, which incentivized me to take the course.

The course is a prerequisite for becoming a LAB Certified Instructor, which I plan to do later this summer.

To illustrate the growth of the program over the years, the certification number for the lead instructor of my course was approximately 400; the assistant instructor (nearly 30 years younger) I spent most of my time with was approximately 5,000.

I was gratified to see that the Smart Cycling Rules for the Road align closely with those I wrote about last fall: Be visible, be assertive, be predictable, be observant and be responsible.

The class gives some excellent instruction and real-world experience in how to signal and position your bike consistent with these rules.

The League Smart Cycling Rules include:

• Follow the law. This closely aligns with being responsible. I’d like to add, though, that applying the principle of courtesy in ambiguous situations is just as important, if not more so, for safety on the road than simply not doing anything unlawful. Safety may start with following the law, but it doesn’t end there.

• Be predictable. It’s the same as my rule. The class addresses how to scan the road prior to a maneuver, make clear signals and negotiate with nearby drivers for contested space on the road. These techniques are all necessary for predictability. During the road portion of the class, I was with an instructor and two other students of differing experience and abilities. We learned that though the principles apply to everyone, the correct position for an experienced rider traveling at 20 mph is not the same as for a slower rider traveling at 12 mph.

Be conspicuous. It’s the same as my rule – be visible. The obvious basics are to wear bright colors and use lights (a good rear light can be a big help during the day, not just at night), but proper positioning on the road is equally important.

Think ahead. This closely aligns to my rule to be observant. The class addressed anticipating real-world situations, like the need to cross railroad tracks at right angles.

Ride ready. A bike doesn’t maintain itself. You will feel really silly if you find yourself miles from home with a flat tire (especially one that was leaking before you left) and no way to
fix it.

Although I would like to say that I knew everything that was taught without taking the class, I wish that I had been taught these things before figuring them out for myself over more than 45 years.

In addition, instinctively knowing the rules and knowing how to articulate them to new riders are two different skills.

And appreciating that what is appropriate for a second-grader riding four blocks to school and an adult commuter riding through varied surroundings on a 15-mile commute are very different, and adjusting the teachings to the needs of the students is yet another skill.

Los Altos is a LAB-certified Bicycle Friendly Community. I’d like to encourage everyone with children or anyone associated with our local schools to look into arranging a training session(s) with League Certified Instructors. The instructors all love what they are doing and enjoy helping others, and perhaps your kids will come home with new knowledge they can pass on to you.

Chris Hoeber is a local resident, avid cyclist and founder of a cycling club. Email questions and comments to [email protected]

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