The weekend after Hurricane Sandy, a few eager bicyclists gathered in an old Firemen’s Training Facility in Baltimore, Md., ready to sharpen their skills, boost their teaching know-how and become the latest class of League Cycling Instructors. I had the pleasure of joining this elite force as we learned the ropes from one of the nation’s top LCI coachs: Jennifer Laurita.
LCI seminars are held periodically throughout the year to initiate instructors on how to best serve their communities as resources for bicycle safety. Certified instructors teach Smart Cycling classes to children and adults, as well as spread what we all know already: Safe cycling is the most enjoyable way to get around town. Becoming a League member and taking a Traffic Skills 101 are the only prerequisites for participating in the LCI seminar.
For our group, Laurita was an amazing seminar instructor. Not only did she drive down Hurricane Sandy-battered roadways just for our class, but she kept us upbeat all weekend in the huge and chilly training facility. And, man, was she knowledgeable. Though one of the youngest coaches currently, Laurita answered each question with a confidence and poise that most of us in class could only dream of. Her presentation was not only professional but also disarming, allowing the class to tackle and question some concerns we had about being LCIs. If Laurita is ever in your town, makes sure you take whatever she’s offering.
The seminar class was made up a nice cross section of interests. From the staff of the fast growing Bike Maryland advocacy group to a doctor looking to get more women involved in cycling, there was a great variation of voices at the table. We even had gold medalist Marla Streb in our midst learning how to transfer her ability to navigate a jagged mountain at 40+ miles per hour to teaching the members of her Baltimore community on how to navigate rush hour as a confident city cyclist.
“Having been a cyclist for over 20 years as a professional racer and coaching for 16 of those 20, I thought I knew it all,” she told me. “But evidently I was wrong! I was humbled when I realized just because I can ride a bike, it doesn’t mean I can effectively teach the League’s rules of the road or the importance of wearing a helmet to every eager cyclist that comes along… I thought we could teach our ABC Quick Checks by droning with a bi-colored PowerPoint. But instead we learned we should engage our future audiences with creative sing-a-longs or track-stands on the desk.”
The Seminar covered various aspects of the League’s Smart Cycling program, including instruction on Traffic Skills 101 and 201. However, the largest benefits didn’t come from ABC Quick Checks or mastering the Emergency Quick Turn- which is not an easy skill to master! It came from learning how to teach a class full of eager (or not-so-eager) people how to become safe and confident cyclists. I learned, for instance, that if I want students to learn how to adjust their brakes, maybe, just maybe, it could be helpful to not block their viewpoint with my body. We all came away with some great personal development suggestions to make us effective instructors, as well as a deeper understanding of how to make our way around a bike and various bike facilities.
“This was one of the best ‘Train the Trainer’ programs I’ve participated in,” said local advocate, Joe Piette. “What a comprehensive, well-organized curriculum! The instruction included an in depth presentation of learning styles and the demonstration of style appropriate teaching techniques.”
I can report that at the end of our three-day mission we left no cyclist behind and all our class participants were given recommendation to become LCIs. All of us left the seminar grateful for the opportunity to learn skills that not only apply to life on a bike but life in general. Rest assured the streets of Maryland will be safer. But don’t take my word for it, listen to an expert!
“Passion, knowledge, professionalism, energetic: All words that can describe the newest class of League Cycling Instructors,” Laurita said. “Every once in a while, I get just the perfect mix of candidates in class that brings cycling education to a new level, and this was the case with our most recent seminar in Baltimore. Despite the difficulties of putting on a seminar while everyone was still very much in the middle of the Hurricane Sandy disaster, we had a fantastic and impressive seminar filled with learning, development, and kinetic energy for future cycling classes to be held in and around Baltimore in the upcoming months. I am so proud to be associated with such wonderful instructors and am eagerly waiting to hear how all their new and existing programs continue to develop in partnership with the League’s vehicular cycling initiatives.”
Coach Laurita is part of a group that is even more elite than our graduating LCI class. She is one of 17 LCI coaches nationally certified to “train the trainers” on how to administer the League’s Smart Cycling program nationally. If that seems like a low number, we agree; that’s why the League has initiated a call for more current LCI’s to become coaches. If you’re interested in becoming an LCI coach or even just an LCI please contact our Education Director Alissa Simcox (Alissa@bikeleague.org) for more info.
Hamzat SaniHamzat joined the League in September 2012 after working with the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition. Before working in biking, Hamzat worked with Martin Luther King Jr.’s son as a Program Associate at The King Center in Atlanta. A founder of the Red, Bike and Green chapter in Atlanta, Hamzat sees biking as a hub for change on the communal level.
Equity and Outreach Fellow