Safety First by Maria Sipin

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Image: Shereef Moustafa

In November 2012, nine women completed the League of American Bicyclists League Cycling (LCI) Instructor seminar in Long Beach, California. With scholarships provided by Women on Bikes SoCal, this is the first time a class was hosted for women only.

This is a significant milestone for women in the bicycling community and those who are interested in taking their bikes on the road. Having more women as instructors will influence more women to ride bikes and create a positive impact on communities and bike culture in general. Apart from advocating for more women on bikes, the nine of us who completed the seminar share the objective of teaching more people about safely and responsibly riding a bike.

For anyone interested in teaching, read on.

The seminar prepares LCI candidates who have experience with road cycling to become effective teachers on the subject. For many of us, teaching biking basics or road rules was unfamiliar territory. The course, taught by LCI trainer Jennifer Laurita of New Jersey, led us through an instructor’s boot camp. She covered everything from public speaking tips to mastering the Traffic Skills curriculum and incorporating teaching aides for various learning styles.

The LCI training is intense, but not impossible.

I never thought I would be teaching people to ride bikes. I don’t consider myself a hardcore cyclist, but I have a passion for biking and influencing others to do the same. After taking a free class in Traffic Skills 101 in Long Beach and Santa Monica, I wanted to take the next step. I pursued the LCI seminar thanks to a scholarship from Women on Bikes SoCal, and I now have my sights set on offering Traffic Skills 101 in my area of Los Angeles County where classes are rare.

This journey wasn’t easy. I doubted myself during the process, and it started with challenges signing up for the Traffic Skills 101 pre-requisite class, completing the written pre-test before the deadline two weeks before the seminar, and collaborating with one of the other women on a teaching assignment to present to the group a week before. With a short time frame to complete these tasks (in between something I like to call “life” and everything else is going on), it was a little stressful.

Thankfully, the other women could relate, and we talked it out, rode it out, and gained a lot from this somewhat grueling experience. When the classroom lessons got heavy, the road exercises balanced things out. We were students for a weekend with different strengths and needs and we’ll need to keep this in mind as we have students of our own.

My story is just one of nine. Hear from my LCI seminar classmates about their plans as LCIs and advice for people interested in the seminar:

Krista Leaders, Long Beach resident, plans to teach Street Savvy Bicycling with Charlie Gandy, California Bicycle Coalition board member. Leaders would like to be able to work with kids who participate in the monthly Kidical Mass Bixby Knolls.

Leaders says, “The most valuable thing I learned was to take apart what I do intuitively as a cyclist in traffic and break it down into manageable elements that can be taught.”

“The best way someone can prepare for the LCI certification is to be devoted to riding your bike. Having many opportunities to practice what it means to be a vehicular cyclist will make the information understandable.”

Bernadette McKeever, who has experience running a successful bicycling advocacy organization in Long Beach, will co-teach Traffic Skills 101 at Cal State Long Beach and volunteer with Sustainable Streets in Santa Monica. She would like to teach her own classes soon.

McKeever says, “If you are interested in participating in LCI training with the League, I would recommend you ride A LOT prior to joining the seminar, and ride with other confident rule abiding riders. The class consists of many on-the-road riding skills. If you are not confident riding in traffic, like a motorist, then I recommend waiting until you are.”

“The most valuable element I took away from the LCI training was how to become a better instructor. Aside from the technical elements of what we are to teach students as LCI's, we were taught how to be a good instructor. A big thanks to Jennifer Laurita, our LCI coach, for giving me invaluable tools for becoming a better teacher!”

Elizabeth Williams, Cali Bike Tours president, wants to help more people receive the benefits of biking.

Williams said in her interview on KPFK’s Bike Talk, “I talk about bike riding all the time and I’ve noticed over the years that there’s this huge gap in biking with underserved communities. So one of my missions is to close that gap, to build a bridge to biking in underserved communities.”

Jessica Alexander, Long Beach resident, will also be teaching Street Savvy Bicycling with Leaders and Gandy, and Traffic Skills 101 with McKeever at Cal State Long Beach.

About Maria Sipin

Maria Sipin an advocate for walking, biking, and transit. She is a longtime resident of San Gabriel Valley and Cal Poly Pomona alum. As a League Cycling Instructor and health communications specialist, she promotes active living and is dedicated to educating youth in underserved communities. She collaborates with the Division of Adolescent Medicine at Children's Hospital Los Angeles to develop life skills workshops supporting youth interests. In her spare time, she works as a transit tour guide in Downtown Los Angeles.