Over the last weekend, I took part in the LAB‘s Traffic Skills 101 course. The league describes the course as:
Gives cyclists the confidence they need to ride safely and legally in traffic or on the trail. The course covers bicycle safety checks, fixing a flat, on-bike skills and crash avoidance techniques and includes a student manual. Recommended for adults and children above age fourteen, this fast-paced, nine-hour course prepares cyclists for a full understanding of vehicular cycling.
I found the course quite interesting and useful. It is a rare situation when you get cyclists together from all walks of life. We had a man about my age there who didn’t even own his own bicycle – he borrowed his friend’s Huffy. We also had a few cyclists who had done some amazing road rides such as the Triple Bypass. We had a director from the local bike advocacy group there – as a participant! – as well as other people from various advocacy groups.
As for the actual course content, it was a mix of discussing the local traffic laws, bicycle maintenance and vehicular cycling. Despite the description above, there was very little trail discussion.
The “classroom” discussions were kinda dry and boring. Involved talking about local traffic laws (such as Colorado’s Three Feet law), types of crashes and how to avoid them, and the ever interesting discussion on bicycle clothing (*yawn*).
The fun came with the part where you actually sit on the saddle. We started out in a parking lot where the instructors had placed halves of tennis balls in various configurations.
The first exercise was the quick stop maneuver. Easy enough, simple pull on the brakes, the front harder than the rear, and slide your ass back off the saddle as far as you can.
Second exercise was a quick turn. We approached the turn, and just right before the turn, flipped the handlebars to the left, then punched it to the right. This made for a very high speed right turn. Perfect for avoiding those right hooks.
Third exercise was a rock dodge. Simple, just flick the handlebars in either direction to avoid the rock and with some miracle of physics, the front wheel goes on one side of the rock and the rear goes on the other side.
The final exercise was the funnest. Involved going through a slalom at varying speeds and varying “tightness”. Helps you get a feel for how the bike handles with just leaning. The tough part was to make it through the slalom without turning the handlebars at all. Doable, but very difficult.
Then came the road course. We took off on a few (of like a billion) of Aurora’s high speed arterial roads. Even involved a bit of a six lane road with 45mph speed limit. Using proper Vehicular Cycling techniques, one can easily ride on these roads without too much headache. The one big advantage we had was being a group. Its hard to miss eight cyclists in one big long line.
We maybe spent a total of 15 minutes on a local bike path. This is understandable. IMO, a bike path is easy to ride. The biggest rules are keep it slow and yield to pedestrians. Its also nice if you keep right and announce your passes (please, please, please announce your passes).
Do I think TS101 is a necessary course? Oh god no. However, if you live in neighborhood where your local road opens up to a high speed arterial and you’ve had too many close calls on them sidewalks, you might wanna look into it. It may give you the confidence and necessary knowledge to handle it safely.
(Disclaimer: This does not mean I’ve become one of the John Forester, anti-bicycling facilities maniacs. I’m still all for well designed infrastructure for cyclists, including bike lanes, sharrows, bike paths, separated bike tracks, bike boulevards, etc)