I played in traffic this weekend. I rode my bike in some of the busiest intersections in the state of Alaska, such as Minnesota and Benson, Northern Lights and Spenard, Tudor and C St. I wasn’t in the crosswalk, I was in the lane, lined up with cars and trucks and all the other traffic. Oh, and it was raining really hard.

It was fun. It was liberating.

Let me back up. By now you are probably thinking I’ve finally gone off the deep end.

Preston Tyree, Director of Education for the League of American Bicyclists, was in Anchorage certifying Bike Education instructors. One of the requirements is that candidates demonstrate full knowledge of traffic laws and the ability to safely merge with traffic, even at busy intersections. And you know what? Once you learn how simple it is, and how to do it right, it’s easy. It’s liberating. I now understand that I don’t need to be intimidated by busy intersections or fast moving traffic. I now understand that I don’t need to stay confined to the crosswalk when crossing at Benson and A Street, where I was hit several years ago.

I have often heard cyclists complain about Anchorage drivers. I’ve heard stories of cyclists getting things thrown at them, and getting yelled at. But this weekend, drivers were polite. One said he was an avid cyclist and wanted to know how to get in the class. Another offered us a ride.
Several pulled up and politely asked what we were doing, and one complimented us on how nice we looked. We did not get honked at once.

Twelve cyclists from across the state were certified this weekend. They were specialists from the Department of Transportation, Anchorage’s Traffic Department, Anchorage’s Health and Human Services, and the Injury Prevention sector.  They were teachers and bike shop retailers and retired professional cyclists and advocates. We came together for an all weekend intensive seminar. We also spent weeks preparing for the seminar, studying traffic law and diagrams of intersections and reading about bike handling techniques. In short, we put hours and hours, days and weeks of time preparing and studying.

We are now League Certified Instructors, which means we can teach the League of American Bicyclists’ Smart Cycling porgram. So soon you can expect to see classes teaching bike safety for children, young adult pre-drivers education, and confident bike commuting. I am especially excited about teaching from the Traffic Skills series, which covers safely merging with traffic and negotiating busy intersections, like I did this weekend.

I had fun playing in traffic. You should join me some time.

Posted by Kristi Wood, BCA Board Director and League Cycling Instructor.

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