CyclingSavvy: A Course for All Cyclists, Novices to Veterans

I don’t think there are too many people in the world that have more experience with different kinds of cycling (recreational, commuting, touring and racing) in different parts of the world (five continents) than I have. Growing up in New York City, my first cycling adventure was around the block in Queens where I encountered my first cycling conflict: my parents insisted I ride on the sidewalk but mean Mr. Quinlan around the corner would yell at me to get off “his” sidewalk and ride in the street. As a young teenager I rode all over the New York metropolitan area on my bike, including frequent trips over the Queensborough Bridge into Manhattan and crossings of Staten Island on the way to visit my cousins in New Jersey.

At the age of 18 I set off to see the U.S. on my 1969 Peugeot PX-10 (which I still have and use!), starting in New York City and finishing eight weeks later on the Oregon Coast. The following year I cycled from London to Budapest to Amsterdam with more European adventures the following two summers and a Paris-to-Salzburg bicycling honeymoon with my wife in 1976 followed by a tour of the Canadian Maritime Provinces in 1978 on our new Jack Taylor tandem.

Settling in Champaign-Urbana (IL) in 1979 and soon with two young children, I started riding with local riders on the flat but often windy roads of central Illinois. When the kids grew up, I devoted more time to riding and spent several years doing road, mountain bike and even a bit of cyclecross racing in my 40s. A fair amount of international travel provided me with the opportunity to cycle on five continents (including South America and Asia), with Beijing being easily the most fascinating city I have ever explored by bicycle.

Retiring from the University of Illinois at the end of 2007, I wanted to use my new free time to improve conditions for cyclists in Champaign-Urbana and Champaign County. This included serving on the Urbana Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Commission and working with Champaign County Bikes of which I became chair in 2010. Looking for the best cycling education materials I could find, I discovered CyclingSavvy on the web and was immediately impressed.

When CyclingSavvy came to the midwest in April and June 2011, I took both the Three-Part Course and the Instructors’ Course in St. Louis. I believe that I learned more in these few months about cycling safely and comfortably in traffic than I had learned from my previous 50 or so years of cycling. And now as a CyclingSavvy Instructor, I am very keen to share what I have learned with other cyclists. I am convinced that no matter how much (or little) experience you have cycling, whether novice or veteran, CyclingSavvy will have a profoundly positive impact on your life if you intend to spend any of it pedaling on public roadways.

CyclingSavvy is still a young program with its roots in Florida and just beginning its infancy in Illinois. I am currently the only Cycling Savvy Instructor (CSI) in Illinois and plans to offer courses have still to be made. Because two instructors are needed for the Train Your Bike and Street Tour parts of the course, the 3-hour classroom Truth and Techniques of Traffic Cycling will be the first CyclingSavvy instruction to be offered in Illinois. Stay tuned to the Illinois CyclingSavvy blog and our Facebook page for information on upcoming courses.


About the author

I am professor emeritus of educational psychology at the University of Illinois interested in encouraging cycling and improving conditions for cycling in Champaign-Urbana (IL) and Champaign County. I have done extensive touring and commuting and some racing during more than 50 years of cycling. In January 2011 I became a League Cycling Instructor (#3050) and in June 2011 became a CyclingSavvy instructor, the first in Illinois. I am very pleased to be able to offer the first CyclingSavvy courses in Illinois.

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  • Thanks for the great praise, Gary.

    Keri and I didn’t approach the development of what became CyclingSavvy with the thought of “We have all these great ideas to share with cyclists.” Instead, we were focused on changing student beliefs and doing a better job of delivering concepts which were already being presented through other programs.

    In searching for better ways to illustrate ideas and to overcome common student fears, we learned a ton of new things ourselves.

    It’s said one learns more by teaching than by being a student. I think one can expand that to: one learns more by developing a new curriculum than by teaching.

    • I think we learned even more by developing a training program to teach instructors to teach the curriculum. I know that was a huge leap for me. I’ve learned a lot of new teaching techniques and ways to frame and explain things from our instructor candidates, as well. I also learn something from students every time I teach.

      Great post Gary! We’re delighted to have you to bring CyclingSavvy to Illinois!

    • Gary Cziko

      While most of the concepts and techniques of CyclingSavvy are not original, some are, such as “control and release,” waiting for a green light to make a right turn when entering a busy street and using the left side of a lane on busy multi-lane roads for better visibility earlier lane changes by motorists. With more instructors and cyclists familiar with CyclingSavvy principles and techniques, I suspect that more novel techniques will continue to be added.

      • Yes. The strategy content is unique as well… reading traffic flow and understanding how your position (choice of lane as well as position in the lane) influences it. I can’t speak to EC, but there’s nothing like that in the LAB courses.

        The ultimate power though, is in the deliberate breaking of control myths — freeing students to see possibility to know they can find an easy strategy to handle roads or intersections which most consider to be barriers.

  • Gary, what a great essay. Thank you so much!

  • Gary, are you involved at all in Bicycle Illinois 2011, seeing that it has a stop in Champaign? I am not, but I was wondering if you would be in the Chicago area anytime soon.