Category: Education



As I’ve done for the last several years, I worked with folks to schedule training classes for police officers. This year, they were scheduled in Alabama, Louisiana and New Jersey. The New Jersey sessions were successful; seven groups of officers, from multiple municipalities all across the state participated with great, thought-provoking ideas and discussions in each. In Alabama (one session only), the officers of one agency in a town that sees many bicyclists daily, learned a lot about how and why bicyclists and pedestrians act in certain ways, and we discussed what the law really says versus what many people think it says about the rights and duties of road users. The chief of police in that agency already wants to schedule another session. I’ll be heading back in the fall.

Louisiana, though, was a different story. Sessions in three parishes were scheduled for July. A fourth had been promising to get me and the course into their academy to work with new recruits. I was excited to be able to work in my home state since Louisiana is a focus state under the federal guidelines…that means that the number/rates of injuries and fatalities is higher than most states. Pardon my bluntness, but that means that yes, we’re doing a better job of injuring and killing road users than most other places in the country. What happened? Even with registration open for several weeks I had ZERO registrants for any of the sessions. Another region tried to get a session scheduled. We offered several dates…twice…and then (crickets). I’ve gotten radio silence from the agency that wanted me to present in their academy…

Not the response you might expect. I do understand that staffing is problematic most everywhere, and I’m asking agencies to give me several officers for a half- or a whole day. But there are requirements for continuing education anyway. How does this education not matter? Doesn’t keeping all road users safe make the list? This in a state that has FOUR of the top 50 most dangerous counties (parishes) in the entire country for bicyclists. And those four are all in one region! And in that region, we’ve been trying for three years to get agencies to participate, to no avail.

Given that, I’m not sure Louisiana will renew my grant for the next fiscal year. And that will be the worst thing, because I won’t be able to back and try again for another year. But believe me, I will try again. Because it’s too important not to try!

Two Sides of Changing a Flat

Two Sides of Changing a Flat

Which one do you want to hear first? Let’s flip a coin. Oh, it doesn’t matter because they’re both relevant.

Several years ago, the League of American Bicyclists revised the Smart Cycling curriculum. There were some things that needed to be updated. The focus before the revisions was on roadies. Spandex-clad, skinny-tired, long-distance road riders…With the revision, the whole point was to be more inclusive, with anyone pushing the pedals considered a bicyclist.

That was good, because, of course, not everyone driving a bike wants to do a century, or to race. Far more people use their bicycles for transportation and/or recreation, so the shift was appropriate.

One thing that fell off the plate left me wondering, though. The basic course taught by LCIs nationwide included basic bicycle maintenance. It included a bike check (the ABC Quick Check) designed to make sure your bike is ok before a ride. It also included brake and derailleur adjustments (that many folks may never attempt to do…). Finally, it included changing a flat.

All of those except the ABC Quick Check went away when the curriculum changed. All of those changes seemed OK to me, except…changing a flat. I, and several others, pointed out that everyone riding a bike ought to know how to do that. And…even in training to become an LCI, there was officially no requirement that someone know how to do that. We felt then, and I feel now, that there is an issue of (dare I say it) fairness, or equity, in that change?

In my experience, working with many LCIs over the years, more men than women know how to change a flat. And here’s where the two sides I mentioned earlier come in. Shouldn’t we equip all riders with that basic knowledge? Undoubtedly, some people riding bicycles will never do it themselves (bike shops will do it quickly, and at low cost). But there are some who will do it themselves, because it empowers them to take care of their vehicle, or because it frees them to go wherever/whenever without major concern. But if no one ever shows you how to do it, you’re at a disadvantage.

Here’s the other side. I’ll illustrate with a story. On a long charity ride, my (adult) daughter got a flat. Several of the men in our group jumped in to fix it. They assumed 1) she didn’t know how to do it, or 2) she would take too long. My daughter, having been taught to do it, told them all to back off (it was fun to see!). She quickly and efficiently changed the tube, and we went on.

So now we see the issues. We don’t teach people to do it, and then even if we do, we assume they can’t (or they aren’t good at it). How about we give people the skills they need, and then let them decide how to address the problem?

A giant leap…and baby steps

A giant leap…and baby steps

And so it begins. without a quote today, because I’m just going to tell you a story. About police and bikes…good news.

It’s about perseverance, and has both a giant leap and the baby steps I mentioned in the title of this post. As many of you know, I moved back to New Orleans a few years ago after spending much of my adult life in New Jersey. If you’ve read any of my early blog posts, like this one , or this one (both about law enforcement), or one about road rage, you know of my passion for trying to get everyone to play nice in the sandbox. In 2014, I talked with a couple of friends, active police officers who also ride bikes regularly. They said that officers didn’t have any better knowledge of what it means to ride a bike than anyone else!

So we decided to put together a course on how traffic law applies to bicyclists. We did, tried it out in 2014, the worked with a couple of groups, getting state grants to do the program. We’ve done it most years since then, and participation has been great. So when I moved back to Louisiana, I was all ready to jump in with both feet. That didn’t turn out the way I expected. There is no state bicycling group. I contacted the local police agency to see if we could do it here and ran into one roadblock after another. But…baby steps. I finally was able to present a “pilot” of the course in Kenner, LA. Meanwhile, though, I didn’t stop reaching out to all the names I heard. I didn’t stop calling and emailing people at the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission, either. My name was out there (maybe as that crazy bike guy who won’t stop calling)!

Finally, late one Friday, I decided to give just one more try to reach the key person…and she answered the phone. She said,”I want to talk to you!” I replied, “I’ll be in your office as soon as you give me a date and time to be there.” Long story short, I got a grant. It took 5 years. We’re now implementing the program statewide.

There are still plenty of baby steps, though. Getting the details of the course approved took quite a long time, which cut into the length of time I had to actually do the course during the year. Meeting/discussing/organizing sessions (oh yeah, with COVID thrown in the mix!!!) has been even harder than it should have been. But we’re getting there. Two sessions down, several more to go. I’m trying to do it in all regions of the state, so that I can gather a core group of people who know about it and who will champion it to others for next year.

I could keep going, but I’m not going to ask you to keep reading more right now. My next post will tell you a little bit about how it’s going so far. I’m already seeing some interesting patterns in the two sessions I’ve done. Of course, that’s just to tease you so you’ll read the next post. Don’t worry, it’s coming soon!

Another “Oops!”

Another “Oops!”

I’m sitting in a car dealership, having recall work done. The perfect opportunity to start going through stuff on the computer and cleaning things out/reorganizing/deleting, etc. In digging through the files, I find an old post on bicycle safety from 2020 (wow! pre-COVID) that I apparently never put up. But it’s worth taking a look at it. I wrote it after going on a bike ride with local police officers. And my goodness, that day, they got to experience first-hand some of the craziness that people on bicycles experience ALL. THE. TIME. So I’ll just go ahead and put this out there.

You should think about this in light of all the new bike infrastructure now being built around town. Of course, it’s meant to make roads safer for all users. The whole “Complete Streets” philosophy entails making roads safer for ALL road users, rather than just getting motorists from Point A to Point B faster (which has been the operating principle of road design for quite some time). However, motorists are saying that bicyclists “taking over my streets” and “getting in the way of traffic” and “slowing me down” are just wrong. And they’re taking it out on anyone who disagrees with them…see the road rage incidents mentioned below against bicycling groups that include police officers!!!

Read on…

At the end of January, several LCIs/ride leaders met with officers from New Orleans Police Department’s First District for a bike ride. The inspiration for the ride came when Clark Thompson spoke with Captain LeJon Roberts at a neighborhood association meeting. To Capt. Robert’s statement , “We should go for a bike ride,” Clark responded, “OK. When?”

And so last week, Clark and I, and three other LCIs (Janneke van der Molen, John Strange, Scott Verdun) led a group including about a dozen officers (including Capt Roberts) on a bike ride through the CBD during evening rush hour. Blue Bikes provided bicycles to officers who needed them. The ride included a bit of the French Quarter, Baronne St, Loyola and Tulane Avenues, Galvez, Canal, and Broad Streets, and the Lafitte Greenway/Basin Street.

The officers were split into small groups, riding in plainclothes, so as not to attract any special attention. A mere three blocks from the start of the ride, one group experienced road rage as a motorist told us to quit blocking the street (in not so friendly terms). As soon as we crossed Canal, another group encountered a taxi driver blocking the bike lane, who, when approached and asked to move, threatened the ride leader (it didn’t hurt that Capt. Roberts was in that group).

On reaching Tulane and Loyola, because on the high volume of traffic, we elected not to move to the left lane to turn onto Tulane. Instead we did a two-stage turn, crossing Loyola and Tulane, then waiting for a green light to proceed on Tulane. The light turned green and a motorist gunned it to get in front of us and turn right, almost hitting an officer in the process.

We stopped along the way to discuss what we had seen, and to alert officers to upcoming challenges. We could not have planned for a better (worse?) outcome, as several incidents brought home the reality faced by bicycle drivers every day in the Big Easy…it’s not so easy for people on bicycles. The incidents I mentioned (and others along the way) brought a new level of awareness to the officers. We leaders could see/hear the “Aha!” moments on the ride.

At least this group of officers has a better understanding of how much different roads look when you’re under your own power on two wheels, rather than in a big metal box with the power of a gasoline engine. Capt. Roberts told us that he wants everyone in the First District to experience bicycle safety (or in this case bicycle “un-safety”), and that he will bring it up as something that should be done across the city.

And by the way, the next day, officers were in front of the business where the taxi driver was blocking the lane, handing out $300 tickets.

Small steps, big results. We’ll take it.

For more about These Guys’ efforts in law enforcement, see my post Bikes and the Law or Bicycling and Traffic Law 2018.

Bikes and the law

Bikes and the law

“Is it about a bicycle?”

The Third Policeman, Flann O’Brien

No, it’s about bicycling and traffic law. I haven’t read the book from which the quote comes, but it looks fascinating, and more than a bit weird. I put it on hold at the library so I can learn what the line has to do with anything. But for now, I’m using this quote to spur me on to other thoughts.

I’m in the middle of thinking through/planning/executing a series of short videos on bicycling and traffic law. If you followed my blog for a bit, you know that working with police officers has been my “thing” for the last few years. Over the next year, I’ll have the opportunity to work with a whole new group of departments. I’ve gotten a grant to expand statewide here at home, so I’ll begin laying the groundwork now. For posts about earlier work I’ve done in this area see posts here (2018), here (2017) and here (2015).

But what’s the connection? The series of videos would be about bicycles and traffic law and directed towards bicyclists, rather than towards police officers. Because experience says that many bicyclists don’t understand the rules of the road…

Hey, that sounds familiar:

Many police officers, while they understand traffic law from the motorist’s perspective, don’t understand how that translates into traffic law while seated on a saddle. So, since I’ve developed a program that facilitates giving officers that perspective, I thought it might be a good idea to bring that to the public-at-large, too.

If will have to be a bit more general, though, since laws differ by location. I would discuss the general principles of traffic and how they might look to a person on a bike, but not get into specifics on any one state or municipality. With every state and many local governments creating their own laws under those principles, it would be impossible to do a comprehensive program.

But there’s still plenty to talk about. What are your rights and duties as a road user? What’s the deal with being a part of traffic? Do you need to follow the same rules as motorists? Can you get a ticket on a bike? How does a bicyclist’s view of the road differ from that of a motorist?

In all of this, I’ll show that it’s about the law and how, and when, it applies to people on bikes. It isn’t about a bicycle.

What do you think?



“No quote today.”

Les Leathem

OK, so I didn’t start today’s post with a bicycling quote. I guess it is a quote, though…Why no bicycling quote? Because today I’m going to talk about how I spent one weekend this month.

I was in Sarasota, Florida, working with LCI (League Cycling Instructor) candidates. These folks came to be certified in order to share their passion for bicycling with people in their communities. It was great. Dedicated people, hard at work in their communities already, who want to do an even better job of teaching others how they can use their bicycles to commute, to exercise, to travel…

The group was diverse – some young, some older. For some, a “long ride” would be 10 miles. Others wouldn’t be fully warmed up in 10 miles, on their way to the goal of a “century” ride of 100 miles. Some had a lot of experience working on bicycles; others, not so much. What they all shared was passion. Passion to share their experience with others. Passion to work to make bicycling accessible to all. Passion to teach others about the joy that bicycling can bring.

They demonstrated the ability to teach others. They demonstrated the ability to handle their bicycles in hazard drills. They demonstrated the ability to navigate roads in Sarasota – even one of which a local candidate said point-blank, “I live on that road, and I won’t ride my bicycle on it.” But ride on it he did, as did the rest of the candidates. And no, I would never take less-experienced people on bicycles down that road, but as instructors, LCIs should be able to handle higher-volume roadways. And handle it they did.

I am honored to now call many of them “colleague,” rather than “candidate.” This group of brand-new LCIs are eager to get out there and share their knowledge and experience with others. Several of them already have plans in place to work with their local clubs in upcoming classes. They are wasting no time in giving back to their communities. It’s wonderful to hear, and I am so happy I was able to meet and work with them.

I see…people

I see…people

“I want to kill a bicyclist. I want to hit one of them with my car, knock him off the road, send him spilling over the curb, tumbling out of control. I want to see the bike go flying, and then–this is my fantasy–I stop the car, get out and so do all the other drivers. They cheer me. They yell ‘hooray!’ and then they pick me up and carry me around on their shoulders.”

Richard Cohen, journalist, in Washington Post Magazine

I don’t think Mr. Cohen really means he’d like to murder someone. At least I hope not. If he does this, though, we have this in print, so we know he’s been thinking about it for a while.

Thank goodness this is not a fantasy that is prominent in most people’s minds. At least, I don’t think it is. Most people treat other people the way they’d want to be treated. Usually it’s not even done consciously. Maybe they don’t often go out of their way to help someone, but whether in big cities or small towns, in cars or on the sidewalk, there’s an acknowledgement that the people around you are just that: people. Mothers, sons, friends, daughters, and fathers. Waiters, engineers, teachers, CEOs. Poor, rich, and everything in between. There’s a dance, or an unending string of “negotiations,” if you will, among motorists, among pedestrians, and even between motorists and pedestrians.

And yet, once in a while, the humanity disappears. The dance turns ugly. We see road rage. We see hit-and-run crashes with other motorists, with pedestrians, with people riding bicycles.

Did you see what I did there? Motorists and pedestrians, more often than not, are seen as people. But “cyclists” are those whack jobs in garish outfits who have no respect for the law. They never stop at stop signs or lights and just appear in front of you out of nowhere! They insist on riding in the lane and I can’t get past them! Why don’t they get off the roads??? The dance ends. Negotiations cease. In their place, rancor. Dehumanization.

News flash: those “cyclists” are people, too. People riding bicycles. Parents, children, friends. Musicians, bus help, vice presidents. People at every level of education, society, economics. People riding for fitness. For fun. To get to work or school. To run an errand.

And, yes, some of them may be disobeying traffic law. But before you judge, look in the mirror, buddy. Do you ALWAYS come to a COMPLETE STOP before turning right on red? I didn’t think so. Do you EVER exceed the speed limit by a few miles an hour or so? Oh, yeah, I thought you did…So wait, we’re ALL scofflaws. And we’re ALL people.

Mr. Cohen’s rant takes the humanity away from those who choose to (or have no option but to) use another form of transportation. It reduces the person on a bicycle to an object. In fact, an object of disdain, to be (literally) crushed. Luckily, most people don’t share his fantasy. Most motorists are perfectly willing to coexist with other road users.

But there is ignorance out there. Many people in cars don’t really understand how to behave around bicyclists. And some people on bikes don’t play nice. We need to better inform EVERYONE of his or her rights and duties. Better behavior can happen, but we really are talking about a change in the culture.

In one sense, it’s an enormous change. It’s moving from a car-centric view of the world to one that sees roads as a means to facilitate movement from one place to another for all who wish/need to use them. Looking at it another way, though, it’s not so big. It’s just looking AT, not THROUGH, people, and remembering that we all have the right to move about in society, in whatever way we choose.

Support. And Freedom.

Support. And Freedom.

“The hardest part of raising a child is teaching them to ride bicycles. A shaky child on a bicycle for the first time needs both support and freedom. The realization that this is what the child will always need can hit hard.” – Sloan Wilsonjournalist


What an analogy! It’s hard to add to that, but I’ll ramble on nonetheless. Those of you who have children or work with them know that this is a pretty good summation of the way things work with kids. In reality, that’s a pretty good summation of any relationship. Every human interaction involves some level of support and freedom.

OK, my head just exploded. With our children, we move from more to less support and at the same time, increasing freedom. In our other relationships, do we perhaps move from less to more support, but with freedom redefined? Redefined, perhaps, as the freedom to leave (not all relationships with others grow!) becoming the freedom to stay (some relationships grow into lifetime choices of friendship and/or love).

But back to the bike. What’s so hard after learning to ride? Once we’ve gotten the support to balance it, we figure we’re free. And done with learning.

A lot of kids give up the bicycle when they begin driving cars, trading one means of transportation for another. The lure of the automobile – speed, comfort, ease of use – crowds out other options. And they forget what it was like to be out there, on two wheels. They forget the freedom, the sense of flight, that feeling the wind brings. They forget the euphoria of coasting downhill.

That’s when it gets hard again. Not hard to “ride the bike,” because one never forgets how to ride…umm, balance a bike, but hard because the innocence and invincibility of childhood fades. Adult life interferes. And so, too, does fear. Many people never take up riding again because they are frightened. Of falling. Of cars. Of roads. Of hills. Of rocks. Of…

And that’s where support comes in again. There is always more to learn, and confidence to build. Because in learning more, we realize (discover) that we can have better control over what happens.

  • Learning emergency maneuvers lets me react better in dangerous situations.
  • Learning about traffic principles shows me how to be interact with other drivers.
  • Learning more about descending hills makes me able to do it more safely.

You get my drift?

So keep learning. There are plenty of resources out there for you. I have some of them on my links page. Support and freedom. Not just for our children – for all of us.

The day my eyes opened

The day my eyes opened

“I had been familiar with that street for years, and supposed it was dead level: But it was not, as the bicycle now informed me to my surprise. The bicycle, in the hands of a novice, is as alert and acute as a spirit-level in the detecting and vanishing shades of difference in these matters. It notices a rise where your untrained eye would not observe that one existed.”
Mark Twain, Taming the Bicycle

Yeah. That. The things you see, and learn, when you ride a bike:

The way the road rises and falls, and makes you work harder to keep going…it’s the kind of thing you can’t appreciate, or even notice, when driving a car. The slight turn to the left that keeps you from seeing the next intersection…and when you were in your car, you thought it was a perfectly straight road. Those seemingly tiny imperfections in the road surface when you’re in a car, that loom large against the narrow tires of a road bike.

Your perception changes. The way you see things becomes somehow a bit more…granular? Precise? Detailed?

Another, much more significant, change in perception for me occurred right after I took a basic course in bicycle riding. It was the League of American Bicyclists’ Traffic Skills 101. I took it along with a friend; both of us wanted to become instructors, and the TS101 course was a prerequisite. We both wondered on our drive to the course: We’ve been riding bikes for years. We’ve done short rides, long rides, rides for fun, rides for charity, week-long rides…you name it. What can we learn in this course?

We learned that our way of looking at riding changed. Yes, the course went through some basics (much of which we knew at least as well as the instructors), but then made us rethink our relationship with other drivers. We gained the confidence to DRIVE our bicycles. We learned that the more confidence we showed on the road, the more respect we got as road users! And we learned some skills that would serve us well in avoiding the mistakes of other drivers.

I find, too, that the way I drive a car has changed. The increased awareness of the road, of other road users, of the need to communicate and negotiate with other drivers (on 2, 3, 4 wheels or more) all play into an increased presence of mind when I’m driving.

Try it. I challenge you to get on a bike and drive it. See if it changes you, just a little bit…



I just got back from a multi-day trip to Seattle, WA. A beautiful, friendly place. We thoroughly enjoyed so much of the city: the parks, the food, the Market…the list goes on. Seattle is also one of the most bicycle-friendly cities in the country. Bikes are everywhere. Bike racks are available just about everyplace you visit. Parking garages routinely have bike corrals/bike parking.

We also experienced, for the first time, a number of different types of bicycle accommodations: protected bike lanes, two-way bike lanes on one-way streets, separate signals for bicycle drivers, two-stage left-turn boxes…most of which are not available where we live. Multi-modal transportation is encouraged: bike racks on buses, acceptance of bikes carried onto light rail. In spite of all this, though, I left feeling ambivalent about bicycle infrastructure.

In many ways, it seemed a great idea. The availability of all these accommodations may be a part of the reason the place is so bicycle-friendly…or may be the result. I can’t say which is causal. Perhaps neither is.

I also saw a lot of bad bicycle driving: Wrong-way riding (and no, not just in the contraflow bike lanes!). Bicyclists ignoring red lights. Roadies speeding through intersections and almost hitting pedestrians who had the right of way.

As in many citites, there’s a bike-share program. Like in New York, lots of bikes available in the downtown area, and in heavily-touristed areas, and not so many (or no availability) in areas where people could use them for transportation.

So from my long-weekend-length impression, I’m left with the feeling that there’s so much potential for amazing things. Cities like Seattle have gone so much further than most. But we’ve still got a long way to go. Bicycles can do so much for us: for our bodies, for our minds, for our economies, for our cities, for our planet.

We still need to educate people about how to drive their bicycles. We need to educate city planners/engineers about how to create efficient and safe infrastructure. We need to educate motorists about how to share the road. We need to educate pedestrians about how to negotiate the newer types of infrastructure that are being created.

In short, we need to educate.

Theme: Elation by Kaira.