Bike Culture: Ride Right

A class to help you be a better bicyclist

On a hot day at the Glassell Park Rec Center, children splash in the distant pool as seven grownups try to pedal in a straight line across the blacktop. They’re taking part in a class on bicycle-handling skills, and what becomes clear is that, fundamental as cycling seems—you balance, you ride—most of everyone, including a commuter or two, has much to gain from the session. Shay Sanchez and Liz Elliott have been teaching the class for about year now at the center, which sits at the foot of the Verdugo Hills near Eagle Rock.

Elliott keeps watch over the students, offering pointers as they go through each exercise. (“A little faster next time.” “Good, but really try to get off the saddle.”) Then, once everyone’s in line again, she provides running commentary as Sanchez perkily demonstrates the next skill—evasive turns, abrupt stops, riding over objects. She makes everything look effortless, despite the boggy heat, but it turns out that riding with precision can be challenging. Sanchez is a tall, lean 37-year-old with skin the color of café au lait. Six years ago, she founded C.I.C.L.E., short for Cyclists Inciting Change thru Live Exchange, the nonprofit organization behind this morning’s class. “Obviously if more of us get out there riding our bike instead of driving, the air quality will improve,” she says, “but in general I think more people on the street will make it a friendlier city. Just to see people face to face is more welcoming and inviting.” So she and Eliot concentrate on recruiting “nonbikers” to make them more comfortable on the street, organizing events, offering primers—including a class on riding in traffic—and putting on family-friendly group rides.

Even if you don’t feel up to signing on for a course, it’s worth visiting C.I.C.L.E.’s Web site for the calendar of bike- and other environmentally-minded events, articles, and links. The route finder for people pedaling through the city is a nice touch.