BikeArlington Team Completes LCI Training!

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Last weekend, the BikeArlington team surrendered our Friday night, Saturday and Sunday for the sake of bike safety. We attended a 3 day League Cycling Instructor (LCI) training seminar so we could be certified by the League of American Bicyclists (the League) to instruct others on bicycle safety. For those of you who haven’t heard of the League before, here’s some quick background info: they aren’t new, in fact, they have been around since 1880! They were founded in an effort to improve riding conditions.  Today, their efforts for improved riding conditions continue but have evolved from paving gravel and dirt roads, to implementing bicycle infrastructure into a city or town. Since 1970, they have expanded their efforts to include the education program we recently attended.  Here’s a recap from one of the BikeArlington employees’ perspective.

Day 1

There were 14 people who dedicated their weekend to bike safety and there were only 5 of us who represented a local jurisdiction (i.e. Arlington, DC & Montgomery County). The rest of the crew made long journeys to get there (the seminars were held at the Rails to Trails office in Foggy Bottom). 2 students came from PA, one from Media near Philly and one from smack in the middle (State College). 3 people hailed from a not so distant neighbor, Frederick, MD, and 3 others from different regions of VA – Harrisonburg and Blacksburg! We had only one student who made the epic journey from Farmville, NC (yes that’s the actual name of the town), which to give you an idea is just under a 5 hour car ride…without traffic.  It’s also worth mentioning that the class was exactly 50% female – this is very encouraging because as was stated in a great article about Women bikers [broken link removed 08-24-2015] women are a good indicator of a healthy community, so "The more you see women riding bikes and families riding bikes, the more you can be pretty well-assured you’re in a safe, healthy, livable community."

We started our weekend-long seminar discussing our ideas of “best practice” teaching skills. Body language cropped up as a common theme in all of our discussions as a clear indicator of poor and good teaching skills – specifically eye contact and an open hand and body stance were favorable skills to master.  So we kept that in mind for the next 2 days when we had to utilize these skills.

Day 2

The rest of our weekend consisted of student led presentations and on-bike drills. The presentations were less about assessing our knowledge of the material and more about assessing our ability to convey the knowledge in an easily understandable manner (but of course we had to know the material well in order to teach it).  After each presentation the “instructor” received two open comments from the audience – what they did well and what they could improve upon, and they also received evaluation forms from the other students that covered more detailed aspects of their teaching skills. The presentation itself was a great opportunity to practice teaching the material, but I personally got the most out of watching other presentations and from the feedback. When I’m presenting I’m not completely in tune to how my audience is receiving the information so it was very valuable to have everyone basically tell me whether my teaching style reached out to them in a good way or not. It was also useful for the on-bike sessions which thankfully got us outside and, well, on our bikes!

The on-bike sessions are designed for instructing bike handling, hazard avoidance and road riding. We were divided into groups of 3-4 where we would take turns setting up a drill, we would explain why it is important, instruct how to do the drill and finally demonstrate the drill (hopefully sans problem). I found this to be the most valuable portion of the seminar because it allowed us to refine our teaching methods by learning from how our teammates instructed the drill, receiving their feedback on how we taught it, and by simply repeating the whole process a few times. The reiterations of each drill seemed unnecessary at the time, but on game day (i.e. Day 3, evaluations) , they allowed us to focus on the most important aspects of the drill without referring to our note cards, and we were able to accurately demonstrate the drill.  Before this, the “quick turn” drill was problematic for me. This drill requires the biker to turn instantly in case, for instance, a car turns right in front of them and there isn’t enough time to execute a “quick stop” (yet another hazard avoidance drill). What was causing me issues was the drastic lean required, not to mention the counter-intuitive twitch of the handlebars before actually turning in the other direction. But after several repetitions of the drills, I learned that you can get pretty parallel to the ground before the bike actually gives (but for the purpose of the class, you don’t want to demonstrate face planting in front of your students).  I just so happen to have a picture of me beautifully (if I do say so myself) executing the turn.

Look at that lean.

On top of the handling and hazard avoidance drills that we performed in an empty parking lot, we had a road course where we demonstrated our ability to lead a group of riders through various road conditions – narrow lanes, wide lanes, right/left turn only lanes, multiple lane intersections, ride outs, etc. This was interesting because while we, the instructors, feel confident and comfortable riding in traffic and through busy intersections, we had to remember that the students probably aren’t on our level and may experience some hesitation riding next to 2 ton pieces of metal (read: cars).

So the whole idea of the class is to get people to our level so this drill required the most attention – attention to how the student performed in the road, guidance of where to turn and reminders of where to position themselves in the lane if they forget, AND words of encouragement and reassurance if any reluctance is seen. I felt very lucky to have such a great group who all exemplified superb teaching skills – they both verbalized their directions well and gave words of encouragement that would give any novice biker the courage to pedal on!

Night Ride

A memorable moment of the LCI training was the night ride! Visibility in the dark is one of the most important elements to safe cycling, and one that many bikers fail at. So we, as LCI-to-be’s, not only need to set an example to others while we’re riding, but we also want to be visible ourselves. So we all got geared up – put on our neon and reflective jackets/vests/straps and clicked on our lights (some of us had 5 rear lights alone) – and we made our way to the parking lot where our visibility would be assessed by the group.

Check out a cool video of everyone all geared and lit up!!

Day 3

So needless to say after several presentations, several drills and countless pedal revolutions we faced the LCI panel where we were granted our certificate. Well actually, we aren’t certified just yet…all students must first attend 2 safety courses with another LCI before we are awarded the venerable title and number. I don’t know about everyone else, but I’m really anxious to get my LCI number.

But while one person sat in an enclosed room with the LCI panel, the rest of us exchanged cordial conversations about, you guessed it, biking. There were several students who were affiliated with universities where they plan to proliferate their newly gained knowledge and skills amongst the campuses. Others had backgrounds in marketing, psychology, urban design, planning and sustainability where biking and instructing safe biking are a perfect fit.

Thank you to everyone who was involved in the LCI Training Seminar!  It was a very valuable experience and I know we’ll all be using our skills as soon as possible :o)

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