Local cycling duo’s Traffic Skills 101 classes offer information every road biker needs to know
Karen Goodwin and her husband, Pete Hollingsworth, have long been a familiar sight on Chico’s streets—the devoted cyclists regularly pedal from one end of town to another and beyond, doing everything from fetching groceries to commuting to work, to taking a long rural ride on a sunny Sunday.
The fit, friendly duo also—fittingly—head up the League of American Bicyclists-sanctioned Traffic Skills 101 series of classes for cyclists of all stripes to learn to ride safely on city streets. Goodwin, who became certified by the bike league as an instructor in 2006, taught her first class in Chico in 2008. She has taught four rounds of the course thus far and is gearing up for her fifth—a female-focused series of three classes, called Women on Wheels (“Twenty-four percent of riders are women,” said Goodwin), which will take place the first three Mondays in May, which happens to be National Bike Month.
Hollingsworth was certified to teach in 2010; besides teaching Traffic Skills 101 classes, he is also the Safe Routes to School coordinator for the city of Chico, involved with such things as facilitating the installation last fall of sidewalks and a bike lane near Marigold Elementary School and Pleasant Valley High School in north Chico.
In addition to an emphasis on street-riding safety, the pair’s classes offer instruction on choosing an appropriate bicycle and being able to identify all its parts, and buying cycling gear (including a properly fitted helmet), as well as bike-maintenance basics, such as changing tires and adjusting brakes and derailleurs. “So many people don’t even know how to pump up a tire,” said Goodwin, “and that’s a barrier to riding.”
“Plus, it makes riding more difficult and dangerous,” Hollingsworth noted.
“We teach to the booklet,” he said, referring to the League of American Bicyclists’ 32-page Smart Cycling training manual that all students get when they take a class from him and Goodwin. “And we give a written exam, and we teach [road-cycling] skills in the parking lot. And then we go on the road to encounter actual road issues.”
“Such as changing lanes at intersections,” said Goodwin. “We learn about it in the book [in a detailed, illustrated section titled “Changing Lanes Safely”], and then we go out on the street and [student-riders] actually do it, one at a time, and then regroup to talk about it.”
Goodwin and Hollingsworth both swear by their emphasis on giving students on-the-road experience in class. “If it does one thing, it builds people’s confidence to ride in traffic safely,” said Goodwin.
On the subject of cycling dangers, Hollingsworth mentioned the time he got “doored”—hit head-on by a car door that someone opened in front of him just as he was riding by (every bike rider’s nightmare). Recalling his own dooring experience led him to talk about another person’s similar experience: “And this lady didn’t report it to the police. When she found out later that her arm was broken, she had little recourse to remedy the situation.”
“Traffic accidents involving bicycles are underreported,” said Goodwin, “which results in cities not getting the necessary funding for [bike-supportive] infrastructure.” Moral: Cyclists should report traffic accidents in which they are involved to the police, something Hollingsworth and Goodwin remind students in their classes.
In case of dangerous road conditions such as a debris-filled, small or nonexistent shoulder area and no designated bike lane, “Take the lane,” said Goodwin—meaning one should fearlessly ride in the car lane. “If you’re in the place where a car would be, they’re going to see you.” And you won’t jeopardize your safety and the mechanics of your bike by riding on an unsafe surface.
“We are teaching confidence,” Hollingsworth emphasized. “I really think bike riders are more at risk when they don’t feel confident, don’t take their rightful place on the road.”