Effective Cycling® for Adults:
Creating Confidence Through Competence

by Bonnie McClun (ECI # 297) with Donald W. Tighe (ECI #489)

Anyone who doubts the demand for adult cycling education should have seen this woman's tears. Susan, a 37-year-old student in one of the League's new introductory Effective Cycling® courses this Spring, stared at the next intersection from the empty parking lot where our ten-student class had stopped. The students faced a left turn via a left-turn only lane at a wide intersection as part of the course's cycling skills certification test.

Susan laughed through her own tears, but her tension was real. There were cars on that road! But she had enrolled in the League's Road I course because she wanted training and confidence in using the bicycle as a vehicle on the road. The recreational path in her town didn't reach any of the shops that would allow her to use her bike for errands, and was usually too congested with families, pedestrians, wheel-chairs, and in-line skaters to use for cycling. But now it was time to put into practice the lane-positioning theories, traffic safety principles, and other issues covered in the nine hours of coursework she was finishing.

Susan swallowed hard, blinked, and joined the class as we re-entered the right lane of the road. The students all scanned backward while cycling toward the intersection, signaled their intent, and merged left through two different lanes, coming to a stop in the right third of the left-turn-only lane while waiting for the light to turn green.

All ten students passed the course. I thought I had forgotten about Susan's personal challenge when, two weeks later, a thank-you note and a sizable check arrived at the League's office. Susan was so thankful for the comfort and confidence that the course had given her in her cycling that she and her husband were joining the League as Life Members! Her note also reported that she had gone out the next weekend and purchased a new, high-end bicycle, as a personal reward for tackling her fears. The supply and demand of adult cycling education had combined to create dramatic progress -- where personal achievement became a symbol of success for all cyclists. It was a moment of drama and satisfaction I now know I will never forget.

Why Education Matters

Bicycling is among the most popular sports in the United States, with 47.9 million individuals participating each year. Nearly 600,000 of those individuals were treated in hospital emergency rooms last year for injuries sustained while bicycling. Anecdotal evidence collected by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation indicates that approximately 39% of the bicycle injuries reported are sustained by adults. Other health care professional sconfirm for us that Pennsylvania's experience is indicative of the national adult cycling community as a whole. The need for adult bicycle education is certainly clear.

Today's adult bicyclist has had little opportunity to receive any formalized instruction on how to more safely enjoy the pleasures of bicycling. Bicycle education programs were virtually non-existent when these adults were in school. Some, whose vision for the future of bicycling is narrow, might question why this matters. After all, who ever forgets how to ride a bike? So, who needs education?

There are at least two distinct and powerful answers. One is the unacceptable number of injuries and deaths to cyclists that occur each year, too often because of incorrect positioning in lanes and at intersections, and riding in the wrong direction on the road. The second is the incredible sense of satisfaction and even joy that we know for a fact comes to those cyclists who supplement their experience with training. Even our student, Susan, could tell you that.

Where We Started

In the mid-1970s, the League of American Bicyclists (known then as the League of American Wheelmen) recognized this need for a national program for the development of cycling safety and skills. We turned to John Forester, a third-generation cyclist, engineer, and educator, to create a course that would meet this goal. With no other course in existence, Mr. Forester designed the approach known as Effective Cycling®, developing a curriculum and textbook (now in its sixth edition) for a 30-hour course. Adult bicycle education was born.

The founding principle of this program was then and still remains: "Cyclists fare best when they act and are treated as drivers of vehicles"(John Forester).

For close to twenty years the League of American Bicyclists administered the 30-hour Effective Cycling® course and the accompanying Effective Cycling® Instructor Certification. Several hundred instructors were certified across the nation, through an intensive study and evaluation program coupled with practice teaching experiences monitored by a network of volunteer Effective Cycling® Instructor Advisors. Several thousand students became certified Effective Cyclists®, completing in-depth classroom studies and detailed on road testing. But we knew we needed to do more.

The Platform for Success

The Effective Cycling® program is designed to develop the craft and science of bicycling: the basic ability to use a bicycle with confidence and competence for pleasure, utility and/or sport, under various road, climate, terrain and traffic conditions.

This is accomplished through a curriculum which focuses on:

Reaching More Cyclists With a Restructured Program

Those original goals of adult cycling education remain unchanged.

The League determined, however, that if bicycle education was to reach the millions of adult bicyclists who are poised to benefit from it, Effective Cycling® needed to become more accessible. This means a structure that allows students to enroll in a class that closely matches their experience and interest level, and it means a broader national network of instructor strained and certified to offer such classes.

Several years of development efforts by the League's Education Committee, comprised of some of this country's most experienced bicycle educators, led to a revamp of Effective Cycling®. The 30-hour curriculum has been split into three courses (Road I, II and III, each nine (9) hours in length) encompassing the complete content of the original course in a more manageable time structure. Instructor certification is now available through a 20-hour training seminar.

The Foundation Course

Each Effective Cycling® Road course is a building block of knowledge and skills. The content outlined above is presented as a skill continuum. Each nine-hour course is structured to include approximately three hours of classroom instruction and six hours of on-bike/on-road experience. Students are active participants in classroom subjects; and all vehicular skills and predictable riding behavior are practiced on-bike in actual road situations. Students receive first-hand instruction and gain experience as the driver of a vehicle under the watchful eye of a well-trained, League-certified Effective Cycling® Instructor.

The new course structure maintains the integrity of the original course, and the published curriculum and instructor certification process guarantees against the "dumbing down" of League-certified educational offerings. For example, graduates of our introductory Road I develop solid, test-certified confidence that they:

Simple? Yes. But the benefits to individual safety, national health, community development, and even bicycle industry growth and liability limitations, are staggering.

Effective Cycling® Instructor training is integral to the implementation of a nationwide uniform standard of quality. Candidates for this training undergo comprehensive screening to measure their bicycling competence. If accepted, the instructor candidate completes the initial 20-hour certification seminar, which prepares them for instructing adult learners. Certified instructors can then participate in optional certification enhancement seminars to expand their instructional skills for children or other specific advanced content. When the revamped Effective Cycling® Program is more widely available across the country, all Effective Cycling® Instructor candidates will be required to be graduates of Effective Cycling® Roads I and II courses.

Other Training Opportunities

In addition to the foundational courses of Roads I, II and III, adults will have the opportunity to further refine and/or expand their bicycling skills through special interest courses. Among these options, with a scheduled launch date of 1997, will be:

Use Your Imagination

The implications of bringing Effective Cycling® to the our community as a whole are enormous. Imagine: Inexperienced cyclists' bicycle handling skills improve. Club cyclists become more predictable riders, bringing increased safety to community rides. More cyclists invest in quality equipment, join recreational clubs, and inspire their friends and neighbors. Large group rides and major events have a lower incidence of cyclist mishaps. The general public sees bicycling as a healthy activity that is fun and can be enjoyed safely. The motoring public sees bicyclists as courteous, responsible road users worthy of their piece of the road.

What's Next?

How do we get from imagination to implementation?

The Role of Every Community

Those who wonder where the markets for such cycling education are need only consider the range of requests we have received this year alone. The League's national office and Effective Cycling® Instructors nation wide arecurrently working with bicycle retailers, parks and recreation administrators, bicycle/pedestrian coordinators, health care carriers, insurance companies, major corporations, and civic organizations in preparation for the official, formal launch of Effective Cycling® during Bike Month 1997.

It is crucial that the bicycle community understands that Effective Cycling® is a means to increase bicycle ridership as well as to improve bicycling safety. Resources for this endeavor are precious, but pay an incredible dividend. The League has invested heavily in its development; now local communities must focus their resources on implementing this outstanding program.

Imagine motorists and bicyclists sharing the nation's roadways courteously, with responsible predictability. That was the vision of the League at its founding in the 1880s, and it remains so today. With the revision of Effective Cycling®, the League of American Bicyclists is taking a bold step forward in bicycle education.

What role will your community play in this landmark initiative?


League of American Bicyclists Director of Education Bonnie McClun (certified Effective Cycling® Instructor No. 397), an avid lifetime cyclist and longtime bicycle club leader, comes to the League with an extensive professional background in adult education, curriculum development and business management, and is now helping the League revolutionize adult cycling education in the United States. In the last eighteen months she has trained Effective Cycling® Instructors from over 30 states by presenting certification seminars in over 15 cities, and has more than doubled the number of certified Effective Cycling® Instructors nationwide. Donald W.Tighe (certified Effective Cycling® Instructor No. 489) is Communications Director for the League.