In Wisconsin in 2012, according to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, one bicyclist was injured or killed every eight hours. On Saturday in La Crosse, as part of the Driftless Region Bicycle Coalition's safety training, bicyclists learned ways to stay safe on the road, hosting the “Smart Cycling Program”.
"We tend to have learned how to ride a bicycle at an early age and yet we tend to stay locked into that mode of what we know based on where we're at at that point,” Instructor and League of American Bicyclists member Matthew Christen said.
Last year, nationally, there were 550,000 reported bike accidents—but not many of those accidents involved another vehicle. “75% of all the (bike) injuries don't involve a car or another vehicle, so a lot of them are basically from falling,” Christen said.
As bikers get older, Christen said handling, starting and stopping a bicycle doesn't progress as well for rider as much as it should, and said the class is designed to help improve these fundamentals among others. "Becoming more aware of the rules of the road, so a bicyclist fares better when they are acting like a vehicle, so they want to be predictable and visible."
Maggie McHugh, a teacher at La Crosse Design Institute, participated in Saturday's program to become certified in bike safety. "The main goal is not only for my own comfortability in biking, but making sure that my students also feel comfortable,” McHugh said. “Not just with the bike itself but with the rules of the road when they are bicyclists."
McHugh said she wants to lead her students out on bike rides in the community to improve physical activity. "I've been biking since I was a young child, but I've never really investigated the bike, the pieces of the bike before and so in order to be able to teach something to my students, I have to be a learner."
With Saturday's program, McHugh said she certainly learned quite a bit. "How to fit a bike for a student, I guess I've always been able to hop on, but as an outsider, when I need to fit my students, who are all of varying heights in middle school, I want to make sure I can do that appropriately and accurately."
Safety first may be a cliche, but it's a must for bike riders.
Christen said he teaches bike safety classes for all ages, and if interested in improving bike safety skills, contact Christen at urbanconnections.biz.