HAVING WORKED in higher education for more than two decades now, I state the following with great confidence (and you’ll probably agree from your own personal experience or from someone you know): Many people try new things in college.
Like riding a bike.
Even if they rode bikes as children or adolescents, some college students will find using a bike for transportation in a city and having to arrive at classes and other destinations on time is altogether different scenario than — say — cruising around a suburban neighborhood with your childhood pals, “Stranger Things” style.
That’s why the Savannah Bicycle Campaign is offering its “Bike SAV: Down and Dirty Savannah Cycling” classes on Friday, Sept. 23 at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. and Saturday, Sept. 24 at 9 a.m. at 1301 Lincoln St.
The classes are free and all participants will receive a free bike light set. Those who take the class will learn methods for avoiding crashes, protecting against bike theft, and selecting the safest routes.
Participants will also learn basic bike maintenance tips. The goal is to familiarize students with the most effective strategies for staying safe in hopes they will share what they have learned with friends and classmates (and professors and staff, for that matter).
Caila Brown, chair of the Savannah Bicycle Campaign board of directors, is a SCAD graduate and knows what it’s like to navigate Savannah’s streets on a bike.
“While I had a car for a majority of my years at SCAD, I found myself spending more time looking for parking than I spent driving to my destination and constantly checking my phone alarm during class to make sure I had enough time to feed the meter,” she said.
“A bike was the perfect solution to those problems. I quickly made friends with a group of bicyclists, but all of us seemed to be flying by the seat of our pants — or, rather — the seat of our fixies when it came to the rules and regulations of riding a bike in Savannah.”
SCAD has welcomed its largest incoming class ever and launched a new bike sharing program, so the timing of the BikeSAV courses is intentional.
By offering a class, Brown hopes to help students avoid some of the the trial-by-fire experiences she had, such as having a bike stolen bike or realizing (the hard way) that certain car-friendly streets may not be bicyclist or pedestrian friendly.
SBC has also provided more than 3,000 copies of its BikeSAV guide and map to SCAD for distribution to students. The publication, which Brown designed, includes safety tips and maps designed to highlight which streets are generally safe for cycling and those which are are hazardous and potentially deadly to people on bikes.
“When speaking to hundreds of students at SCAD’s Fall Fest, they were excited to see a map that laid the city out in a very simple, easy to comprehend way. Those who don’t ride bikes were quick to point out that the color coded map of downtown could be applied to walking routes, as the green roads highlight the picturesque squares and slower, more residential streets.” Brown said. “I hope students will use these maps to influence their routes as they explore Savannah.”
Some already have a feel for which streets are safe and which are not, she said.
“I was happy to hear students inquiring as to what made these roads less safe for bicyclists and pedestrians. Some were interested in learning more about facility design or were quick to offer anecdotes about the experiences they had already had,” Brown said.
The BikeSAV guides were made possible by grants from the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety and the Savannah Downtown Neighborhood Association, and by the support of Savannah Bicycle Campaign members and donors.
The BikeSAV classes will be led by Nedra Deadwyler, education program manager for the statewide advocacy group, Georgia Bikes! Deadwyler, who is based in Atlanta, is a recipient of the League of American Bicyclists’ Gail and Jim Spann Educator of the Year Award. The award is given to a League Cycling Instructor who exemplifies dedication to teaching bicycle safety to people of all ages and abilities. League Cycling Instructors must pass a rigorous training program before they are certified.
While the class is designed with students in mind, it is open to the public and is beneficial to anyone who wants to become a more capable and confident city cyclist. Because the course includes both classroom instruction and on-bike training, participants must bring their own bikes. Helmets are required and will be available for purchase at very low prices. The class is free, but space is limited and registration is required. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.