2012 Live It! Project Report
Essie Schlotterbeck and Hannah Geil-Neufeld: Adult Learn to Ride a Bike Pilot Project at Community Partners Bike Library (St. Paul)
This summer, with the support of a Live It! Grant from Macalester College, and in partnership with Cycles for Change, we (Hannah Geil-Neufeld and Essie Schlotterbeck) implemented a pilot project of Learn to Ride a Bike classes for adults with the Community Partners Bike Library. The Bike Library offers long-term bicycles loans to community members who can’t otherwise afford a bike; 2012 was the third year of the Bike Library’s operation. The bike library partners with 19 different organizations throughout the twin cities to serve diverse twin cities communities and get bikes to the people that need them. The pilot Learn to Ride project enabled the Bike Library to offer several series of Learn to Ride a Bike classes for Library patrons who had never learned to ride a bike, or who didn’t feel comfortable using their bike for everyday transportation needs. We aimed specifically to reach immigrant women, a demographic that is traditionally completely left out of bicycle planning and advocacy, and a group that can benefit greatly from having an independent mode of transportation.
Our initial goals included holding a three-session series of Learn to Ride classes at five different partnering organizations; holding classes open to the public; involving youth apprentices to help teach classes; polling participants to evaluate the success of the project; and working with Cycles for Change staff to pursue the long-term sustainability of the project. Over the course of June-August 2012, we:
- Held 13 group Learn to Ride classes and a total of 4 individual lessons, focusing on immigrant women participating in the Bike Library.
- Held two series of Learn to Ride classes open to the general public, one in St. Paul and one in Minneapolis. - Had 38 people attend at least one Learn to Ride class (30 Bike Library participants and 8 Non-Bike Library participants).
- Went on 4 group rides with participants, many of whom had never ridden a bike before this year.
- Co-facilitated a workshop with bike library staff to teach 18 Bike Library liaisons and patrons and 6 Youth Apprentices how to teach learn to ride classes.
- Received evaluations from 60% of participants on the effectiveness of classes.
- Received help from 6 volunteers from various connections with Cycles for Change.
Who were our participants?
- 82% of participants were female.
- 87% of participants were people of color (~84% immigrant).
- 70% of surveyed respondents had never ridden a bike before taking the learn to ride class.
- Of the participants who had ridden a bike in the past, the time since they had ridden ranged from 1 to 43 years ago.
- The main challenges that participants had faced learning to ride a bike were:
- Never had access to a bike (48%)
- Had never been taught (48%)
- Didn’t know how to begin on their own (43%)
- Didn’t have time (43%)
What did they learn?
- 12 people learned to ride a bike who had never ridden a bike before.
- 17 people had already learned to balance, but improved and learned skills like pedaling, braking, turning, avoiding obstacles, shifting, and signaling.
- 5 people are still working on balancing but made great gains in confidence.
- 87% of surveyed respondents plan to continue practicing or using their bike for fun, exercise, and transportation.
- 65% of surveyed respondents would like to attend more learn to ride classes to improve their skills and confidence. What did they say?
When asked whether learn to ride classes had helped participants to become more confident as cyclists or in general, participants responded:
“I never thought I could ever ride a bike on a road - I used to be afraid of cars, but now I ride with confidence...”
“My balance has improved. My dancing has improved. I feel good contributing to the environment.”
“Before I thought it was really hard. Now not only with biking but with everything, if I practice, I know I can learn it.”
“The class had lots of positive reinforcement - it encouraged me.”
“I feel more confident, I’m not there yet but...it’s gotten more comfortable - it’s just getting used to it and feeling like the bike is part of you. I’ve gained more confidence - at first, when I did it, I was kind of nervous and scared. This time I didn’t feel scared.”
“I don't know how to ride yet, but learning to balance has given me confidence.”
Continuing the project…
This fall we are both working at Cycles for Change through OCSE. We are teaching an EXCO learn to ride class open to the public and continuing our partnership with Cycles for Change to expand Learn to Ride programming throughout the Twin Cities.