Apr 092012
Authors: Rick Price

What are we going to do about the price of fuel and this car culture we’ve built? We have enough automobiles in the U.S. today to put the entire population of the country in the front seat of all our cars. With 313 million people and 255 million passenger vehicles, we could even add all residents of Canada (35 M) and Mexico (114 M) in our front seats with room to spare.

Something like 1.5 percent of the U.S. population rides a bike regularly. In Copenhagen, on the other hand, 68 percent of the population rides a bike once a week, 55 percent of school children bike to school regularly, and 35 percent of the population rides to work or shopping regularly. In Fort Collins, we estimate that 25 percent of morning traffic is parents driving kids to their school of choice. Last week, I taught bicycle safety in PE classes at O’Dea Core Knowledge Elementary School. About 25 percent kids biked to school while 75 percent came by car.

We don’t really know how many people prefer to bike instead of use their car. In Fort Collins, though various numbers over the years report that something between 8 and 13 percent of adults bicycle to work. And a survey taken several years ago showed 14,000 people cycling daily to CSU campus. That’s on a good day, I presume.

Whatever the numbers, there is no doubt that CSU students and staff have a huge impact on bicycling in Fort Collins every day, probably more than any other easily identified group. Whether it is bicycling to campus, to Old Town for fun or shopping, to Bike-in-Movies in the fall, or just to explore our multi-use trails, the 35,000-or-so CSU affiliates impact our transportation infrastructure considerably.

Fort Collins has made a concerted effort over the last three decades to make this one of the best college bicycle towns in the nation. CSU, to give credit where due, recently installed 14,000 new bike racks but continues to prohibit east-west bicycle transportation through its pedestrian core (why not make the Newton sculpture on Pitkin a round-about for bicycles “when no pedestrians are present.”)

Maybe it’s time for the CSU population to give something back to the community for the great bicycling infrastructure all around campus. The city is struggling to implement its Bicycle Safety Education Plan. Components of the plan include educational outreach to school children, CSU students, motorists, senior citizens and more. The goal is to make Fort Collins one of the safest bicycle communities in the nation.

The Bike Co-op has a small group of volunteers who teach safe cycling skills to kids from kindergarten through 8th grade. If this program is going to be sustainable over time, and if we are going to reach 11,000 school children annually, we need help.

So here’s an idea: Talk with your campus residence hall group, sorority or fraternity, or ASCSU and start a core smart cycling group dedicated to community outreach for safer cycling.

To help, you’ll need one four-hour class in Bicycling 123 for youth skills. I will teach the same class most Saturday afternoons through mid-May. If you take this class, you will do double duty by learning to be a safe cyclist while acquiring skills to teach kids. You will learn how to ride safely on the road yourself, and you will learn when children are ready to ride in the street. You’ll learn how to do a bicycle safety check and fit a helmet. We teach basic bicycle handling skills for kids, including mounting, dismounting, starting, stopping, straight line riding and rules of the road. We talk about how crashes happen and how to avoid them. And we provide instruction on the rules for riding on the sidewalk compared to the street.

Learn to teach these topics, and you’ll be a safer cyclist. You would also qualify for hourly employment with the Bike Co-op and with summer bike camps like those operated by the city’s parks and Recreation Department. And if you can find the time, you can volunteer in the schools to help us reach those 11,000 kids every year.

For details on the train-the-trainer classes visit http://fcbikecoop.org/programs/education/index.php. There is no charge for the class, and you need attend only one four-hour session. Parents (and grandparents!) with school age children are encouraged to attend.

Rick Price, Ph.D., is a League of American Bicyclist cycling instructor and the safe cycling coordinator for the Bike Co-op. Contact him at education@fcbikecoop.org.

 Posted by at 3:13 pm

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