Let ’em eat licenses

March 14, 2016 § 69 Comments

The recent death of Jonathan Tansavatdi, a local South Bay cyclist and member of my club, Big Orange, has again brutally emphasized the vulnerability of cyclists. Although the cause and mechanics of the collision that took his life remain unknown at this point, it got me to thinking about our collective responsibility as a cycling club.

In other words, what is the obligation of every cycling club with regard to teaching bike safety?

This seems like it has an easy answer. Clubs encourage people to ride. They encourage people to join. And at least our club really encourages people to race their bikes. In addition to that encouragement, any club worthy of the name provides structure to make all those things happen.

Our club provides group ride activities throughout the week, and we have the best grass roots club racing program in America, a program that focuses on getting members to sign up as Cat 5 men and Cat 4 women and race their bikes.

So the question remains. What are we as racing clubs doing with regard to teaching bike safety? As with most cycling clubs, only a minority of our members actually race. Even big profamateur masters squads like Surf City and Monster Media have more actual riders than they do members who show up and race every weekend.

With the exception of on-the-job safety training, where ride leaders and allegedly experienced riders give out tips to the newcomers, I’ve yet to hear of a club that has formalized program to teach rider safety in conjunction with a requirement that all riders complete a safety course before they are allowed to join.

This is weird because:

  1. Most cyclists suck at safety.
  2. Although cycling is safe, when shit goes sideways you can die or be catastrophically injured.
  3. There is already a fantastic educational course called Cycling Savvy that every single bike club in America can afford to have conduct classes.

The reticence to teaching cycling safety, at least among racing clubs, is that the Cycling Savvy teachers are complete dorks. They are the guys with helmet mirrors, flappy arm sleeves, uncool bikes, hairy legs and teeth, and of course none of them race. So there is a huge bias on the part of the cool kids (think junior high insecurity and vanity without the excuse of youth) against sitting down and getting schooled by people whose business it is to stay alive in traffic. It’s crazy to think that one group of dorks riding around in their underwear look down at another group of dorks riding around in their underwear, but Ah, Bartleby, ah humanity!

The benefits to instituting a club licensing program are massive. First, it tells every single person thinking about joining that nothing matters to us more than your life. Second, it tells every single person thinking about joining that we don’t care how many races you’ve won, how many watts you put out, or how many imaginary trinkets you have stored on your imaginary Strava cupboard, THAT DOESN’T MEAN YOU KNOW HOW TO RIDE SAFELY IN TRAFFIC. Think velodrome certification: They don’t care how good you think you are. Until you’ve proven you can ride on a banked track without gears or brakes, you’re not allowed to play in the sandbox.

Finally, of course, certification and licensing would begin to disseminate the life preserving skills we all need as vulnerable riders in traffic. It makes us advocates for smart riding and maybe, just maybe, decreases the number of memorial rides even by one.

END

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§ 69 Responses to Let ’em eat licenses

  • Jeff says:

    If the Klines and their Fusos will be teaching the class, sign me up.

    p.s. No one who rides a Fuso is a dork.

  • bejoneses says:

    Well said – even one Memorial ride is too many…

  • Tobylima says:

    Timely post and an excellent idea.

  • Edwin says:

    Great idea. Let us know how this goes after SCNCA has implemented this in SoCal.

    • fsethd says:

      I’m going to discuss with my club to start on a one-club basis. SCNCA has, how shall we say this, a full plate.

  • dankroboth says:

    Let’s make this happen.

  • gcziko says:

    As the resident L.A. County CyclingSavvy Instructor dork (but I used to race with less hairy legs and teeth), you should know that the online version of CyclingSavvy is now available in preview mode. Check it out at http://online.cyclingsavvy.org and make sure to see the three preview videos.

    To make it easier, here is a direct link to one of the preview videos: Hacking Traffic Flow
    http://online.cyclingsavvy.org/courses/cyclingsavvy-mastery-in-development/lectures/605517

    It may be possible to put together a special deal to allow all Big O riders access to the full online course.

  • Seth – I AM a CyclingSavvy Instructor, and I’m a Cat 2 Roadie with a USAC Level 1 License, which I’ve held since 1997, under Niederpreum, if you know who that is. You and I have spoken, directly, and I LOVE about 99% of your content. I don’t wear a rear mirror, I have a 2015 S5 with a Rotor Flow InPower and QXL Rings (Which I’ve studied for years before employing for my rides and races). I DO ride with front-and-rear blinkies, but I take the lane, follow traffic signals, and almost exclusively ride on multi-laned roads in urban areas, precisely because traffic can see me, and change lanes early.

    If anyone here wants to learn how to do it RIGHT, do it FAST (6-9hrs of combined class & on-road practice), and do it WITHOUT VITRIOL from the non-cycling public (“Those damned bikers!!”), PLEASE – Call me or anyone at CSI or ABEA and let’s get the ball rolling. Honestly, I believe that BECAUSE of our speed, we can shrink the time overall down to more like 6 hours, but that’s another discussion.

    • Edit – USAC Level 1 (Elite) COACHING License. Sorry.

    • LesB says:

      Stop signs: Full stop, or glide thru?

      • Les – As in Les Earnest, the legend? 😉 Think about it this way; does your heart still beat when your bike is stopped? Do you want to improve your jackrabbit starts and NeuroMuscular ‘liquid-to-steel’ accelerations? Try full-stop. However, simply showing intent, like that ubiquitous but becoming less-so “BRAKING” signal you give with your left arm bent 90 degrees at the elbow, pointed down, and then slowing to a crawl, and then CLEARLY exhibiting a full “LEFT-RIGHT-LEFT” head swing to observe or acknowledge other road users, goes a LONG, LONG way towards improving cyclist integration and ambassadorship.

        True story; I’ve had more than one person pull up next to me at a traffic signal and ask “What does that thing you’re doing with your arm mean?” Sigh. Now you know why cyclists think that the DMV most closely resembles bubble-gum dispensers at the entrances and exits to Wal-Mart….

      • fsethd says:

        What is this stop sign of which you speak?

    • fsethd says:

      I’ll be in touch. Thanks so much for reaching out.

  • Brian Gaskey says:

    Yes, I know it’s sounds un cool, but living in New York, I wanted to make everyone riding in Manhattan,( not Manhattan beach, which was my local beach when I grew up in the South Bay), fixes, commuters, etc. have to pass a safety course in order to ride there. As you related, you can be the most skilled bike handler but a moments lack of concentration can lead to tragedy.

    • Cherokee S. says:

      That last sentence makes cycling sound difficult. I’ve been less “on guard” after taking a cycling savvy course. More free to enjoy my commute and operate in bicycle infra as well as on regular roads with less stress.
      The other thing I’d like to point out is that it is auto driver’s responsibility to be on the lookout for pedestrians and cyclists.
      So I prefer to avoid even a hint of victim blaming. Suggesting that letting your guard down is the action which lead to a cyclists injury or demise is victim blaming. Thank you.

    • fsethd says:

      Yes. And there’s nothing uncool about, you know, being alive.

  • One more thing that Seth may have unwittingly pointed out here: By having clubs require safety certs (my ‘club’ does, though it’s only me and maybe my wife and a few Phreds), you could leverage a better deal with insurance.

    This is the HUGE elephant in the PfB and LAB conference rooms. They don’t want to talk about individual responsibility. Instead, they just want to talk about public teat projects that will segregate cyclists from motorists. But the confusion that’s created when this happens, and the INSANE, ignored expenses, make this literally unfeasible. We will NEVER be Copenhagen, and honestly, with 600’^2 apartments, 5 Euro/liter petrol, and VAT among other taxes, who would want to be? We can do better, immediately, by following Seth’s theme. I for one am trying to get a lecture approved at the next USAC Coaching Summit, so that we can bring cyclist traffic education up through the ranks of certified coaches, of whom there are almost a 1000 IIRC.

  • gcziko says:

    Here is a CyclingSavvy article with animation about what cyclists need to know about trucks. This kind of education can save lives.

    http://iamtraffic.org/resources/interactive-graphics/what-cyclists-need-to-know-about-trucks/

    • shano says:

      i had to laugh at the animation of the ‘savvy cyclist’ – nice depiction of an everyday Fantasy Island scenario. Unfortunately here in SoCal land there would be an angry Beemer dude (or dudette) sitting 6-12 inches from the trailer rigs rear bumper, road rage increasing exponentially because the truck is making them late for their Starbucks.
      Good to see that they are at least trying to get cyclists to think about positioning and what they’re doing with respect to traffic. Its a big step in the right direction

  • darelldd says:

    Yes! In fact, Hell Yes!

    And if you can pull this off, the next task will be to teach *motorists* how to navigate the roads safely. Maybe we could figure out some genuine, useful instruction and relevant testing, yeah?

    • fsethd says:

      Genuine, useful, and relevant are generally banned from this blog. But an exception might be made.

  • gcziko says:

    Looks like my first comment is stuck in “awaiting moderation” land. So let me try again.

    As the resident L.A. County CyclingSavvy Instructor dork (but I used to race with less hairy legs and teeth), you should know that the online version of CyclingSavvy is now available in preview mode. Check it out at http://online.cyclingsavvy.org and make sure to see the three preview videos.

    To make it easier, here is a direct link to one of the preview videos: Hacking Traffic Flow
    http://online.cyclingsavvy.org/courses/cyclingsavvy-mastery-in-development/lectures/605517

  • A column of comments that starts with props to Greg and Stacy Kline is a very promising turn of event.
    I’ve taught performance and survival in traffic since 1980. The elitism of ignorant racers has always been barrier I couldn’t crack. So lets work at getting some cool Jr. Hi kids certified as CSIs and help them save some lives.
    BTW, David Huntsman requires Jrs in Redlands to pass Traffic Skills 101 before they can race…. And he’s a cool racer and a real live lawyer like you, Seth.

  • The paradox of cycling traffic safety is that much of it simply comes down to judicious roadway positioning but it’s a major paradigm shift to get there from the way most cyclists ride. Paradigm shifts are tricky. That’s why courses are necessary for many.

    The good news is that Cycling Savvy is rolling out an online course. Here is a FREE sneak preview.

    http://online.cyclingsavvy.org/courses/cyclingsavvy-mastery-in-development/lectures/605517

  • Jim Baross says:

    Some of the reticence to accepting direction and/or education may be from the framing of the body of knowledge as “bicycling safety,” a very negative and limiting description.
    Raised knowledge and skill at understanding and successfully dealing with traffic dinamics brings more than safety. My traffic handling skills bring higher competence, wider choices for routes and destinations, more civilized interactions with other road users, and – when I want them – better workouts. Yes, and I’m less likely to crash too.
    The club kit, even the coolest helmets, provide less to your ability to ride competently and effectively in public roadway traffic situations than acquiring and using the accumulated body of knowledge and skills available from CyclingSavvy and/or Smart Cycling.

    • darelldd says:

      >> … helmets, provide less to your ability to ride competently and effectively in public roadway traffic situations than acquiring and using the accumulated body of knowledge and skills available from CyclingSavvy and/or Smart Cycling…. <<

      Well said, Jim (who, btw, taught my LCI seminar).
      It is important to stop talking about helmets as "safety" items. They aren't. They're survivability aids, after all safety measures have failed. Much like airbags. We can *certainly* increase the safety of our roads… as long as we don't get distracted and confused about how protective gear does not keep us "safe."

    • fsethd says:

      Yes.

  • USAC New Club of the Year GS Andiamo put its juniors through Smart Cycling in Redlands in November. It’s amazing watching them ride now, employing traffic safety skills the great majority of elite cyclists can’t or won’t use. Yes, we will “repeat the drill” at least annually, and request new members complete the course ASAP.

  • Ramon says:

    Any roadie wanting to ride hard on the road needs to know how to ride well on the road.

    Regarding the nerd vs. cool thing, it’s true. There’s a lot of ego involved. Luckily, there are a lot of instructors to choose from. You can’t go wrong with the Klines.

    You just have to decide to want to be a better cyclist and take the first step to say, “Where do I sign up?”. The instructors will take it from there and then you’ll have the choice to become one of the cool professors as well.

  • Kalos Sthenos says:

    Hey Seth – great idea. Looked into cycling savvy website immediately and see they have online courses in development. Pre-sale price only $50 for both. From their website: This is a pre-sale of our introductory course, CyclingSavvy. We’ll have this first course completed and available to you by the end of March. The second course, CyclingSavvy Mastery, should be completed by mid-May. When the complete course is launched, the price for CyclingSavvy will increase to $45, CyclingSavvy Mastery will be $65, and the bundle of the two will be $100. In the mean-time, you can watch three preview videos.

    An FYI for you. Free previews can help others accept/reject value.

    Be well, and thank you!

    Nancy Navarrette On Mon, Mar 14, 2016, 3:57 AM Cycling in the South Bay wrote:

    > fsethd posted: “The recent death of Jonathan Tansavatdi, a local South Bay > cyclist and member of my club, Big Orange, has again brutally emphasized > the vulnerability of cyclists. Although the cause and mechanics of the > collision that took his life remain unknown at this ” >

  • “It’s crazy to think that one group of dorks riding around in their underwear look down at another group of dorks riding around in their underwear, but Ah, Bartleby, ah humanity!”

    But of course that’s how it always works, whether you’re talking cycling, economics, racism, whatever. Anytime there’s unequal power dynamics, the groups at the bottom of the food chain spend as much or more time fighting each other as they do fighting the groups higher up. It’s a clever and time-honored strategy for the power group to make sure its challengers remain divided and conquered.

    – Self-admitted non-racing transportational cycling dork, ‘though I don’t use a helmet mirror. Unfortunately, my parents named me John, and I do sport a beard. Sorry. 😉

  • Here’s a link to the SoCal Cycling Savvy classes scheduled for the next few months, taught by the Orange County Bicycle Coalition’s Pete Van Nuys and Brian Cox. Sign up, learn, employ what you learn, and throw out the old habits. If kids can do it, you can do it: https://register.cyclingsavvy.org/groups/socal

  • Martin Ward says:

    Hey Seth, little confession here. I am on the board of a club in OC and sometimes I link folk to your site when safety etc might be the subject.( The folk who race in our group already follow ) We have grown quite a bit over the last three years and the old timers like me are really struggling with welcoming people while keeping it safe and disciplined at the same time. Thanks for your posts about this stuff. So very important.

  • Mario Obejas says:

    You wrote:
    “I’ve yet to hear of a club that has formalized program to teach rider safety in conjunction with a requirement that all riders complete a safety course before they are allowed to join.”

    Beach Cities Cycling Club is organized as a 501c3, which means education is what it spends its money on. We have that “formalized program to teach rider safety” and we’ve been doing it for years.

    By “formalized” I assume you mean criteria such as using training materials from a national source ( http://www.bikeleague.org/ridesmart ), slides and videos, class discussion and exercises, obstacle and emergency course drills, and road course.

    We offer safety training but we don’t make it a requirement to join. I’ll respectfully disagree with you if you believe that is a necessary entry requirement for our non-racing club. Rather than make that a barrier to entry, I’d personally rather get cyclists into the club where they will see that safety emphasis is part of the club culture on a group ride.

    We organize and conduct Cycling Safety classes with a majority of the class content coming from materials published by the League of American Bicyclists. An example: Feb 28th and March 6th we conducted parts 1 and 2 of Traffic Safety 101 aka TS101 classes using conference room space at the Beach Cities Health District and a road course in the surrounding Torrance streets. All the instructors, including me, are League Cycling Instructors (LCI) which means we had to take instructor classes to not only know the material, but also how to effectively convey it.

    Our education efforts have separate adult and youth education tracks. Sam Gengo has recently taken the reins of the adult track, and Steve Reichlin heads the youth track. The latter is a program targeted for elementary and middle school youth. We teach some of the same skills (eg, rock dodge, emergency stop) as well as Helmet fit, etc.

    Finally, we have also delved into specialized training like Rider Down classes, and we also have a specific Ride Leader training. We also offer standard First Aid classes but we get an outside person to teach that one.

    Mario Obejas
    LCI #4221

    PS:
    Full dorkiness disclosure: I utilize a handlebar mirror and don’t shave my legs. I’m happy to do century rides, Mount Wilson, San Diego, Latigo/Piume, etc, and have even beat Alex Barnes up Mount Baldy one year (and I know that will *never* ever happen again) – but no, I don’t race.

    • fsethd says:

      Thanks, Mario.

    • alexbarnes says:

      That was a fun day. I was working seriously hard trying to keep up! I learnt a lot regarding safe road riding from Mario and BCCC.

    • Sam Gengo says:

      Kudos, Mario! Well said. I could add that we’d be willing to consider a customized class for riders already familiar with cycling and emphasize traffic safety aspects. Certainly worth starting a conversation about.

      Safety is the key. And some of us instructors do shave our legs, though I haven’t yet beaten Mario on any of our climbs up Mount Baldy.

  • tphilpin says:

    Those with a modicum of skill often overestimate their knowledge / abilities. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunning–Kruger_effect

  • Matt Smith says:

    Seth, I for one am I Big O rider who would love to take part in this activity. I followed Dan Gutierez’s posts on facebook for awhile and clicked on all the Cycling Savvy links to learn as much as I can. Controlling a lane, especially in PV, can be terrifying (in terms of motorist reactions), though riding in the gutter is exponentially more so. I have noticed that, in my own personal experiences, motorists treat me better, generally, when I am occupying a lane and functioning much more like a “car.” With 300+ or however many there are Big O riders, we could really do a great deal to change perceptions and norms around the South Bay if a bunch of lizard-looking-lycrists (maybe that’s only funny to me) rode in such a proactive and predictable manner all the time.

    In short, I’m on board.

    • fsethd says:

      Lizard collectors of the world, unite. Matt, I’m working on this and will definitely get you involved.

  • RC says:

    Licensing and education are all well and good, but since most rides are “open” there will always be the possibility for the fly-in-the-ointment, relegating all efforts to the contrary. Unfortunately, the weakest link will be your common denominator. The question is how to address this weakest link:

    The encompasing problem is cultural. The solution to the problem is the re-creation of the previously existing standards of skills. The method is to create a “social epidemic”(i.e.: Gladwell’s “Tipping Point”)

    Objective observation will show you that 98.5% of todays’ “cyclists” ride like sheep. Far from riding cogently, they react to most any stimulus in panic mode. Sit at the back and observe and you’ll see this. Interestingly, this is also the key to the solution.

    Given this behavioral pattern, the fix is simple but takes diligence, and coordination:
    Post Outriders in key postions around and through the peloton. By definition, the Outriders will calm and shape the action within the bunch merely by riding with cool heads and pro-skills. Not a word needs to be said. If a novice gets out of control, the closest Outrider will single him out and privately, politely, but Very Firmly explain what he was doing that was putting everyone at risk. This way, through both silent and direct influence, the group will intuitively learn how to ride safely. This worked for decades but somehow in the last ten years it’s been forgotten. The bonus is that this will work regardless of whether or not a rider is in a local club or had any “training”, thus theoretically eliminating the wildcard factor.
    The horse is already out of the barn, so it will take time and constant grooming to bring the local peloton back to safe standards. Ideally, these safe standards will proliferate and you will have safer riders across the board. The catch is you have to find a handful of cogent, skilled riders to can show up regularly.

    This is the best bet we have at re-converting our rolling yardsales back into amateur pelotons.

  • RC says:

    Cliffnotes: The underlying import of the above missive is that if you create an environment in which riders are forced to be more cognizant of their situational awareness, you will breed safer riders across the board.

    • fsethd says:

      Well, that assumes that the teachers know what they’re talking about. Which is a massive assumption.

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