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CDOT is launching free “Learn to Ride” bike classes for adults and children

4:18 PM CDT on May 26, 2023

A previous Chicago “Learn to Ride” class. Photo: CDOT

One popular soon-to-be returning program from the Chicago Department of Transportation is "Learn to Ride," which offers adults and children info on how to safely get around by bicycle. The classes are led by ambassadors from Streets Are for Everybody, a CDOT transportation outreach and engagement team. According to SAFE Ambassadors manager Angel Montalvo, they launched Learn to Ride program about five years ago.

"There's never been a better time to ride a bike in Chicago," said CDOT Commissioner Gia Biagi in a statement. "Along with expanding and improving Chicago's bikeway network, CDOT is committed to making cycling an accessible and convenient option for everyone, no matter your age or experience level. Our Learn to Ride program is a great way to gain confidence and learn new skills, whether you've never been on a bike or haven't ridden in a long time." Divvy bike-share cycles are available for use participants who do not bring their own bikes.

Learn to Ride classes for adults will put students into three different classes based on their skill level, experience, and comfortableness with riding a bicycle, according to the following explanation from CDOT:

    • Beginner Learn to Ride for people who don't know how to ride a bike yet, as well as those who learned long ago and would benefit from a refresher course. Classes are taught on a car-free course. 
    • Skill-Builder Learn to Ride for people who have completed the beginner course and those who already have basic riding experience on their own. These lessons support the development of skills such as signaling, turning, and interacting with other people biking or walking. The Skill-Builder class will also provide instruction to help riders preparing to bike on city streets. This class will also be conducted on a car-free course.   
    • Road Ride, the third Learn to Ride class offered this summer, features SAFE Ambassadors leading students on city streets to help them experience everyday situations and build confidence. Topics covered include how to plan routes to your destination, the different types of bike lanes, and how to position yourself on the street in various traffic situations. The course is designed to help Chicagoans expand their understanding of how to travel by bike all over the city. 
A previous "Learn to Ride" class. Photo: CDOT
A previous Chicago "Learn to Ride" class. Photo: CDOT

The Learn to Ride classes will be available at four different Chicago Park District locations.

Beginner and Skill-Builder classes will be held at Washington Park, 5531 S. King Dr; McKinley Park at 2210 W. Pershing Rd.; and Piotrowski Park at 4247 W. 31st St.

Meanwhile, Seward Park, 375 W. Elm St., will host the above Road Ride in addition to Beginner and Skill-Builder classes.

In addition, the SAFE Ambassadors are also teaming up with the Chicago Park District to offer "Kids Learn to Ride" an idea that Montalvo came up with a year ago. He realizing that some children wouldn't easily learn to ride when surrounded by adults. Montalvo decided to do the kid's program a little differently by having younger staffer instruct the children.

"My understanding is that kids don't have the patience for their parents, and parents don't have patience for their kids," Montalvo told Streetsblog. "So it becomes uncomfortable for them to learn because of the impatience that the parents or their grandparents have. They don't understand how to teach them, and they become very frustrated. So we have our [teachers] who are 16, 17 years old, we got [students] who are six or seven years old who are learning how to ride, and they can look to this younger person as a peer, as one of them, and they feel connected." The teens will teach the younger kids various aspects of cycling for about six weeks, including bike safety, helmet wearing, locking up their bikes. Older kids will also be taught how to use a Chicago Bike Map.

The Learn to Ride series starts on June 1. Go here to learn more and register. Classes are two hours long. Adult classes are available in Spanish. For Kids Learn to Ride, parents can request help to overcome language barriers, such as info provided in other languages.

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