It was just a 2-mile ride to a friend’s house. But the fact that Mishauno Woggon chose to bike the most direct route — which meant riding on Kirby Avenue — rather than taking a more circuitous route or begging a lift from a co-worker spoke volumes.
“I was like, ‘I’m doing this!’” Woggon said of negotiating traffic on the four-lane street.
Woggon is not exactly new to cycling. She is a Champaign city planner who teaches bicycle safety courses at local events and helps organize the Bike to Work Day event each spring.
Woggon had just completed a CyclingSavvy course when she rode from her central Champaign home to her friend’s house. While she knew the basics of bicycling, the course taught her how to handle specific traffic situations.
“I was really pleased that it went beyond basics and talked about making good judgment calls in different situations,” she said.
Gary Cziko, chairman of Champaign County Bikes, taught the first CyclingSavvy course in Illinois in September. He’ll teach another this month, with a classroom portion Wednesday evening and practice in bike-handling skills and traffic cycling skills on Nov. 12.
Cziko is a certified instructor with the League of American Bicyclists, and he’s taught a number of bicycle education and safety courses. But he was impressed with the CyclingSavvy program after taking a course in St. Louis last May. He said it delves more deeply into various traffic scenarios and understanding traffic flow.
Cziko became certified this past summer to be a CyclingSavvy instructor.
“What’s very powerful, I think, about the course is it’s taking your average bicyclist who hasn’t had any special training, and you can show why crashes occur and how to avoid these,” Cziko said.
It can also remove the fear some cyclists may have of riding along with car traffic.
“They think that bicycling is unsafe,” Cziko said. “It turns out, if you look at per hour of exposure, it’s safer than driving a car.”
He said only 18 percent of bicycle crashes involve cars, and bicycles can prevent about 90 percent of them. The key is being visible to cars and to clearly communicate what you are doing.
“When you see a bicyclist acting like he is driving a car and signaling, you know what he’s going to do,” Cziko said.
CyclingSavvy teaches about the lane in which cyclists should travel in various situations and where they should position themselves in the lane.
The things people naturally do on a bicycle — stay to the right, stay out of the way, get on sidewalks — are things that get you into trouble,” Cziko said, noting the area nearest the curb is most likely to have slippery leaves, glass or other debris that could cause a crash.
And by a cyclist moving farther to the left in a lane, cars trying to pass will switch lanes to pass rather than try to pass in the same lane and possibly sideswipe a cyclist. The cyclist also is less likely to get hit by a car making a right turn, or to get “doored” when a driver in a parked car opens the car door.
The CyclingSavvy course was developed by Keri Caffrey and Mighk Wilson in Orlando, Fla. Caffrey is a longtime urban cyclist who bikes to work. She rode the way most people do, hugging the right curb, for nearly 20 years. Then her office moved and she had to ride on much busier roads.
“I was having a lot of conflict, a lot of close calls,” Caffrey said. “People were passing me too close, cutting in front of me. It seemed like every trip, I had a stupid motorist story. I was very frustrated and angry.”
She thought, there must be a better way. She began doing research and she learned about different measures she could take, including riding farther left in her lane.
“When I finally started doing that, the benefits become so apparent to me, there was no way I was going to go back to the way I was riding before,” Caffrey said.
She became a League of American Bicyclists instructor, but wasn’t entirely satisfied with their training, so she developed her own. It focuses on changing the beliefs of bicyclists and showing them they can ride in a different way that will make them safer, even on heavily traveled streets.
“Bicyclists have the power to eliminate the majority of crashes that are the motorist’s fault,” Caffrey said. “Our students discover what I myself discovered, and that’s that the IQ of everyone around me went up. Everyone got smarter.
“We’re teaching people how to be really cooperative members of traffic,” she continued. “It’s not about being obstructive. We teach how to manage a situation where it’s difficult for motorists to pass and how to make it easier.”
The course also strives to remove barriers for cyclists who think they can’t bike on a major arterial street with a higher volume of traffic and higher traffic speeds. Caffrey stressed that cyclists should ride where they feel comfortable, which is most often quieter streets or bike paths.
But, she said, when they have to ride on a really busy road, “That is like the Wall of China to them.”
The course helps cyclists understand traffic flow and where they can position themselves to reduce conflicts with traffic.
“The vast majority of people get on bikes and ride in ways that increase conflict,” she said. “They ride in ways that make them vulnerable to the mistakes of other road users.
“The fact that we can change our own behavior and eliminate 99 percent of our problems, that’s pretty empowering.”
A free CyclingSavvy course on Traffic Cycling will be held from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Wednesday at the University of Illinois Activities and Recreation Center, 201 E. Peabody Drive, C. This classroom course will cover the legal rights and responsibilities of cyclists, bicycle safety and traffic cycling problem-solving.
The second and third parts of the course will be held Nov. 12. A morning session from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. will cover bike-handling skills through a series of drills. An afternoon session from 1 to 4 p.m. will be a tour of Urbana with a discussion of traffic dynamics and practice negotiating intersections, interchanges, merges and railroad crossings.
The Nov. 12 courses cost $30 each and are limited to 10 people each.
To get more information on the courses and to register for them, go to http://CyclingSavvyIllinois.notlong.com.
For more information on CyclingSavvy, go to http://cyclingsavvy.org.
Photo: Gary Cziko instructs a group of bicyclists during a CyclingSavvy class in September. Photo by Mishauno Woggon.