Within a few short hours, a man who hasn’t been on a bicycle since he was a child rides with ease on one of America’s ridiculously auto-centric bridges.
How is this possible?
It happens because of how events unfold in a CyclingSavvy workshop. Once we bust myths[note]That roads are for cars. That bicycling is dangerous. That you need to be “strong & fearless” to take your rightful place on our public roadways.[/note] and bring our participants’ bike handling skills up to speed,[note]This happens in CyclingSavvy’s fast-paced parking lot session, Train Your Bike.[/note] they can ride anywhere.
At least that’s the theory.
There were times we had our doubts whether this would work with Gael Boucka of Allentown, PA. It’s fair to say that his wife, Jennifer Swann, pretty much dragged him earlier this month to eastern Pennsylvania’s inaugural CyclingSavvy workshop.
Jennifer is an avid cyclist who serves on the board of Lehigh Valley’s Coalition for Appropriate Transportation. Gael agreed to attend Friday evening’s classroom session, where no bikes were needed. But would he come back Saturday for the on-bike sessions? He’d wait and see. He hadn’t ridden a bicycle in 44 years! After all that time, he wasn’t sure he could even balance on two wheels.
Instructor John Schubert and I were delighted when Gael came back Saturday morning.
Then we saw that he wasn’t kidding.
Gael could barely keep his bike upright. He’d need one-on-one help. Meanwhile we had 11 other students and a schedule to keep.
We were incredibly fortunate to have expert cyclists with us that day. Gary Madine, a League Cycling Instructor, worked tirelessly with Gael, while Scott Slingerland, executive director of the Coalition for Appropriate Transportation, quickly dispatched mechanical issues. Justin McMurtry, a CyclingSavvy instructor candidate from Houston, was on hand to observe and help wherever he could.
We were also incredibly fortunate to have Gael. What a trooper! He never gave up, and he’s a fast learner.
Gael is a PhD candidate in comparative and international education at Lehigh University. He’s a teacher by profession. Like the best teachers, he’s a learner at heart. While I worked mainly with our other participants, every time I looked at Gael working with Gary or John across the parking lot, I could clearly see his progress.
Still, toward the end of the session John pulled me aside. “Do you think Gael’ll be able to join us on the Tour of Bethlehem?” he asked.
This was a big question. Safety is first on a CyclingSavvy road tour. We take people on the road only if we’re reasonably certain they’ll be able to ride safely and follow instructions.
“He’ll be fine,” I responded. “Just make sure he’s right up front with you and glued to your side.”
Gael was delighted when he heard he’d be in the catbird seat. After lunch, we were on our way.
A CyclingSavvy Tour is unlike any other experience. We intentionally send our participants through challenging road configurations. We do this to eliminate barriers to bicycling.
We want to give you the knowledge and tools to feel as comfortable using your bicycle as you are using your car.
More Kodak moments from Bethlehem here.
And Gael? After what he accomplished in his CyclingSavvy workshop, he can ride anywhere with Jennifer. He is indeed a savvy cyclist.