“Cyclists see considerably more of this beautiful world than any other class of citizens. A good bicycle, well-applied, will cure most ills this flesh is heir to.” Dr K.K. Doty
On a beautiful sunny Sunday afternoon, six new Community Ride Leaders rolled out of the new CycWard Bike Shop, located on the Northside of Youngstown in the historic Wick Park neighborhood, to ride and reflect on what it feels like to travel by bike.
For some of the riders, this wasn’t their first rodeo on the road. For others, it was a brand new exhilarating experience.
The group stopped a couple of times along the route to take a breath and share their observations. Some focused on the small, often invisible joys that become visible and obvious when riding by bike–seeing scenery clearly and up close that otherwise passes by our widows like a blur. Others focused on how drivers behaved, which was mostly very positive, during our time sharing the streets with them. And others began to imagine new connections and opportunities to make streets safer and more welcoming to cyclists–adding bike lanes to overly wide streets, setting safer speed limits, planting more trees for shade.
Before the rubber met the road, the new ride leaders had classroom time with three well-trained and experienced ride leaders to learn the basics of bicycle operation and maintenance. It was as easy as ABC–which in this context stands for Air, Brakes, and Chain–things that should be checked each and every time you ride. The same way you should check your mirrors and put on your seat belt when driving.
Below is a brief reflection from the ride leaders and why trainings like this are so important to organize and participate in:
Legacy Ride Leaders
Kelan Bilal, Owner, Excalibur Barber & Grooming Lounge: Comments Coming Soon!
Justin Mondok, Transportation Planner, Eastgate Regional Council of Governments: Comments Coming Soon!
Ira Cross, Veterans Benefits Counselor at Mahoning County Veterans Service Commission: I feel that this type of training provides an overview of how to ride safely, with confidence, in and around your city.
New Ride Leaders
Ronnell Elkins, President & CEO of YoGo Bike Share: Community ride leader training is vital for our city to encourage new bike riders to get out and enjoy our beautiful city safely and have a full understanding of the bike laws that allow us to share the road equally.
Jessica Romeo, Community Health Educator, Mercy Health Youngstown: It was empowering to learn the right way to commute in traffic – that it is safer to be seen and be predictable to car traffic than to try to ride too close to the shoulder of the street or on a sidewalk, and that I have legal right to hold that space as a bicycle commuter.
Doris Bullock, Stepping Out Coordinator, Mercy Health Youngstown: I would like to thank everyone (trainers and CFMV) for an excellent and valuable Ride Leader Training class. I really enjoyed it and appreciate all the information. I learned how to ride safely, follow the rules of the road, hand signs, what to do and not to do. I also learned that as a cyclist I have rights. Thanks for your wisdom, experience and presentation.
Kris Kriebel, Health Educator, Trumbull County Combined Health District: I would say that the opportunity to become more confident in my ability to travel on the road, the chance to meet some amazing bicycle advocates and becoming better educated on bicycle safety and laws were my biggest takeaways from the training.
Tricia D’Avignon, Assistant Director of Zoning & Development, Boardman Township: [The training helped to make me] more aware of my surroundings when riding on my own–it’s easier in a group ride [because there are others with you and provide support]. [Riding a bicycle for transportation] makes you feel very vulnerable – you’re much more exposed compared to when you’re in a vehicle. But, it feels very freeing to [travel] on a bicycle.
Sarah Lowry, Director, Healthy Community Partnership/Community Foundation of the Mahoning Valley: I shared my own experience re-discovering the joy and freedom (and challenges) of riding a bike for transportation in a new column I’m contributing to Mahoning Matters: For the Health of It. You can read more here: “What commuting by bicycle taught me about myself and my community.”
This group of ride leaders plan to use this experience as the first leg of their riding journeys. Many shared they hope to participate in group rides over the summer, like those organized by CycWard Bike Club, which kicks off the riding season on Sunday, June 5. The ride leaders are working on organizing additional trainings to provide this education and experience to more new ride leaders in more new locations, starting with Warren.
We’ve all heard someone say, “it’s like riding a bike,” when referencing the kind of “muscle memory” acquired when you experience something often enough– through repetition, it becomes difficult to forget what it feels like or how to complete a given task or activity. However, in the context of the ride leader training, while the mechanics of riding a bike felt familiar–pushing the pedals, twisting the handle bars, squeezing on the brakes–the experience of riding for transportation as an adult hit much different.
As was stated so well by the new ride leaders, riding a bike can be freeing but it also makes you more vulnerable and aware of your surroundings–both the beautiful and the ugly parts. The goal and the hope is that the more ride leaders who receive training can spread education about the benefits of traveling by bike as well as the benefits of investing in infrastructure to make sure those journeys begin and end safely.