Thursday, September 15

Cycling Savvy in the Parking Lot

Here, I reported on the classroom session of cycling savvy. Sunday morning, we collected for parking lot instruction. This is very similar to the parking lot session of the LAB Traffic 101 course. As a practical matter, it is almost IDENTICAL to the LAB Traffic 101 course parking lot session. Come to think of it, it has most of the SAME problems that the LAB Traffic 101 course parking lot sessions have. As a result, I’ll simply criticize both and compliment both as one body. IMO, most of the differences could just as easily be instructor-to-instructor variation.

Waco Moore and Chandra Look Relaxed, Neither Yet Knew About the Ants in the Dirt to Waco's Right Where My Bike (and helmet) are Parked
In both cases, the purpose of these drills are to build basic bike handling skills and to build student confidence in things like “looking behind to see if some car is going to squish you if you make that lane change you are contemplating.” Of course, rather than the wordy version, this is called a “head check” or a “scan.” Things start out showing us how to start out how to get on the bike and start out. That sounds pretty simple, but cyclists accumulate bad habits. Gail Spann, for example, caught me doing sloppy starts in my LCI Seminar that might cause problems for some riders. She even took photos, but I seem unable to find the link just now, so you'll have to do without examples of Steve riding badly. You might similarly suffer from bad habits that make things simpler for what you’re doing daily. I think the operative phrase is “do as I say, not as I do.” In the parking lot, bad habits get corrected and good habits get stronger. Why else would you spend all morning riding around in a single, empty parking lot?

From starting out, we advanced to practice shifting gears, and thence to turning, head checks, riding slowly, and we wound up practicing emergency maneuvers. Most of these drills are identical between the two courses. That really should not be a surprise, because the physics are independent of what course is being taught. Duh. One difference that I actually found a little disappointing was the "snail race." While Chandra proved once again that he is slower than me, I wonder if a better variant with stronger traffic application might be "how long can you take to go a single foot?" Same general idea, but staying behind a stop line without putting a foot down is something I do every day in traffic. I rarely try to go 20 feet (or whatever the length of the snail race was) as slowly as possible. In all fairness, if I had a brilliant alternative, you'd be reading about it here. Some things are simply BORING until someone comes along with the brilliant alternative everyone else wishes they'd thought of. Keri or Waco might well come up with that alternative some day, but it wasn't in Sunday's parking lot drills.

Keri Caffrey Chalks Out What Might Create a Need for an Emergency Turn, Referred to as an "Instant Turn" Soon, There Were Cones and Sponges
Sponges in the Rock Dodge Course - Nice Unless it Got Windy
On a personal basis, I found it interesting that Cycling Savvy used sponges to mark off the drill course, while the Traffic 101 courses I’ve experienced have used cut up tennis balls. Sponges seem like a good idea – AS LONG as it doesn’t get windy. I haven’t seen it done in person, but an idea I recently heard on the "LCI Mailing List" that seems better than EITHER approach is to simply cut up a colored bath mat and use it. Bath mats make less of a bump to a bike wheel running one over than a tennis ball, but they would not be caught so easily by the wind as a sponge. Yup, I’m a bike school geek!

One problem common to BOTH programs is that instructors seem to have problems holding the students to a precise schedule. I suspect the students are not as "parking lot schedule aware" as the instructors. Note to myself: try the "train and station" approach. I’d hoped that somehow, Cycling Savvy’s new approach would have found a miracle solution, but miracles are not always to be found. Well, at least it made things no worse in that regard, and a more rigid student limit kept things more manageable for two instructors.

Students Focus on the Instruction, but They Still Make Holding to the Time Schedule a Challenge
Honestly, Waco and Keri Did Pretty Good, Though All but One of the Students Was Pretty Good About Time
(and no, I wasn't the scofflaw, at least I don't THINK I was the scofflaw)
Students About to Discover the Ants. You'll Note My Helmet and Bike Were No Longer There, Only My Water Bottle


John Romeo Alpha said...

Oh crap, there's even a right way to start? Is my start sloppy? If I'm standing in a parking lot alone does it matter if I start sloppy?

Steve A said...

JRA, be VERY scared if Gail Spann is anywhere in the State and has a camera. You might find the photos in Facebook with embarrassing captions in balloons above your head. It was payback for my observation that her van had a lot of bumper stickers and it is well known that motorists with bumper stickers tend to be aggressive towards cyclists and honk a lot.

I also did a couple of sloppy starts in Cycling Savvy. Fortunately, either the instructors were looking in the other direction or were too polite to ping me.

The PROPER way to start out is how you probably start when you depart from a stop sign or traffic signal. One foot down and the other in "the power position." Wrong ways are to treat the bike as a scooter or to hop on board like you are in a cowboy movie. These last two are bad habits that the combination of clipless pedals and a load of stuff you are taking to work encourage. Nobody does this on a stepthrough frame.

Gail P. Spann said...

I do not honk a lot. Sheesh.

Steve A said...

Gail, perhaps your vehicle will show up in a future "myth" installment. In my own experience, it is mainly OU bumper stickers on big red pickups that induce aggressive motorist behavior. In contrast, Chandra's "My Dog is Smarter than Your Honor Student" doesn't seem to make him all snarly.

Michael said...

Looks like a wide selection cycles and cyclists took the course. Nice to see that.

I got inspired by all this bike safety stuff yesterday and practiced a few emergency stops. Almost went over the bars once, but got it nailed down after a few more tries.

Gail said...

My vehicle never gets lost in a parking lot, it won't be the one stolen either, too noticeable. I have CARBK for a plate, and bicycle stuff galore. ( my husband has CARUP, by the way). Okay, I do admit to honking, but pretty much only at people emptying their ashtrays out their windows in front of me. And if I see George Hincapie, I WOULD honk for him.

Steve A said...

Michael nailed a major reason to practice emergency stops in a parking lot - you get that boundary between a short stop and disaster dialed in so you get to talk about it if you ever have to do it for real. I am fortunate that I have never had to do it for real and I can now (usually) even do it in practice without falling over. I am still scared to practice the maneuver without a spotter.

Steve A said...

It seems imprudent at this point to mention ANY facts regarding Gail, honking, or yelling other than to note none of my bikes have either windshields OR ashtrays. I will also state that Gail has not honked at any cyclists in my presence this summer. In all seriousness, Gail is a sweet lady that has good humor. What's more "this summer" does not really state she has EVER honked at any cyclist. One might as well inquire if she has stopped beating hubby yet. Which raises a whole other question.

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