I get a hug during CyclingSavvy instructor training.

I have operated my bicycle essentially as a driver since 1978, when I read an early edition of John Forester’s book Effective Cycling. Since 1982, I’ve been an Effective Cycling Instructor, then League Cycling Instructor, in the League of American Bicyclists educational program, which got its start with Forester’s work.

In the 1980s, Forester’s instruction about road use was state-of-the-art. Over the years, there have been changes to teaching techniques and content, some for the better and some for the worse, some from inside the League’s program and some by individual instructors,  but I think that it is fair to say that there has been no systematic revision and upgrade to the content about bicycle driving.

On the weekend of March 3-5, 2017, I took instructor training in a different program, CyclingSavvy, in Orlando, Florida.

CyclingSavvy Instructor Training, March 4, 2017. Instructor Trainers keri Caffrey and Lisa Walker debrief instructor candidates following a "feature" -- a ride through a demanding stretch of roadway.

CyclingSavvy Instructor Training, March 5, 2017. Instructor Trainers Keri Caffrey and Lisa Walker debrief instructor candidates following a “feature” — a ride on a challenging stretch of roadway.

CyclingSavvy is a program of the American Bicycling Education Association, with an emphasis on urban cycling. In my opinion, CyclingSavvy classes are more focused and effective than the classes in the League of American Bicyclists program.

A CyclingSavvy class can be difficult for long-time League Cycling Instructors, in part because we have, well, ingrained ways of doing things. I took a CyclingSavvy class in August, 2011, in Portland, Maine. It was a bit of a rough experience. There were misunderstandings, especially on a group ride before the class: about lane use — at one point I asked “what are we doing this for?” and about the purpose of the ride. (My video camera setup is important enough to delay the ride start?) I came off that class with a lukewarm endorsement at best to work toward being an instructor.

In the years since then, I’ve been privileged to develop a closer relationship with CyclingSavvy, by reading materials online, attending two conferences and working on a CyclingSavvy edition of my Bicycling Street Smarts booklet (still awaiting publication as of this writing).

I’ve learned quite a number of things from CyclingSavvy that were new to me. To name some:

  • more assertive lane positioning;
  • group lane changes from the rear;
  • how to instruct novice cyclists so they will ride as an organized group;
  • waiting for the green light to turn right, so as to turn onto an empty street;
  • Turning into the destination lane for a left turn immediately on turning right;
  • plotting strategies for lane use with Google Maps;
  • teaching techniques effective in effecting behavior change;
  • time management when teaching.

I got a solid recommendation to go for  CyclingSavvy instructor training last October — studied up — it’s demanding! — and took the training, March 3-5.

At one time during the parking lot session of the training, I said: “I’m humbled with what I’ve learned that’s above and beyond what I already knew.”

Which is true.

Trainer Lisa Walker then  came over to me and gave me a hug.

I’ve been asked to describe what led to the hug. And this has been my explanation.

The takeaway from my experiences: I recommend that League Cycling Instructors, especially long-time ones, take special care to familiarize themselves with the differences between their practices and those of the CyclingSavvy program. That study can be illuminating, and can make the difference between failure and success in the CyclingSavvy program. You might get a hug too!

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5 responses to “I get a hug during CyclingSavvy instructor training.

  1. The LAB course has always taught “vehicular cycling” as a skill, and Forester has always said it takes lots of experience and/or instruction to get that skill.
    Cycling Savvy teaches “bicycle driving” as something that doesn’t require extraordinary skill, but rather, simply, belief system change.
    Accordingly, some of the best Cycling Savvy instructors are NOT people steeped in the olde lore of cycling, but rather people who learn the concepts and the teaching style.
    Taking a Cycling Savvy class is easy and fun. Taking the instructor training is difficult. The difference is because the instructors have to know a lot to make the class easy and fun for the students.
    Regarding John’s comments about old LAB instructors: they disrupt the class if too many of them come in thinking they know it all already. I’m reminded of a famous rule of thumb: “Up to 25 percent of the guests at at university dinner party can be from the economics department without ruining the conversation.”

  2. I had the privilege of attending the same CSI training class as John Allen, and as a previous LCI, I, too, found it extremely beneficial. I have been following the CyclingSavvy curriculum development for years, and so I was not surprised by anything in the material I was required to deliver, but the rigorous instruction on how to teach effectively was invaluable. Watching Keri and Lisa teach was exciting, and the other CSI candidates provided inspirational performances as well. I quickly realized that I really need to up my teaching game – not in terms of my knowledge, but in terms of charisma, clarity, and connection to my audience.

  3. John Schubert writes: “Cycling Savvy teaches ‘bicycle driving’ as something that doesn’t require extraordinary skill, but rather, simply, belief system change.”

    Given the difficulty in getting people to take courses, I remain optimistic that we can figure out how to change belief systems with means other than taking courses. It might mean that a certain undetermined percentage of cyclists do need to take the courses, and there will be tipping point where the rest will pick it up by osmosis. That’s my hope.

  4. Please don’t confuse Effective Cycling with the LAB’s program. I rescinded my permission for the LAB to use the name EC because they weren’t doing it right.
    Since 2012, the book Effective Cycling has presented lane control as the default.
    CS instruction is in group format from the beginning. EC instruction is based on individual cyclists because the typical participant will be cycling alone and needs to be competent and comfortable while alone. EC taught group cycling only later, in preparation for club cycling.
    EC taught skills, but learning and practicing the skills changed belief. EC also taught political aspects to develop mental support of vehicular cycling.

  5. John,

    Thanks for your enlightening post about the philosophical and educational differences between the LAB and ABEA approaches to safer cycling in traffic, to use a term that attempts to include both methods.

    I am struck by the similarities between Cycling Savvy’s approach and the current efforts to make streets and roads safer and to re-engineer, modify, and reclaim “streets for people.” (Vision Zero is one of these efforts to re-engineer streets and roads to make them safer for pedestrians, cyclists, and all users.)

    Our existing infrastructure (sidewalks, streets, roads, etc.) needs to be far more friendly and less intimidating to cyclists, pedestrians, transit patrons, and other non auto-driving users. (Inducing fear and anxiety, as our current streets and roadways do, is a form of bullying.) Using our streets and roads on a bike or on foot should not induce fear and anxiety: they should be inviting and encouraging places for all.

    In a similar way, introducing people to bicycling should be friendly and inclusive–including the fostering of an “I belong here” mindset.

    There are real risks involved for cyclists riding in/with/as traffic simply because of the laws of physics–in addition to the common anti-bike attitudes and infrastructure decisions made and amplified by traffic engineers, drivers, and law enforcement. But instilling new confidence, awareness, competence, and skills are the best way to counter those pre-existing fears and real risks rather than scaring the daylights out of our students.

    I am deeply grateful to John Forrester and all the bike skills instructors who have taught me and blazed a path for me to follow as an LCI (and, I hope, a one-day CSI, too). We are literally all on the same path and /or street and contributing to the common goals of safer, easier, more convenient, and more widespread cycling by all.

    The attitude expressed in John’s pre-hug comment is the key to our success:
    “I’m humbled with what I’ve learned that’s above and beyond what I already knew.”

    We all do better when we are humble about what we already *think* we know and are open to learning “beyond” what we already know. This wisdom applies to many more areas of our lives beyond riding a bicycle safely in/as/with traffic, but that its an ideal place for us to begin.

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