Crystal Garcia would go on to come in 1st for the women's group at the end of the Alleycat bike ride on June 13, 2014. Photo by Scott Ball.
Crystal Garcia rides down West Cypress Street in San Antonio. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

There are plenty of barriers to people riding their bikes on city streets. First, it’s simply more convenient to push a gas pedal. Beyond convenience, there is risk. Streets are designed for cars and trucks that travel two or three times the speed of the average cyclist, not to mention the weight class differential in the event of a collision. Even bike lanes can lead straight into hazards like gutters, trash, parked cars, and drivers swinging doors open to exit their vehicles.

Some cyclists dart illegally though traffic and stop lights, some ride on the sidewalk, also illegal, and other follow the rules of the road as if they were driving a car. For a newcomer to city cycling, it’s an intimidating environment. Personal safety concerns and unfamiliarity with the rules of the road hold back many from taking to the streets aboard two human-powered wheels.

If only there was a free class in town that could teach newcomers or returning urban cyclists how to navigate this concrete jungle – oh wait, there is.

The Alamo Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) is offering two free, 45-minute classes this week (Tuesday and Thursday evenings) for adults and teens 14 and older, “who want to understand where they fit on the street.”

After the informal, classroom-style presentation and discussion hosted at the Alamo Area MPO’s headquarters at 825 S. St. Mary’s St., participants will receive a free helmet and bike light set. Free.

In general, cyclists are required by law to follow the same traffic laws as motorists. However, even cyclists wearing helmets are far more vulnerable than motorists and often must react to aggressive or impatient drivers who mistakenly believe they do not have to share the road. Startling horn blasts and close brushes are the norm for the experienced urban commuter, and inattentive drivers looking down at cell phones can produce deadly results, which is why the city’s new hands free ordinance is so welcome. Just about every experienced cyclist has at least one story about surviving an incident of road rage.

The Street Skills class won’t change the behavior of irresponsible drivers, but it can give you the skills and confidence to cycle smartly and safely, and join the ranks of cyclists who advocate for new city policies that make “share the road” a reality in San Antonio. Such skills will help every level of cyclists, from the road bike rider training on long rides, to the urban commuter, to the slow-pedaling B-Cycle user.

San Antonio has only a handful of cycle tracks — protected bike lanes with a clear buffer between motorists and cyclists. None of them, unfortunately, are located on main urban thoroughfares. Urban planners say cycle tracks are key to increasing bike traffic. However, such infrastructure is expensive, requires re-engineering roadways, and often is considered unimportant by officeholders who do not cycle or who are not physically active. Many who work in city government in public works are not active cyclists or pedestrians, which leads to misplaced bike lanes, bike lane stripes where vehicles are allowed to park, and other well-intentioned but misguided attempts to create a “share the road” environment.

Street Skills classes are open to adults and teens who are at least 14 years old but anyone 18 and younger must attend with a legal guardian. Advance registration is requested of all participants, click the links below to register.

The Alamo Area MPO will be scheduling more classes throughout the year. Sign up for the organization’s newsletter to stay informed on transportation-related news here, or visit the Bicycle Mobility Advisory Committee website here.

*Featured/top image: Crystal Garcia rides on a City street during the Alleycat Race on June 13, 2014. Photo by Scott Ball.

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Iris Dimmick

Senior Reporter Iris Dimmick covers public policy pertaining to social issues, ranging from affordable housing and economic disparity to policing reform and workforce development. Contact her at iris@sareport.org