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“So You Think You Know How to Ride a Bike?”

The above was the title chosen by Patty Vinyard, who was Executive Director of the St. Louis Regional Bicycle Federation until last month.

Martin Pion & Patty Vinyard during a bike education ride lunch break at the Whistle Stop, Ferguson, on June 18, 2006

Patty wrote a glowing report in the organization’s publication, The Cue Sheet, of a bike ed. course I conducted which she attended back in 2006 (please see below). Recently, Patty reiterated her support for the bike ed. courses I was offering exclusively to Bike Fed. members this year when she sent me an e-mail in which she wrote:

Date:  August 6, 2010 3:26:28 PM CDT

Hi Martin,

I ride my bike confidently just about anywhere because you taught me how to do it.

Use that as a quote in your promotions if you want and attribute it to me. It’s true and I’ll stand behind it.

Patty has now taken a job with Big Shark Bicycle Co., and I hope the skills she learned and practiced continue to be helpful in her new career.

Here’s Patty’s 2006 article from The Cue Sheet:

Class members from our June 18 on bike session: Bob Foster, (assisting LCI), Martin Pion (instructor), Kevin Pierce (Vinyard), Patty Vinyard, Mark Karnowski, Jackson Pierce (Vinyard), Alex Karabell, Gabe Karabell, Karen Karabell, and Dan Kleypas. (click photo repeatedly to enlarge)

So You Think You Know How to Ride a Bike?
by Patty Vinyard

When I signed up for Martin Pion’s BIKERight bicycling education course I really didn’t know what to expect. After all, I learned how to ride a bike when I was about five.

         Thanks to the City of Ferguson, aided by a grant from the Federal Highways Administration, Martin Pion is currently offering an expanded version of the League of American Bicyclists (LAB) Road I course free to anyone in the St. Louis metropolitan area. I decided to sign up and see what it was about.

         So what’s to learn other than balancing while pedaling, right? Plenty. There are many misconceptions about cycling that Martin laid to rest with his first presentation. For instance, the more you travel by bicycle the fewer accidents per mile you are likely to have. In other words, you can reduce risk through experience, but the quickest way to achieve that proficiency and knowledge is through an organized course like this one.

         A major fear is being hit by a car from behind but in reality most cyclist crashes involve no other vehicle but are caused by things like road surface hazards. Where motor vehicles are involved, car-bike crashes are mainly due to turning or crossing movements. Sidewalk or wrong-way cycling is also a major contributor.

         The Effective Cycling video we watched illustrated accident avoidance techniques and lane positioning at intersections. Martin showed us safety equipment and tools that he carries when he rides and even gave each of us free mini toe clips for our pedals, which improve safety and efficiency.

July 8 on-bike session with (left to right) Jeff Jackson (assisting), Bob Foster (assisting LCI), Glenda Wuertenberg, Al Mahnken, Mickey Smith, Christy Jackson, and Karen Karabell. Road I certificates were awarded to Mickey, Christy (holding certificates) and Karen. All participants received free safety vests.
Photo by Martin Pion (click photo to enlarge)

         After the classroom sessions we had two four-hour sessions of on-bike instruction, starting on a large parking lot in Ferguson. We got instruction on bike fit and the ABCQuick Check, and practiced the basics as well as advanced bike handling techniques. These included the preferred way to start and stop (and I thought I knew that!), scanning behind while riding in a straight line, rock dodge, quick stop, and the instant turn. We had a slow riding race – the last person over the finish line wins. All skills you need for safe cycling.

         Then it was off to ride in the lovely tree-lined streets of Ferguson, assisted by Bob Foster or Russ Willis, Bike Fed. board members and newly-minted LAB Cycling Instructors.

         They were watching us put into practice our new knowledge, providing feedback as we rode. We practiced the cyclist’s U-turn and multiple left turns – first on quiet streets, then on busier roads. While out riding on the sometimes hilly landscape I finally figured out, with Martin’s help, how to use my gears.

         My friend, Karen Karabell, Bike Fed Chair, took the class with me and had this to say: “Tell everyone you know to run, don’t walk, to sign up for Martin Pion’s free bicycle safety classes. I consider myself an experienced cyclist who is careful about sharing the road and following its rules for use. But I’ve learned new things, and the confidence boost is immeasurable. Martin is a fan of John Forester, who says, “Cyclists fare best when they act and are treated as drivers of vehicles.”

         I am now a fan of Forester, too, but I’m an even bigger fan of Martin Pion. Thanks to Martin, now I really know a great deal more about how to ride a bike.

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