The Bike Campaign: So you think you can ride?

Even in a town as enlightened as Davis, there are still a lot of people who think they know how to ride a bike – but don’t know how to ride a bike in traffic.  That’s why you see people riding bikes on the wrong side of the street, on the sidewalk,  through stop signs and with no lights on in the dark.

Studies indicate that approx. 50% fewer 16-year-olds, nationwide, are getting driver’s licenses.  That means that there are a lot more young adults out there who don’t know the rules of the road.  There are growing options for people like this; Zip Car, Bike Share, Big Bus, Lyft, etc.  But problems creep up when people who don’t know that bikes are considered vehicles according to California vehicle code, and then take to the street.  Left on their own, they’re are vulnerable, just waiting to get run over by a car (while texting).  The texting and distractions happen on both sides.  Multitasking, little focus, lots of distractions, throw in some medications, and maybe a drink or two . . .

My own daughter is 23, lives in San Francisco and has chosen not to drive.  She saved us enough money in the past seven years to pay for her college tuition.  But, she also knows that to stay alive on the street, you’d got to pay attention.  Growing up riding to school every day by bike in Davis, California helped a lot.

So, if fewer young people are driving and didn’t  have the opportunity to grow up in Davis, how do we expect them to know the rules of the road?  Driving is a lot more complicated than it was 50 years ago.  There are so many more distractions, more cars, people and lanes!  Riding a bike in traffic is a skill that is learned.  It’s called “time in the saddle” and this is not something you can do “virtually” on a computer.  The only way to get experience on the road, is to ride.  It’s also a good idea to work with a bike buddy, someone who can show you the safest routes and help you build confidence as you learn your way around.  The League of American Bicyclists (LAB) has come up with a certification process for people who teach others how to ride a bike in traffic.  As a LAB certified cycling instructor, I’ve met many people who feel embarrassed because they’re scared to ride a bike on city streets.  They want to feel confident, but don’t know where they belong on the street or how not to get hit by cars.

Just about everyone can learn to ride a bike.  Imagine what all our communities would look like if 25% of the the population rode bikes instead of driving cars?  Quieter.  Safer.  Friendlier and more prosperous.

You can sign up for a FREE introductory one-hour cycling skills class that will take place on Sunday, Oct. 19, at 3pm at New Harmony, 3030 Cowell Blvd., in South Davis.  Participants will learn about selecting safe routes and bike paths, navigating intersections and how not to get hit by cars.  Basic bike maintenance and security will also be discussed.  Bring your bike and helmet (new helmets available for $10).  Space is limited and advance registration is strongly recommended; call 530-753-1125 or email

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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