It’s been nearly a year now since I bought my bike from Kickstand Community Bike Shop. I rode pretty steadily through the summer and into the fall, but crumbled when the weather turned cold. I didn’t want to walk outside, let alone bike. By spring my tires were flat, pump lost and muscles deteriorated.
A couple of weeks ago I learned that Jay Snyder, a volunteer for I Bike Knx, was leading a class entitled “Urban Biking 101,” and I figured I’d be able to learn a bit about riding around the city and tell you guys about it. When I expressed interest I learned that the only class scheduled was for that evening. My bluff was called.
I spent a couple of hours trying to talk myself out of it. I didn’t have a pump, though Kelley Segars, head of I Bike Knx, told me she’d meet me downtown and loan me one. I told myself I couldn’t buy a pump downtown and grumbled about that until I remembered that, of course, I could. So I walked to Tennessee Valley Bikes on Magnolia, plunked down my money for a very nice pump, walked it home and changed my plans for the evening.
The class started from Three Rivers Market, which is about a mile-and-a-half from my house. Too ashamed to throw my bike in the back of the Prius and drive there, I rode out Central via the Old City. It’s relatively flat, which meant there were only two hills which nearly killed me – especially the one beside Hops and Hollers, where I ardently hoped no one stopped drinking long enough to watch me being passed by bored snails on my way up that one.
I found my classmates, including Lee Ensign and Rick Fung, at an outdoor table. Instructor Jay Snyder handed out materials and talked us through what to expect. He made sure we had helmets and pointed out that bright colors are the best choice for bike safety. Of course they wore respectively light yellow, bright yellow and red while I sported my usual black. I lost points before we mounted our bikes.
The course, planned by Kelley Segars, followed about as flat a trajectory as possible in the city, routing us out Central, through Emory Place to Gay, down Gay to Clinch, across to the World’s Fair Park and back, down to Main via Locust and through to Gay Street where we headed back. In all it was about a four mile loop with the emphasis on a variety of intersections and traffic situations. Instruction was peppered throughout the ride and a debriefing followed once we arrived back at Three Rivers Market. It’s very helpful for us re-beginners.
The purpose of I Bike Knx, which is the public side of the Knoxville Regional Bicycle Program – a subsidiary of the Knoxville Regional Transportation Planning Organization – is five-fold: to educate the public about cycling, to encourage more cycling, to provide engineering support to cyclists (bike racks, better bike paths, safer roads for cyclists), to help law enforcement understand cycling issues and to evaluate needs and programs.
Many efforts support these wide ranging goals, including these classes. The idea behind them is to help nervous cyclists become more confident by both knowing more and giving it a try with someone along to make sure its safe. The classes cost $15 and will be provided for individuals as well as groups. Interested? Contact Kelley Segars.
Kelley also speaks to all driver’s education classes throughout the county, focusing on educating new drivers to properly coexist with cyclists while, hopefully, encouraging some of them to continue cycling or to become cyclists themselves. With the traditional rarity of cyclists on the roads in our area many drivers simply do not know how to work with them to keep everyone safe.
Other activities sponsored by I Bike Knx to encourage cycling include the Tour de Lights each December. It’s a great example of a large group of cyclists having fun while becoming, in many cases, more comfortable biking on the roads. Of course, the more people biking, the more drivers who become comfortable with them – and maybe they begin to realize that every cyclist represents an empty parking space in the city and one less car to back them up on the roads. Also shown here is the I Bike Knx-sponsored local observance of National Bike to Work Day.
Of course there are other groups, both formal and informal who are encouraging cycling. The Bikes and Blooms excursions sponsored by Outdoor Knoxfest and the Dogwood Arts Festival were very popular this year. Various local pubs sponsor bike rides ending with a beer shared by cyclists. There are a number of local bike clubs carrying the banner, as well.
So, get a bike, if you don’t have one. Take a class, find a group or just get out on the road and start re-connecting with that kid you used to be who enjoyed the thrill of gliding down the road on a bike. You’ll improve your health, preserve our environment and maybe encourage the next person to mount up.