Bicyclist Education by Rich Swent

I am an instructor certified by the League of American Bicyclists, and I give classes privately, through the PTA, and through the City of Palo Alto Recreation Department (co-sponsored by the PTA Council). I have worked with the PTA on traffic safety since my son was in third grade. In the fall of 2004 I became co-chair of the Palo Alto Council of PTAs Traffic Safety Committee. In December of 2004 I was awarded the "Educator of the Year" award by the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition. In June of 2006, the Palo Alto Weekly published this article about my classes.

Bicycling is the most efficient means of personal transportation on the planet. It is fun, healthy, inexpensive and produces minimal pollution. It can be practiced by people from young to old . With the proper technique, one can bike around town easily and safely. If done poorly it can be a frustrating and stressful experience.

Bicycling is a great way for children to get necessary exercise and become familiar with their neighborhood. Powering themselves to school is a source of great self-esteem for children, and they arrive wide awake and ready to learn. Many parents would like their children to do more bicycling, but are unsure of their children's skills and their own abilities to teach them properly. Children are not just small adults; there are differences in their physical and cognitive development that affect their ability to make traffic-related decisions, and it is important for parents to understand this. I teach parents what they need to know to develop their children's skills and to judge when they are ready to advance.

The classes for middle school students teach them how to drive a bike. That is, students learn how to interact with traffic and communicate with other road users. This makes bicycling easier and safer, and also prepares them to be better drivers when they are older.

Bicycling is fun, but a crash can spoil that in a hurry. In these classes we study the most common causes of bike crashes and how to avoid them, reducing the chance of crashing by up to 80%.

This is not rocket science; it is common sense, logic and prudence. Most bike crashes are simple falls, not involving a car, and result in only minor injury. Falls are generally caused by mechanical malfunction, loss of control or hazards in the road. Experience, practice and regular maintenance can eliminate virtually all of these crashes.

Car-bike crashes are a small percentage of overall bike crashes, but they cause the most severe injuries. 

47% of car-bike collisions are due to bicyclists making one of the following errors:

  •  Wrong-way riding


  •  Left turn from right side of road


  •  Driveway rideout (riding into the road without stopping and yielding)


  •  Failure to yield (example: running stop sign) 


  •  Sudden swerve 


An almost equal percentage of car-bike collisions are caused by motorist mistakes, and a savvy bicyclist will be aware of these and ride defensively to protect against them.

As an instructor certified by the League of American Bicyclists, the only national organization to certify instructors, I teach bicyclists to:

  •  Be visible

  •  Be predictable

  •  Be alert

  •  Be prepared

  •  Wear a helmet. 85% of all bicycle fatalities are due to head injuries, and a properly-worn bike helmet can reduce the chance of brain injury by 88%.
    California state law requires all bicyclists under the age of 18 to wear a properly fitted and fastened helmet.


For more information, send email to , or call Rich Swent at (650) 493-7979