Though biking is a major form of transportation for Yale students, most have not had the opportunity to learn the rules of the road — until now.
The first Smart City Cycling Skills class, a joint initiative organized by Yale Transportation Options and Elm City Cycling, a New Haven non-profit that aims to create a safe biking atmosphere, took place on Saturday and drew about 30 New Haven residents. The day-long class, which is designed to provide Yale and New Haven cyclists with a forum to improve their cycling skills, will be held again on Nov. 5. Holly Parker, director of Yale’s Office of Sustainable Transportation Systems, said the class emphasizes safely communicating and navigating traffic within New Haven.
Seven Yalies interviewed who have bicycles on campus said they had never received bicycle training, and none of them had heard about the class. Terin Patel-Wilson ‘15, who has been biking around campus since he arrived at Yale last month, said he thinks that taking a course on bicycle safety might be beneficial.
“I biked back home, but it was much more residential,” he said. “New Haven drivers can be pretty crazy, and it might be helpful for me to learn the ins and outs of safe biking in New Haven.”
Parker said safe cyclists know their rights and responsibilities, behave predictably and are constantly vigilant. She added that while bike safety is important for everyone, Yale students need to be especially cautious and aware of New Haven traffic laws and regulations.
Parker organized the class with help from colleagues at Yale-New Haven Hospital and the class’ instructors — all of whom are members of Elm City Cycling. Bill Kurtz, who is one of the course’s instructors as well as a League of American Bicyclists-certified trainer, said he is excited to work with both Yale students and New Haven residents.
“New Haven’s a perfect city to get around by bike, but riding a bike safely and effectively is not easy,” Kurtz said. “New Haven bikers have some dangerous habits. Some don’t even know how to make a left turn or where to safely ride.”
In addition to teaching cyclists how to navigate traffic, the class teaches biking techniques, handling skills, traffic law, road positioning, lane changing, emergency maneuvers, road hazards and riding etiquette, according to the Yale Transportation Options website. It also offers suggestions for equipment and attire that bikers can purchase and shows them how to lock a bike properly. Instructors run drills and will administer safety checks for bicycles.
Barbara Jackson, a New Haven resident who attended the class last weekend, said the instructors were extremely helpful in teaching her the traffic laws and biking strategies she needs to be safe while getting around New Haven.
“I was totally oblivious to all of these rules and regulations before the class,” she said. “I now feel like a safer biker and also a safer part of the New Haven community.”
The course will award attendees a certificate in bicycle safety. It is also a prerequisite for more advanced classes offered by Elm City Cycling.
Each class costs $25 and anyone can register online at bikereg.com.