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Shop launches ‘The Ambassadors’; a team for urban riders

Posted by on August 3rd, 2011 at 9:09 am

Ambassadors logo

Sponsoring race teams and events has been a standard way for bike shops to “support the community” for years. But what about people who don’t race? What about people who just ride in the city to get from A to B?

Yesterday, a shop based in Northwest Portland, 21st Avenue Bicycles, launched The 21 Ambassadors program, “to directly support the urban cyclist.”

“With the continued growth in the amount of people using their bicycles solely as a means for transportation we hope to create a new model for our community and our industry.”

21st Avenue, along with program partners Trustyswitchblade and Portland Design Works, is looking for 21 Ambassadors to participate in the program (applications are due by August 15th). Ambassadors get big discounts on shop purchases and a pre-packaged Road Aid Kit full of tools and parts.

The program isn’t set up for the Ambassadors to simply ride around as usual. In exchange for these perks, Ambassadors are expected to live up to their name. Check out the list of Ambassador Commitments that come with being a member of the team:

- To stop and offer assistance to fellow cyclists.
- To follow all rules of the road and set the standard for exemplary riding behavior.
- To carry their Road-Aid kit with them on all rides.

The 21 Ambassadors program supports team members, who are then expected to support others — and support the reputation of bicycling by being model citizens while riding. Sounds like a great idea to me.

Here’s more from the program’s mission statement:

“We are the 21 Ambassadors. We believe that riding a bicycle is more than just the sum of its parts. To ride a bicycle is to be part of a community, to share a common experience, as much as it is about good health and helping environment. This is a community that we love and support, a community that we all help to grow pedaling through the cold wet winter mornings, the long carefree summer nights and everything between. We believe that as a community we should support each other in bad times as well as good. We, the 21 Ambassadors are here to help you. When tires flat and spokes break, when chains fail and gears groan, when you need a hand we hope to be there to assist. We dream that your bike will always run flawlessly, that the world can be perfect, and yet, until all the stars align, we hope to help with what we know how to do, getting you and your bike back on the road.”

It’s the hope of program creators that this becomes a model for the industry and they encourage other shops in Portland to set up their own teams. They’ve set up a website they hope can serve as a hub for the teams.

The 21 Ambassadors officially launches on September 1st, to coincide with the BTA’s Bike Commute Challenge.

Learn more at 21Ambassadors.com.

Have a look at the website. http://21ambassadors.com/

It is our hope that this inspires other shops in Portland and other cities to set up their own commuter teams. Ideally we would love to see this website work as a hub. Stay tuned for more updates.

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Comments
  • 9watts August 3, 2011 at 9:28 am

    what a brilliant idea. Way more useful to real people than sponsoring a racing team. I hope it takes off.

    Recommended Thumb up 3

    • Pat Malach August 3, 2011 at 9:45 am

      Last I checked, people who happen to race bicycles are also “real” people.

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      • 9watts August 3, 2011 at 9:49 am

        Fair enough, though a much smaller group.
        I guess my point was the people this program is targeting are going somewhere on their bikes. I used to race bikes too, and it was fun, but it wasn’t very useful to society. It didn’t solve any transportation crises. This program is more egalitarian.

        Recommended Thumb up 3

        • Pat Malach August 3, 2011 at 9:55 am

          Thanks for acknowledging that people who ride their bikes for recreation without the burden of self-righteousness are also people, too. Very big of you.

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          • 9watts August 3, 2011 at 10:19 am

            If we’re going to get around without fossil fuels, and some of us think we will need to one of these days, then it is incumbent upon us who already are comfortable riding our bikes everywhere to help, encourage, support those who may not yet be used to riding everywhere, relying on their bikes as transportation. This outreach effort to me captures, institutionalizes, codifies one dimension of this mutual assistance in a way I find appealing, promising, thought-provoking.
            Like I said, bike racing is fun but it has virtually nothing to do with the challenges we face (you may not agree with that assessment, I understand). I have nothing against bike racers or bike racing or biking for recreation as you’ve just referred to it; I just welcome this shift away from sponsoring people who race to people who help others about town as they bike.
            Perhaps you’ve also noticed that when Jonathan writes a story about bike racing it gets about 10% of the comments here that the stories about transportation policy do. Does that reflect an anti-bike racing bias, or is it merely a reflection of the differential interest levels these issues hold for bikeportland readers?

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          • ron August 3, 2011 at 11:14 am

            Lighten up. Don’t take yourself so seriously. His point is clear and obvious, and nothing he said questioned your humanity.

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        • Lazlo August 3, 2011 at 9:57 am

          I think the question to ask is what is the purpose of a given trip? If someone is simply aimlessly riding around, does this serve a useful purpose to society, as oppossed to someone riding to a transportation planning meeting?

          Recommended Thumb up 1

          • davemess August 3, 2011 at 10:55 am

            one could argue that exercise is a very useful purpose!

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          • A.K. August 3, 2011 at 10:56 am

            Nope, my aimless riding around is the purpose of being on my bike, because I love simply riding my bike. I’m not trying to change the world or promote a social cause – I just love to ride and the fact that it means I don’t need to go to a gym, and I don’t care if it’s “useful for society”. It’s my time on my bike, for ME. I spend all day at the office trying to do things that are useful for society.

            But, as BikeSnob so brilliantly pointed out yesterday: Ordinary is the New Revolutionary. Heh.

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          • Lazlo August 3, 2011 at 11:39 am

            Aimless riding is indeed egalitarian. Well done sir.

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          • sorebore August 3, 2011 at 6:44 pm

            You both sound like great fell’as…but I am with A.K. on this one!! HAHA. AND REMEMBER.. THIS IS SPONSORED BY A BIKE SHOP!! still self promoting all the same.

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        • Natalie August 4, 2011 at 2:01 pm

          Wow. We all ride bikes, we all think riding bikes is important, there are different ways of expressing that importance–do we really have to have this destructive divide on whose bike riding is more ‘beneficial to society’? As if the cycling community is so huge and powerful that we can afford to have such a silly divide. Just as much as “some” people don’t see bike racers as “real” people, there are just as many people (if not more) who HATE bike commuters for running stops & reds, swerving in front of and between cars, and for being..you know.. self righteous pricks about how awesome they are for not being evil car drivers. So how about we drop the bullshit and unite behind something we have in common–bikes and their awesomeness.

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      • Kristen August 4, 2011 at 8:49 am

        Yes, they are real people– but a lot of people don’t identify with bike racers or can’t equate bike racers with Commuter Joe and Commuter Jane. To many people, bike racers are not “just regular people”.

        Plus, a lot of people, especially just starting out riding for recreation or transportation, are intimidated to approach an obvious “professional” bike racer to ask for help fixing a flat, a broken spoke, or whatever.

        I’m not a bike racer; I’m a Commuter Jane (with my sidekick Speedy Scott) and I’m glad to help people out. I understand that it’s easier for a novice to approach someone like me than it is to approach, oh, say, Heidi Swift. She’s a nice lady, that’s not what I’m saying– I’m saying she’s an obvious bike racer and I’m not.

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  • vic August 3, 2011 at 9:32 am

    I love this idea!!

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • wsbob August 3, 2011 at 10:03 am

    “…Check out the list of Ambassador Commitments that come with being a member of the team:

    – To stop and offer assistance to fellow cyclists.
    – To follow all rules of the road and set the standard for exemplary riding behavior.
    – To carry their Road-Aid kit with them on all rides. …” bikeportland

    Is there some existing lack of people that bike, not doing this already? I’ve had people offer me assistance on the road when I had flats…even offered me a spare tube last winter up on Fairmount Blvd. I usually call out to someone broke down, just in case they need a hand. Usually everyone has the basics covered, so they don’t need help.

    Will these ambassadors be specifically instructed in and directed to consistently display hand turn and stop signal (100′ from intersections/stops/turns, and full stops at the stop signs)? Because this is one area where many, many people riding bikes are woefully deficient, and might benefit from a model example. People driving cars too.

    At the website, I noticed a reference to “…bright (color) roll …”. So does this mean that the ambassadors will be wearing some kind of unique jersey to distinguish them from all the other people riding? Could all of us faithful readers get a look-see at what that will be?

    Recommended Thumb up 1

    • are August 3, 2011 at 10:27 am

      “Is there some existing lack of people that bike, not doing this already?”

      ah, but you and i are not advertising a commercial bike shop in exchange for discounts

      Recommended Thumb up 4

    • Dude August 3, 2011 at 11:11 am

      No, you just do not understand the rule on signaling. The law does not require a bicyclist to “consistently” display a turn signal for 100′. It requires using turn signals when both hands are not required to control the bicycle. It is very easy to look this stuff up online, and you should probably do so before making pronouncements about where other riders are “deficient.” In reality, the deficiency lies with your understanding of the law as it applies to bicycles. And this isn’t the first time.

      Recommended Thumb up 1

    • beth h August 3, 2011 at 4:16 pm

      Based on the job description:

      1. this sounds rather similar to an unpaid intership, wherein a business or organization gets untold hundred to thousands of dollars in free labor and/or advertising in exchange for a grad student getting something nice to put on a resume.

      2. When you add in the requirement that the Ambassadors also be mechanically proficient — enough to true a wheel at roadside, no less — then another thing that’s happening is that there’s enough free shop labor going around to have an impact on the closest local brick-and-mortar bike shop (which may or may not be 21st Avenue Bicycles). Consider that a shop will charge 15-25 bucks to true a wheel, and you can see what I mean here.

      A brilliant stroke of marketing genius from the business’ standpoint. Nearly-free advertising and, depending on how well a given Ambassador “sells” the sponsoring shop, to the bicyclist in need, a potential revenue stream to boot — one that can grow over time as the Ambassadors grow in recognition and number. (If all you’re paying your foot-soldiers is discounts on parts, well, it’s a nice chunk of potential profit for the shop because they’re growing some quirky, interesting advertising without having to create more jobs.)

      It’s a feel-good, eye-catching approach that costs the retailer relatively little money.
      As I said before, simply brilliant.

      Recommended Thumb up 1

      • grimm August 4, 2011 at 1:44 pm

        I see your points of how it is similar to an internship. But I disagree. If 21st wanted to do this as a way to get free labor they are doing it all wrong by providing tool kits, and resources. A race team sounds a lot more like a poor internship to me because racers who put in hundreds saddle hours for a few discounts and a couple prizes at best! I think instead of just sponsoring another racing team they are trying to change the focus. Racer boys (and gals) get a lot of the attention, but it’s time to support the people who ride everyday, in everyday gear. There isn’t a “problem” with Portlanders not helping one another out, but, this is providing some tools and know how to help spread it.I try to stop for people and do what I can, but I only carry the real basics.

        I’m surprised to some of you seem pessimistic to people wanting to create a small club to help riders who maybe aren’t prepared or don’t have the mechanical skills. Really, this isn’t hurting or costing anyone anything. It’s just trying to create a little more good.

        Recommended Thumb up 5

  • spare_wheel August 3, 2011 at 10:16 am

    “all rules of the road and set the standard for exemplary riding behavior”

    A bike version of the Angeles Verdes would be a great thing but the description of the ambassador comes across as boyscoutish and preachy.

    For example, why would a cyclist follow “all rules of the road” when the vast majority of those “rules” were designed for motorists.

    And whose definition of “exemplary riding behavior” is going to be used? Is it going to be the definition of the the non-cyclist? The occasional cyclist who mostly uses their motor vehicles. Or the car-free year round vehicular cyclist.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Schrauf August 3, 2011 at 12:09 pm

      Agreed. An otherwise great idea is tainted by a few unreasonable “commandments”.

      A statement regarding a general goal of safe and polite riding, and then leaving the specifics of that up to the presumably very experienced “Ambassadors” would be much preferred.

      Although in practice I suspect some of the Ambassadors will not hesitate to roll stop signs on, for example, a so-called bike route that has been designed with seven stop signs in 15 blocks, many at low traffic intersections. Tillamook, anyone? Bike route, indeed.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Irving Washington August 3, 2011 at 10:24 am

    Whoa! Who would have thought that the idea of normal cyclists trying to help out, do good, and ride without selfishness and self-righteousness would receive such a negative response? I think it’s a great idea, I commend the authors, and I hope it catches on. We need a lot more good and a lot less mean on the roads.

    Recommended Thumb up 7

  • Scott August 3, 2011 at 10:27 am

    9watts
    Fair enough, though a much smaller group.I guess my point was the people this program is targeting are going somewhere on their bikes. I used to race bikes too, and it was fun, but it wasn’t very useful to society. It didn’t solve any transportation crises. This program is more egalitarian.

    If you are not vegan and between the ages of 18-22, then you are the hardest 23+ year old to enjoy conversing with in Portland. Is your bike called a high horse?

    Recommended Thumb up 3

  • Scott August 3, 2011 at 10:32 am

    are
    “Is there some existing lack of people that bike, not doing this already?”
    ah, but you and i are not advertising a commercial bike shop in exchange for discounts

    Exactly! I have changed plenty of tubes and helped motorists as well.

    Recommended Thumb up 1

  • Steve B August 3, 2011 at 10:35 am

    Here’s a hokey PSA for all the new team members: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p4GPRRwfPOk

    Recommended Thumb up 1

    • Rain Panther August 3, 2011 at 11:45 am

      Wow. I gotta say, that was hokier than my hokiest expectations.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Kyle August 3, 2011 at 4:26 pm

      The high-five and fist pump sealed the deal.

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  • Scott August 3, 2011 at 10:38 am

    Irving Washington
    Whoa! Who would have thought that the idea of normal cyclists trying to help out, do good, and ride without selfishness and self-righteousness would receive such a negative response? I think it’s a great idea, I commend the authors, and I hope it catches on. We need a lot more good and a lot less mean on the roads.

    It is a great idea if you think that you should be rewarded for acting like a human.

    Recommended Thumb up 1

    • Irving Washington August 3, 2011 at 10:43 am

      Sorry Scott, I didn’t see the mention of a reward. What WAS the reward?

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      • Scott August 3, 2011 at 12:05 pm

        Discounts at the sponsoring bike shop.

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        • spare_wheel August 3, 2011 at 2:29 pm

          Discount is cost + 20%. One wonders how high the margins are in the first place.

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          • sorebore August 3, 2011 at 6:50 pm

            Cost +10% should be the rate at minimum. What if the Ambass. is late for his/her job due to their “commitment to do good” ? Better not work at Whole Foods or New Seasons and be tardy!!

            Recommended Thumb up 1

          • are August 30, 2011 at 5:02 pm

            about fifty percent is normal in the bike retail industry. cost plus ten for employees.

            Recommended Thumb up 0

    • ron August 3, 2011 at 11:21 am

      Why all the elitist outrage at this idea? If you don’t participate. Seems pretty simple. Get off of the “us versus them” soapbox.

      Recommended Thumb up 4

    • Rain Panther August 3, 2011 at 11:40 am

      I think rewards are a good way of reinforcing certain behaviors. Similarly, I think negative experiences (like getting a flat tire and having to walk your bike a couple of miles) are likely to discourage certain behaviors (like riding one’s bike to work).

      Recommended Thumb up 3

    • Natalie August 4, 2011 at 2:06 pm

      I think it’d be great if all bike riders were nice enough to stop when they see a fellow cyclist having difficulty, but that’s not the reality that I’ve experienced. I see this more as harmless incentives to do something helpful for fellow cyclists–why the outrage?

      Recommended Thumb up 5

    • craig August 30, 2011 at 12:17 pm

      I think that at least a partof the point: civility on the road is often–but not always–conspicuously lacking.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Scott August 3, 2011 at 10:44 am

    9watts
    If we’re going to get around without fossil fuels, and some of us think we will need to one of these days, then it is incumbent upon us who already are comfortable riding our bikes everywhere to help, encourage, support those who may not yet be used to riding everywhere, relying on their bikes as transportation. This outreach effort to me captures, institutionalizes, codifies one dimension of this mutual assistance in a way I find appealing, promising, thought-provoking.Like I said, bike racing is fun but it has virtually nothing to do with the challenges we face (you may not agree with that assessment, I understand). I have nothing against bike racers or bike racing or biking for recreation as you’ve just referred to it; I just welcome this shift away from sponsoring people who race to people who help others about town as they bike.Perhaps you’ve also noticed that when Jonathan writes a story about bike racing it gets about 10% of the comments here that the stories about transportation policy do. Does that reflect an anti-bike racing bias, or is it merely a reflection of the differential interest levels these issues hold for bikeportland readers?

    Ever heard of noblesse oblige? That’s what it sounds like you are talking about.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Rain Panther August 3, 2011 at 11:30 am

      I get what you’re saying, Scott, but I think the term noblesse oblige refers to class distinctions that don’t exist in this example, at least not nearly as clearly. These “ambassadors” aren’t representatives of the upper class proving the validity of their privilege through acts of benevolence and charity.

      Recommended Thumb up 2

  • A.K. August 3, 2011 at 10:58 am

    I think this is a nice idea! Visible folks that will be out and about any ways, may as well equip them to be able to help others and provide a good example as well.

    Recommended Thumb up 2

  • eli bishop August 3, 2011 at 11:15 am

    yay! i already carry a tool kit just for such occasions and have always considered myself an ambassador. i would love to see the idea spread!

    Recommended Thumb up 5

  • roger noehren August 3, 2011 at 11:24 am

    Just the other day I was riding my recumbent and stopped for a moment. A lycra-clad road rider going the other way asked whether I needed assistance.
    I had similar experiences several times last year while touring in California.
    I love it when this happens, even though I’m a bike mechanic and carry tools and spares when on a longer ride.
    In every case the offers came from people who appeared to be on training rides – ie not commuters…
    smells like team spirit…it has a nice aroma.

    Recommended Thumb up 3

  • davemess August 3, 2011 at 11:54 am

    I think you have to remember that in MOST parts of the US the majority of people riding bikes are people that are racing or at least out for fitness. Most are not commuters. So a shop sponsoring a racing team is really hitting the market they are supported by. Here this is not quite as true.

    Sometimes we forget to get out of our little Portland bubble. But for Pdx this “commuter team” makes sense.

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  • Scott August 3, 2011 at 12:17 pm

    Race teams are rolling advertisements. So is this. It is literally no different than a race team. I am sure that the bike shop and fellow sponsors could have put this together as a thought about helping out fellow cyclist with no fanfare, but they didn’t. They have a website. You have to apply to be a proper “ambassador”. You will undoubtedly receive literature about the sponsors. It is a rolling advertisement for the shop and sponsors. Exactly like a race team except couched in an altruistic endeavour. Don’t pee on my leg and tell me it is raining.

    Recommended Thumb up 1

    • Rain Panther August 3, 2011 at 1:20 pm

      Speaking of pee, Scott, what exactly are you so pissed off about? Sure, you can call it advertising, but wouldn’t it be nice if more advertising came in a form that actually stood to help people in their everyday lives, even if only a little bit? If I broke my leg and Kaiser wanted to do a little grassroots advertising by giving me a free trip to the ER, I’d sure as hell take them up on it. But, this is about more than just a value proposition. I think it’s misleading to say it’s “couched in” altruism. Sometimes, advertising can be used to help make something happen that otherwise might not- kind of like a bike race. Only, in this case, a lot more visible.

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      • Scott August 3, 2011 at 1:54 pm

        I’m not pissed about anything. This whole thread started with a rather ridiculous comment and I have been responding to that and other subsequent odd and self-aggrandizing statements in an appeal for reality.
        Also I did break both my legs, and went through all of the terrible and tedious motions of proving that I did not want to have bi-lateral femur fractures as a result of a hit and run and should not have to pay for it. Then I had to beg for a scholarship which required more paperwork of me prostrating before the benevolent hospital appealing that they not destroy my credit for life. Hey, maybe you should spearhead the Kaiser’s Krusaders who ride around and help people who are terribly injured get hospital care for free. After that, start a coalition to vote on whether or not My Little Ponies are real.
        I type all this with the same smile I have on my face when I help anyone. On bike, in car, at Food Not Bombs, when tutoring, the list goes on and on. Yet in spite of all this I remain a pleasure to hang out with. When people who know me see me, they get happy. Why shouldn’t they? I rule, and I never think that I am something I am not: special or unique.

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        • Rain Panther August 3, 2011 at 2:24 pm

          Wow. Who’d have known someone could be so cheery (taking you at your word) and nasty at the same time. The Kaiser example may not have been the most appropos, but instead of speaking to my point all you’ve done is give me a rant, some autobiographical content, resume outtakes and a little mockery added in for spice. Thanks for that, Scott.

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          • Scott August 3, 2011 at 2:44 pm

            The pleasure was mine. I am even nice enough to allow you to use whatever tone you wish when you are reading my comments. As to your point, advertising is not for people, but at them by very definition. Even if a non-profit advertises, they are only doing so to raise awareness of themselves and generate capital.

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        • ron August 3, 2011 at 8:59 pm

          Yeah, I am sure you are a peach.

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  • Rain Panther August 3, 2011 at 3:26 pm

    Scott,

    Thanks for responding to my point. That makes it feel a little more like an actual dialogue. My point probably would have been better served by saying that the presence of advertising logos on a map doesn’t negate the usefulness of that map. In other words, if a company chooses to market itself by providing a service, that service is not rendered worthless by the fact that it also functions as marketing. I guess I’m looking at it less in terms of what the company is after and more in terms of what people might get out of it.

    As for your tone, maybe you ought to consider taking responsibility for your own words, some of which are pretty unpleasant and even insulting. And I’m not only referring to comments directed at me- there are more examples sprinkled throughout this thread.

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  • Scott August 3, 2011 at 4:44 pm

    You seem very thin skinned. It is why I normally steer clear of this whole website. Nothing can be said without offending, so no omlette ever gets made and the fact that I am not from here shines through. That said, I apologize for offending you. It was only my intention to poke fun at things I found ridiculous, not insult the speaker. Over and out.

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  • dwainedibbly August 3, 2011 at 6:15 pm

    Sponsorship for Cat 6 racers!

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  • Joe Adamski August 4, 2011 at 10:42 am

    The Ambassadors project sounds to be a worthy project. But its scope is limited. What I would feel to be valuable is an ongoing ‘urban riding class’ made available to anyone who shows, to teach some of the skills that lead to safer street cycling. If you are a new rider, wanting to be safe and effective, its a learn as you go process. Having experienced cyclists ( presumably with some teaching skills) help new cyclists learn to navigate streets. Initiating a culture of safety regarding cycling is something that needs to happen in Portland, and around the country.

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  • roger noehren August 4, 2011 at 11:59 am

    There used to be “Effective Cycling” classes based on: http://www.johnforester.com/BTEO/ectraining.htm, but it’s been over 20 yrs since I’ve heard any mention of them.

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    • Joe Adamski August 4, 2011 at 10:15 pm

      Forrester is such a curmudgeon, he pushes people away from his doctrine by his ascorbic personality. But he does have a lot to say. I am not sure I would embrace EC lock,stock and barrel. But I would support a well considered lesson plan that embraces much of what EC promotes: vehicular cycling.
      But supporting something and actually making it happen are different notions. It would require a fair commitment from many people, and a lot of planning and forethought. Would there be much interest, to the point of actual involvement, or would this best be left a pipe dream?

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      • Alan 1.0 August 5, 2011 at 10:49 am

        What about the League of American Bicyclists courses?

        http://www.bikeleague.org/programs/education/index.php

        The courses are quite long (9hr, 12hr respectively) and that might limit their audience, but maybe the 3hr commuter course could be adapted to something like what you describe? I think it would be a Good Thing. Safety classes have become popular with motorcyclists, it makes sense for bicyclists, too.

        Also, I sure hope that kids are getting some formal bike training. I remember “bike safety rodeos” in the elementary school parking lot, with parents doing basic safety inspections (brakes, tire wear, seat, bars and pedals all tight, etc.) and a cop teaching road rules, manners and safety (ride on the right, with traffic, hand signals, stops, etc). Forks and stays got bits of reflective tape applied, and there was a “street” laid out in with cones and boxes to practice the lessons, hands-on.

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  • Natalie August 4, 2011 at 1:52 pm

    Such an awesome idea on so many different levels!

    Recommended Thumb up 1

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