Two (more) ways to be confident on your bike

A couple of weeks ago, we brought you a few bike tips to practice on your own, straight from our City Cycling class curriculum.

This is part two – skills you can practice to get out of a dangerous situation if you ever need to. We teach them at the advanced section of our City Cycling class, called Confident City Cycling.

Come to a class to get tips from our instructors. In the meantime practice these moves on your way  to work, en route to the grocery store, heading to the block party, etc.

They’re fun and simple once you get the hang of them, but if they don’t come naturally at first – hang in there! Some of these maneuvers are counter intuitive, and they take time to get used to.

1. The quick stop. 

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Image via

This maneuver involves shifting your weight backward, which will make you stop faster. When we press both brake levers to stop, our weight naturally shifts forward. However, the more weight we apply to the rear wheel, the faster it will come to a controlled stop without skidding.

So, you’re coming to a stop sign.

A. Make sure your pedals are level:

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B. Take your butt off your seat and shift backward, toward the rear wheel (this is the part that might feel dangerous or destabilizing at first). Once you get more comfortable with parting ways with the seat, you can even try to shift your weight far enough back so that your stomach is resting on your seat.

At first it might feel like this:

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Scary, strange, but empowering, no? (Image via)

But it should look something like this:

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No speed suit required.

More importantly, see how our model’s stomach is resting on his seat, and his weight is shifted toward the rear wheel?

This will give you more stability and stopping power, whether you’re on your way to an important job interview or heading out with friends.

Best place to practice the quick stop: I like to try my hand at the weight shift on streets with lots of stop signs. For instance, 11th Street in Northwest DC is a good road to try superwoman moves on the fly.

2. The Rock Dodge

The rock dodge is exactly what it sounds like: a technique to dodge small objects that could jolt you unpleasantly, or even cause a flat tire or a crash.

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Practice quickly flicking your handlebars to the left, which will cause your body to lean to the right and bring your front wheel safely around the dangerous object. Your rear wheel should snake around the other side of the object, avoiding it entirely.

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Rock: Dodged. You: Not going to be late for an important date.

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Best place to practice the rock dodge: Plenty of streets in the DC region have lots of potholes worthy of a dodge – let us know if you find one that’s worthy of an award.

Look for more tips to be confident on your bike in this series, or come to a City Cycling class to get our take on these techniques. We’ll return with a full slate of fall classes in late August.

 

Introducing VéloCity Bicycle Cooperative, a WABA Business Member

We’ve recently introduced you to our business membership programWe debuted the program in 2012 and are steadily signing up new business members in 2014. As part of the program, we’d like to introduce you to some of our business members. Today, meet VéloCity Bicycle Cooperative

VéloCity Bicycle Cooperative is a do-it-yourself bicycle workshop and educational space in Alexandria, VA. Their mission is to educate, encourage, and empower a vibrant and inclusive cycling community through learning. They provide a non-profit, volunteer-run, educational do-it-yourself workshop offering training, rides, and events to empower all levels of cyclists in building, maintaining, and embracing the fun of bicycles. There are community rides and courses to help every level of cyclist learn more.

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Christian Meyers of VéloCity Bicycle Cooperative.

VéloCity Bicycle Cooperative depends on a large group of volunteers who spend time helping customers repairing their own bikes. The shop also sells used bikes, parts, and clothing. The shop has hosted Women & Bicycles workshops at the shop in the past. We are happy to count VéloCity Bicycle Cooperative as a business member!

Do you own, work for, or patronize a business that is a good candidate for our business membership? For just $300 or $800 per year, you can show your support for a bike-friendly region and WABA’s advocacy and get all sorts of perks, including your very own blog post! Details here.

Just Announced: 50 States & 13 Colonies Ride

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The 2014 50 States & 13 Colonies ride, WABA’s signature ride event of the year, will be held on Saturday, September 13th.

Ride registration will open on August 4th and the ride will be open to WABA Members only.

Not yet a WABA member but interested in the ride? No problem!

Join WABA today for the invitation to register for the 50 States Ride. We’ll send out an email to all WABA members on the morning of August 4th inviting them to register for the ride, so you do have to be a WABA member to receive this invitation. Additionally, when registering for the ride, the form requires you to provide your WABA Member ID number. 50 States 2011 - t-shirts for finishers

Ride participants can choose from a long and challenging 65-ish mile route that winds up and down the District on all 50 state-named streets or a shorter 15-mile route that takes you for a ride down all 13 streets named after the original colonies. All riders are invited to the post-ride celebration at Mellow Mushroom to celebrate and get their special edition 50 States & 13 Colonies ride t-shirt. Read more about the 50 States Ride here.

We’re also looking for volunteers! We need help making this event a success. Sign up to volunteer at one of the pit stops here. Or if you’re a confident cyclist and want to help lead the ride, volunteer as a Ride Marshal.

We hope to see you at the 50 States & 13 Colonies Ride!

 

 

Trail Ranger Tuesday: Introductions Part 2

A few weeks ago, we introduced some of the members of our Trail Ranger team, the crew of enthusiastic trail lovers out every day supporting the growing community of trail users in DC.   It has been a busy few weeks with events on the Anacostia Riverwalk and Suitland Parkway Trails, but we have not forgotten about the rest.  If you see us out on trail, give us a wave.

Kristina Byrne

Kristina ByrneOften following curiosity rather than a compass, Kristina Byrne enjoys getting lost, whether it’s in the woods, a story, or a good conversation. A child’s fascination with the tropical rainforest has led Kristina to a lifetime commitment to tree hugging. Her path has led through the Central American rainforest and US Government bureaucracy, restoring urban forests in Seattle and teaching English to underserved youth in Chile. Through her experiences, Kristina has become passionate about both social and environmental issues, the intersection of which has found the sometimes ironically titled field of sustainability. Frustrated at being a sustainability professional within the old boy’s club, Kristina has gotten involved with the DC poetry scene to be a part of the ongoing conversation about social issues within a diverse community of artists. Writing has helped to make her own existence more sustainable as she works on asking the question, what is the future we want to build? In addition to working with WABA, she works with poetryN.O.W. in support of young people critically engaging with the world through poetry and on the staff of Words Beats & Life: The Global Journal of Hip-Hop Culture.

Jason Horowitz

Jason HorowitzThat’s me and my two sons (Jeffrey and Aaron from left to right) on Father’s Day. For many years family and art (I am a photographic artist) have been the two main focal points of my life. Over the past four years cycling has joined them. Warned by my doctor to get in shape (“you’re not 30 anymore”), I went out to the garage, literally dusted the cobwebs off my bike and went for a ride. That first short ride rekindled my childhood love of cycling and more than 5000 miles later my doctor is happy and I am still going strong. In the last couple of years I have been on a cycling trip on the GAP trail, circumnavigated Manhattan on my bike, and ridden the DC area trails over and over. We even got rid of our car.

And now I am thrilled to be working as a WABA Trail Ranger. It’s a chance to share my love of cycling and help make DC a better, more cycle-friendly place to live and work. See you all out on the trails!


Want to meet them in person?  Join us for a community bike ride and cleanup on and around the Marvin Gaye Trail on Sunday, July 27 (Register Here). Or, sign up to keep up with the Trail Ranger team and get updates on trail events this summer.

Safety in numbers? Better believe it. Bike Ambassadors visit the 14th Street Bridge.


If you’ve read this recent journal article (PDF) on accident analysis and prevention, you’re already aware that intersections that see more than 200 bicyclists a day have a substantially lower collision rate per cyclist than intersections that are not as busy.

DC Bike Ambassadors wanted to see this for ourselves so we went down to the DC side of the 14th Street Bridge, a busy spot during commuting hours. Lo and behold, about 125 bicyclist passed us in the 30 minutes we were counting. Although we didn’t technically see 200 bicyclists, we’re fairly confident at least 75 more bicyclists rode past after we left. While we were there, we saw cars slowing down for bicyclists attempting to cross the street, cars yielding to pedestrians and bikes way ahead of time, and even motorists looking over their shoulder for bikes before merging.  It was fantastic. It was glorious.

The Bike Ambassadors set out this morning intending to cheer on bicyclists who were riding safely through a pretty busy intersection, but by the end of our pop up outreach, we were celebrating everyone who was being courteous on the road.

 

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Tip of the day: Don’t forget your helmet at home! Even when using Capital Bikeshare. Click here to find out more about proper bike helmet fitting.

Meet DC’s newest and safest bicyclists

It’s summer camp season. More specifically, for us, bike camp season. For the past two weeks, we’ve collaborated with Marie Reed Elementary School to incorporate bike education into their summer enrichment camp.

We’ve been honored to teach a bright group of first through fourth graders this July — meet the gang in the photos below.

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Balance bikes!

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Getting ready to ride.

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WABA education coordinator Daniel Hoagland leads a group of fourth graders on a ride in Adams Morgan.

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Working together to patch a flat tube.

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“My dream bike”

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“My dream bike has a rainbow that shoots out of the back wheel.”

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Introducing The Strong Law Firm, a WABA Business Member

We’ve recently introduced you to our business membership programWe debuted the program in 2012 and are steadily signing up new business members in 2014. As part of the program, we’d like to introduce you to some of our business members. Today, meet The Strong Law Firm

The Strong Law Firm is a law firm located in Falls Church, Virginia specializing in all types of personal injury law, safety violations, and bankruptcy law. The Strong Law Firm is headed by Michael Strong, a long time WABA Member and supporter. The firm also offers representation for bicyclists who have been injured in accidents.

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Michael Strong, Principal attorney at The Strong Law Firm

The Strong Law Firm was one of our first business members when we started the program over a year ago and they were quick to renew their membership this year! We are happy to count The Strong Law Firm as a business member.

Do you own, work for, or patronize a business that is a good candidate for our business membership? For just $300 or $800 per year, you can show your support for a bike-friendly region and WABA’s advocacy and get all sorts of perks, including your very own blog post! Details here.

DC Dept. of Public Works Testing Side Underrun Guards

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DC DPW is piloting side underrun guards on a few vehicles. Photo credit: DC DPW

The District Department of Public Works (DPW) is piloting a few designs of side underrun guards on a some of their large vehicles. Underrun guards are installed to limit the likelihood a bicyclist or pedestrian would be pulled underneath a vehicle when a crash occurs. DPW is testing a few different prototype designs and will be evaluating them over the coming months. There is no immediate schedule for when all vehicles would be outfitted.

The Bicycle Safety Enhancement Act of 2008 requires the Mayor to “equip all District-owned, heavy-duty vehicles side-underrun guards to prevent bicyclists, other vehicles, or pedestrians from sliding under rear wheels” (full legislation on DC Council website). WABA advocated for this law after the tragic death of Alice Swanson in Dupont Circle who was killed by a turning privately owned truck. The mandate was unfunded for a few years until 2012 at the urging of DC Council. We would like to thank DPW for working through all of the challenges to implement this element of the 2008 law and we would like to express our encouragement for full implementation.

Tiny Steps Toward Reality for Met Branch North

Image Credit: mvjantzen

Preliminary engineering and design of the northern section of the Met Branch Trail between the Fort Totten transfer station to the Tacoma Metro Station (technically called Phase 2) kicked off this month. DDOT provided this juicy news during their update at July meeting of the DC Bicycle Advisory Council (DC-BAC).  The preliminary engineering and design phase will bring the plans to 30% of complete. It’s a small but important step forward. For a sense of where this fits into the whole project, here’s a handy chart:

The engineering firm RK&K is the primary contractor on this project with the Toole Design Group as a subcontractor for trail design. A timeline of when this phase will be complete is not finalized yet.  After this work, the trail design needs to be 100% complete before a construction contract could be awarded and actual trail building to begin. All of these dates are unknown.

This is definite forward progress on the MBT. But, still no answer to Councilmember Mary Cheh famous question: “Will I be alive [when the trail is finished]?

6 ways to be more confident on your bike

At City Cycling class we teach skills to build confidence and be ready for anything the road can throw at you. We don’t have any classes scheduled during the hottest part of the summer season (the month of July and early August), but we’ll return in full force mid-way through August. In the meantime, here are six ways to build confidence on your own — and to get ready for a city cycling class in the fall.

1. Confidence = Knowledge + Experience

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She’s confident that you can be confident too! Image via pedallove.org

The more you know about riding (knowledge) and the more time you spend on a bike (experience), the better you’ll be able to handle yourself. You can find knowledge all over the internet or you can come to one of WABA’s City Cycling classes. Other options might include asking your friends or that one coworker of yours who rides everyday (you know who I’m talking about). Have a situation you’re curious about? Ask for advice on the forum or email us, we’re happy to help!

What’s more, you already have more knowledge than you think. Your experiences as a driver and a pedestrian will help you build confidence as a bicyclist. Remember the last time you drove a car or walked in the city? What did you see that made you nervous? Were you confident driving? Walking? Where did that confidence come from? And all of your biking experience is valuable, whether you were on streets, sidewalks, or trails.

Confidence gained:
Knowing that there are resources and people out there who can help. Your experience moving around the city has prepared you for biking.

2. Get ready the right way

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On the left: confident standing. On the right: wibbly-wobbly. Images via MSU Bike Fit.

Stand over your bike. No, don’t sit on the seat, just stand over the top with the seat behind you. Good. Now use a foot (whichever one you prefer) to lift a pedal up and forward until it rests at a 45-degree angle upwards. This is called the Power Pedal Position. Go ahead, put your foot up on the pedal. With your other foot flat on the ground, you should feel pretty stable (you can squeeze a brake, if that helps). This is your new ready position, remember it!

From now on, every time you come to a stop on your bike, your first priority is to put yourself back into this position so you can get moving when you need to. Move the bike between your legs and notice that you don’t move with it. You’re independently stable (and that’s a good thing)!

Confidence gained:
Knowing that if the bike wobbles, you won’t. When it’s time to go, you can simply go without fumbling for the pedal since it’s already under your foot.

3. Start with power

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This is a good start. You can even go a bit higher. Image via Fyxation.

If you’re in Power Pedal Position (see #2 above), we can jump right in. If not, go back a step and read instead of skipping ahead. All set? Good. From here, starting with confidence is easy! All you need to do is step down on the Power Pedal, using your momentum to sit up on the bike seat at the same time. But what about the other foot? Glad you asked! Since your Power Pedal foot is now at the bottom of its arc, the other pedal will be sitting right on top. You don’t even have to look for it, it’s right there. Seriously, don’t look. Trust us. Here’s a video. (via Sheldon Brown)

Confidence gained:
No more worrying about starting your bike in traffic. You can start with total confidence that you aren’t going to fall, wobble, or bump into anything.
Bonus confidence!
You look more in control and that projects confidence even when you’re not feeling it. Fake it ’til you make it!

4. Stop smart

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Stopping with both brakes together, together. Image via conflicttango.com

Your bike has two brakes, one on the front wheel and one on the back (if your bike has fewer than two brakes, don’t freak out). They’re designed to work together, so from now on use both of your brakes when you want to stop. Squeeze them gently but firmly at the same time. How firmly? Imagine you’re squeezing a ketchup bottle but you don’t want your plate covered in red. When you are almost stopped, you can slide forward off of your saddle and place a foot (either one, but not your Power Pedal foot) flat on the ground. Then reset to Power Pedal Position.

Confidence gained:
Stopping with authority gives you authority. No wibbles and wobbles means no worries.

5. Get to know your bike

Finely tuned and well-cared for. The bike's not too bad, either. Image via Business Insider.

Finely tuned and well-cared for. The bike’s not too bad, either. Image via Business Insider.

How can you be confident in your bike if you don’t know what to expect? Get to know your bike when it’s working well–immediately after a tune-up at the local bike shop would be nice. Learn how it looks, sounds and feels when it’s ship-shape: tires full of air, brakes aligned and squeal-free, chain lubricated and quiet. That way, as soon as something starts to look dirty, feel squishy or sound scrape-y, you know it’s worth paying attention to.

Confidence gained:
Knowing you can trust in your bike to get you where you need to be. Knowing which sounds/sights/feels are okay and which are warning signs.
Bonus confidence!
Being able to explain at least a little better what’s wrong at the bike shop.

6. Take a City Cycling class!

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Just a few of the folks who have gained confidence at a WABA class.

Confidence levels still a bit low? Come on out and join us at a City Cycling class! We’ll take you from zero to hero (or at least as far as you want to go in one 3-hour class). Every City Cycling class is divided into two tracks. The Intro track is for folks who want to practice the basics and bike handling, while the Confident track is for folks who want to dive into the thick of things on city streets. Both tracks will help you feel better about your riding and get the most out of your time on a bike.

Keep your eyes on our calendar; fall 2014 classes are coming soon. Or you can sign up here to be notified when new classes are available.

Confidence gained:
All of the above, and then some!