From left to right above: Gwyn Harvey, Karen Karabell (LAB Cycling Instructor assisting), Dr. “Kit” Jenkins, Eli Karabell, Harold Karabell, Kathy Greminger, Evan Haas, LAB instructor Martin Pion, John Maxwell and Ferguson Councilman Dwayne James
The above photo was taken after the lunch break at the Whistle Stop in downtown Ferguson. The large class of eight students meant I needed an assistant following the last student during the on-road ride and I’m very grateful to Karen Karabell for stepping in to help at short notice.
Historical note: The building is the restored former Ferguson train station which now serves food and frozen custard, as well as housing a museum detailing the city’s early days, with photos of some of its numerous Century Homes.The class initially gathered at my home on Manor Lane, Ferguson, roughly a mile north of the Whistle Stop, for a number of preliminaries, including bike adjustments and running through the pre-ride ABC Quick Check, to ensure that participant’s bikes were in basic working order, i.e. tires inflated to correct pressure, brakes working, crank arms tight on spindle, and quick releases secured.
We also practiced the preferred start-stop technique and emergency braking on my quiet cul-de-sac before setting off for the large parking lot opposite January-Wabash Park to practice bike handling techniques, including the shoulder scan to check for following traffic, and the “rock dodge,” which is a very useful crash avoidance technique for avoiding rocks and potholes.
We then set off on a route through the quiet residential back roads of Ferguson to learn the “cyclist’s U-turn” and practice priority drills at two intersections, one being a two-way stop and the other, on a busier road, being a four-way stop.
The original route I mapped out, including a longish downtown section, proved to be too ambitious for a 4-hour course, and had to be shortened significantly, although it still included practice at the busy Florissant Rd./Airport-Hereford Rd. junction, and lane control in downtown Ferguson.
In fact, after returning to my home at the end of the ride, class participants agreed on a 30 minute extension in order to include a puncture repair demonstration to conclude the course.
I concluded that in order to adequately cover the original route and other basics the course should be a minimum of 6 hours.
A number of students were good enough to provide anonymous written feedback after the course. Here are their responses:
1. The information covered was understandable and useful:
Cyclist Development/Bicycle Maintenance/Bicycle Gearing/Traffic Skills/Road Riding Environments
Most gave the above a 5 or a 6 out of 6 (Excellent). The exceptions were:
Bicycle Maintenance: 4 out of 6 gave it a “4”
Bicycle Gearing: 1 out of 6 gave it a “4”
2. The instructor was knowledgeable and helpful:
Demonstrations/Classroom topics/Maintenance/On-road instruction/Answering my questions
Most gave the above a 5 or a 6 out of 6 (Excellent). The exception was:
Bicycle Maintenance: 2 out of 6 gave it a “4”
3. Do you feel more confident about riding in traffic than before taking this course?
All chose “Yes.”
4. Do you plan to bicycle more in the future than you did before taking this course?
All chose “Yes.”
5. Was the total number of course hours: Too long ___ Too short _2_ About right _4_
The totals are entered above.
The next two questions were about the Student Notebook, which wasn’t used in this short course with no formal classroom time.
8. Would you recommend this course to a friend?
The six who responded wrote “Yes” and most added comments:
“Great intro to on-road cycling.”
“More confidence in cycling.”
“Outstanding advice for on-road riding!”
“Useful, helpful info; good method to improve bike riding skills; excellent riding experience.”
9. What did you find the most useful and helpful about this course?
“Confidence about how to relate to lanes – whether to share or take control.”
“4-left turn/U turn exercise.”
“More confidence in cycling.”
“5′ rule for the “door zone;” emergency move to avoid potholes.” “Various riding exercises.”
10. How could the course be made better?
“I was completely satisfied.”
“More in-depth discussion on lane control vs. lane sharing.”
“Less time spent on ABC Quick Check at the beginning would allow for more on-road time. At least 2 bathroom stops are recommended as well!”
“Stick to class time parameters; include handouts; suggest pen/paper for note taking; have all items for demo or example assembled and at the ready.”
This last was a valid criticism: I kept thinking of additional things to discuss and would pop into my garage to get items and return with them. This was definitely not consistent with good preparation.
My thanks to all those who participated in the course and for your helpful feedback. Thanks also to Harold Karabell for urging me to offer this shorter course via the St. Louis Regional Bicycle Federation. And a special “Thank you!” to LCI Karen Karabell for her invaluable help at very short notice.