It was a conversation with Ann Mack that made me get off the dime. Ann, the executive director of Trailnet, and I were sitting on my back deck one glorious afternoon last fall, discussing our mutual passion: Bicycling in St. Louis. We who care about such matters constantly puzzle over how to encourage more people to ride. Forty percent of all U.S. auto trips are less than two miles. This distance often is traversed just as quickly on a bicycle as in a car (not to mention more joyously and healthfully, both for the person and the planet).
Both Ann and I recognized that while we had plenty of people in town working on infrastructure and trails, our city’s meager offerings for bicycle education were—let’s face it—pedantic and dull. “But there’s this program in Florida, Ann, that’s worth looking at,” I said. I ran into my house and retrieved a copy of an article from the February 2010 issue of Adventure Cycling: “Revolution in Key West: Tired of the Nerd Factor in Safety Education? A Cure is Hatching in the Deep South.” This article described a new program—CyclingSavvy—being created by Keri Caffrey and Mighk Wilson.
Their work and worldview resonated with my experience on the streets of St. Louis: Bicycling is safe. Motorists will treat you with courtesy if you do the same. Still, most St. Louisans, even those who would consider using their bicycles for transportation, don’t believe this. How could we change their minds? Whether they ride or not, how do we encourage all St. Louisans to respect cyclists’ equal rights to our roadways?
The answer always circles back to education, but what kind of education? I told Ann that I believed there was an answer being revealed in the work happening down in Florida.
“Go for it, Karen,” Ann said. “We will support you.”
OK. I was turning 50 later in the year. If not now, when?
So I spent my winter back and forth to Florida (poor me!). First I took CyclingSavvy in Orlando. This course was even more dynamic and interesting that I imagined it could be. Then I realized that we would need a co-instructor to teach CyclingSavvy in St. Louis. I enlisted my husband, another longtime bicycle commuter. I simply “had” to go back to Florida with him when he took CyclingSavvy (I got to take it a second time). We went to Orlando together for instructor training. We offered our first class in St. Louis in late April. I am still over the moon by what a powerful, useful and liberating experience CyclingSavvy offers.
I can’t wait to teach it again.