CyclingSavvy in Southern Maine

Welcome to the Southern Maine section of Cycling Savvy! This site will provide you with the latest information on our progress in bringing this great traffic cycling curriculum to Southern Maine. You can subscribe to our local news feed and calendar and contact me.

We are just about to schedule our first class, a Train Your Bike session, perfect for people getting back on their bikes who may be unsure of their bike handling skills. This will soon be followed by a classroom session and the Tour of Portland on-road session.

What is Cycling Savvy? It is a new cycling curriculum geared especially to the intown adult rider who wants to use his or her bike for transportation as much as possible. Our motto is “Empowerment for Unlimited Travel.” The curriculum is designed to show students simple strategies to eliminate barriers to their bicycle travel, and ride with ease and confidence in places they might never have thought possible. The object of the course is not to turn people into road warriors. Being a confident, competent cyclist has nothing to do with speed or bravado. You don’t need either of those things to have access to the entire transportation grid.

A few words about me, if I may. First and foremost, I’m not an athlete. I wouldn’t have called myself a cyclist before I started riding my bike to work in 2002. My reasons for riding to work initially had more to do with the environment and politics than fitness and sport. Since then, however, I’ve found that I do enjoy it, and being more in shape is a great side effect! I own very little cycling-specific clothing, because I can get away without it on my 5-mile each way commute, most of the year. (Cycling-specific clothing has its place, just not necessarily as required gear for the short-distance transportationalist.)

When I began cycling to work, I didn’t know anyone else who did it, and had very little idea how to do it. I had a vague sense that I was supposed to ride on the right, with traffic, and follow the same rules, but that’s it. Initially through self-education on the Internet, I learned about the “vehicular cycling” philosophy, which on the one hand seemed like common sense, but on the other, has accumulated a lot of cultural baggage. I was surprised to learn that there was controversy in some circles over bike lanes, which I had never thought much about before. However, since there were no bike lanes on my commuting route (and still aren’t), I simply learned to ride with traffic, at first tentatively and then, in more recent years, more assertively and confidently.

After a few years, I wanted to become more active in the bicycle community, and got my feet wet helping to lead an effort, with Andy Greif of the Community Bicycle Center in Biddeford, to collect and send several  hundred used bikes to East Biloxi, MS, in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. That was my introduction to many of the local bike advocates with whom I still work today, including those as at the Bicycle Coalition of Maine, where I am now a Board member. I got interested in the advocacy and encouragement end of things, and joined the Portland Bicycle Pedestrian Committee. I also took what was then called Road I (now Traffic Skills 101) from the League of American Bicyclists, and several years later, decided to become a League Cycling Instructor (LCI) with the same organization.

My emphasis at this point is almost entirely on cyclist education. On my way to this place, my computer programmer’s brain became interested in the traffic engineering side of the infrastructure questions; I studied up on standards and operational issues, and continue to informally advise on infrastructure matters to the Portland Bike Network Committee. But those who work with me know that I have strong reservations about paint as the sole answer to the problems bicyclists face on the roads.

Without getting into all that here, I’ll just say that prefer to take the more positive approach of being for something rather than against something (with a few exceptions like door zone bike lanes), which brought me to Cycling Savvy. I believe strongly in the equality of bicyclists in the transportation system, and in the effectiveness of confident bicycle driving for getting everywhere you need to go, regardless of the presence or lack of special bicycle infrastructure, which will never go everywhere you need it to go anyway. What I am for is educating cyclists to empower themselves today to ride confidently anywhere for transportation. By teaching and promoting Cycling Savvy, I am putting my money where my mouth is and doing something about it.

Please join us! Take a class! It could change the way you look at your bicycle, not to mention your place on the road.

1 reply
  1. Diane Lawton
    Diane Lawton says:

    I took the first southern Maine classes this weekend and loved it. Interesting, informative and fun. I was looking for something active and outdoors but not super athletic. I bought a bike last summer and am wanting to use it more. John is a great instructor. I learned a lot that will serve me well, got motivated to be on my bike more regularly, met some nice people and learned of other opportunities for bicycling fun that I plan to pursue. Thanks! Diane


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