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Active Trans Hopes to Create New Bike Commuters With City Cycling Classes

Former Active Trans cycling instructor Dave "Mr Bike" Glowacz teaches a class on Elston. Photo: Active Trans

To help coax the key “Interested but Concerned” demographic to try urban bike commuting, the Active Transportation Alliance is launching a monthly series of City Cycling classes at its downtown headquarters, 9 West Hubbard.

“To be honest, I wish something like this had existed back in 2006 when I moved to Chicago from Grand Rapids, Michigan,” said Active Trans membership manager Kevin Dekkinga. “I hadn’t touched a bike since high school, so I was riding down big streets like North Avenue, simply because I didn’t know better. I would have definitely appreciated some help if it had been offered.”

The series will be taught from 9 a.m. to noon on the second Saturday of each month, from May through December, with upcoming classes on May 9, June 13, July 11 and August 8. Each session is a complete tutorial (i.e., no need to attend the class more than once), featuring 90-minutes of discussion followed by 90 minutes of on-bicycle training. It’s open to participants 14 or older – those age 14 to 17 must have written permission from a parent or guardian. Register for the class here.

The fee is $15 for Active Trans members or $50 for non-members, which includes a one-year membership. “That gets you discounts at 120 local businesses, as well as a discount on a Divvy membership, so it’s easy to make it pay for itself,” Dekkinga said. The $50 fee could be a barrier to many Chicagoans who would benefit from learning to safely ride on city streets, but Dekkinga said Active Trans may look into offering scholarships in the future.

Dekkinga and Active Trans education specialist Jason Jenkins, both League of American Bicyclists-certified cycling instructors, will lead the class. Course material includes rules of the road, selecting a good commuter bike, correct helmet fit, techniques for navigating intersections, and strategies for avoiding crashes.

Attendees will learn basic maintenance skills, such as the “ABC Quick Check” -- making sure that there’s Air in the tires, the Brakes are working, the Chain is lubed, and the Quick-release levers are engaged – plus flat fixes. The instructors will also share commuting tips and tricks, such as how to dress for the weather, pick low-stress routes, and keep from getting “doored” by motorists.

The in-the-saddle portion will take place in downtown parking lots and streets. However, Dekkinga said the danger level should be low on these thoroughfares, since downtown is relatively quiet on Saturday mornings.

“I’m excited that we’re going to be helping people on a one-to-one basis,” he said. “Many of our peer organizations in other cities hold similar classes, but Active Trans hasn’t done any adult bike classes during the six years I’ve been working here. I’m looking forward to meeting the class participants and sharing the exhilaration and enjoyment I still get out of biking to work in Chicago ten years later.”

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