Our Biking 101 Workshop

This past October, we had our second Biking 101 Workshop! Bike UVa, UBike, and the UVa Department of Parking and Transportation, with funding from the Green Initiative Funding Tomorrow (GIFT) Grant made this all possible. I thought I’d share a bit about the content of the workshop to hopefully inspire people to conduct a similar workshop.

The idea for the workshop came from the idea in my mind that, “Gee, I’d love to bike around school, but with shared roads (sharrows) and few designated bike lanes at school, I don’t feel very comfortable biking with so many cars around me.” Based on this thought, Green Grounds decided to create a workshop toward people with the same mindset in hopes of providing the knowledge and skills to make bikers more confident and comfortable. However, none of us felt like we could be the instructors and reached out to Jake Fox from Bike UVa and Nneka Sobers, the TDM Outreach Coordinator for UVa P&T, to help us out. Both Jake and Nneka are certified by the League of American Bicyclists and have undergone training to sufficiently and effectively address the needs of our workshop. All of us decided on specific content that should be addressed, such as how to use bike boxes, how to perform an ABC quick check on your bike, and rules of the road for bikers. Our workshop structure would be that half of the participants would be on bikes, going over drills like performing a quick stop or using hand signals, and the other half would be in the classroom, learning about fitting a bike, the rules of the road, etc.

We decided to have our workshop open for 30 participants, since a class too big would be difficult to properly teach bike drills to. The GIFT Grant provided funds for our workshop to provide participants a catered dinner. We heavily focused our advertising efforts online through use of social media, and at first-year dorms, since we thought new students may be the most uncomfortable with biking in a new place. In the end, our workshop had 18 people sign up, but only 12 made it to the workshop. Looking back, we would probably want a workshop size of 15 people total, since 12 seemed like a large enough number to handle.

Before the official start time of the workshop, we made sure to set up the food we’d catered and Jake and Nneka set up the area of a nearby parking lot that would be used for the drills. Participants could either bring their bike or use a UBike from UVa’s bikeshare program. After everyone arrived at the workshop, 1/2 the group split off to do drills and the other 1/2 stayed in the classroom. At the halfway point, the groups switched places. Although I remained at the workshop the entire time to help out with the classroom portion, I heard great things about the drills. Both instructors reported that they could visibly see an improvement in people’s biking skills and participants said that they felt more confident biking. Everyone’s questions were able to get answered, and some people came with questions related to bike maintenance, which Jake and Nneka were happy to answer. While we intended to keep the workshop at an hour, it went over slightly (70-80 minutes total), but participants generally didn’t seem to mind.

We hope to continue offering the Biking 101 Workshop since it has had great turnout the past two times it’s been offered. A few challenges we’ve experienced so far would be ensuring a high response rate for our post-workshop survey, since we use the answers to make improvements to the workshop, and ensuring that people who RSVP to the workshop attend, because both workshops had people who did not attend and give prior notice. This past workshop, our survey was electronic in the form of a Google Form. We asked participants to screenshot their submission page to be entered into a UBike raffle. However, perhaps next workshop could use physical copies of the survey that people fill out at the end of the workshop. As of now, we are unsure as to the cause of the RSVP/attendance problem. 24 hours prior to the workshop, an e-mail was sent out reminding participants of the event. The event information contained the time and location, so even if people had problems receiving the e-mail, they could still show up at the location at the specified date and time. More work would need to be done to figure out the exact cause, and possible work includes e-mailing each person who did not give notice of their absence directly and inquire as to why they missed the workshop. Despite these two problems, I’ve had a wonderful experience helping to implement the workshop! If you have any questions about the workshop, feel free to reach me at mdm4xa@virginia.edu.

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