“Nobody ever died from not knowing how to play flag football. Yet we spend tax money teaching kids its nuances in gym classes, while bicycle safety is still foreign to most school curriculums. That ain’t right.”
– Don Cuerdon, cycling writer
I was at a drivers’ education symposium last year, representing a state advocacy/education organization. We were interested to talk with attendees, almost all physical education teachers who handle Driver Education. Our organization offers Smart Cycling, the bicycle curriculum of the League of American Bicyclists. Using the League’s curricula, a number of “off-the-shelf” programs are available, and using those same curricula, we can also tailor a program to meet specific needs.
I was extremely disappointed in the responses we heard. I’m paraphrasing, but here’s the gist of what we heard: “Nice idea, but we don’t have time to fit any more in the curriculum.” “We have all we can handle just getting through the material on driving a car.” “Just about all the kids know how to ride a bike.”
Likewise, some of the other exhibitors with whom we spoke were less than enthusiastic about partnering to talk about bike safety. “Get us a grant to talk about it and we will.” I realize that funding drives a lot of initiatives, but really?
As the writer of the quote said above, “That ain’t right.” The teachers are too busy talking about other things, so there’s no time to talk about behavior that may save lives. Other organizations are talking about pedestrian and motorcycle safety, but won’t add bicycling safety without additional funding.
We weren’t talking about a course in bicycle handling, although we certainly would have been happy to do so. We were talking to them about incorporating awareness of bicyclists as legitimate road users. We wanted to discuss teaching students how to drive alongside bicyclists and what it means to “Share the Road.” We wanted to share a systematic approach to make their students aware that bicyclists have all the duties…and rights…of a motorist, and that motorists need to be aware that their choice of transportation mode does not give them special privileges. But no.
We’ve continued the effort, nonetheless. We crafted a lesson plan for a “Share the Road with Bicyclists” day and made it available on the state’s Driver Education website. We’ve rewritten all the sections of the state drivers’ manual and commercial drivers’ license manuals that apply to bicycles, and submitted those edits to the state DOT for consideration. It is our hope that those manuals will include our edits when they are printed again….
One step at a time, one step at a time.