Something occurred to me this morning.
Our Oracles of Darksome Doom (generally known as 'The Media') have taken to predicting $5/gallon gas this summer.
Theoretically, for many who live in range (say, 5 miles or less from work, which seems to be the cut-off for many non-cyclists; I even have cyclist friends who ride a bazillion miles a day but think my 7-mile-each-way commute is nuts), this will represent the tipping point at which they feel themselves forced to transition into bike- or transit-commuters.
For the most part, I think this is a great thing -- it will mean fewer cars and more bikes on the road, and that's good for everyone. The hordes of new cyclists (yes, I'm an optimist!) will simultaneously help to reduce air pollution and begin to trim America's national waistline, something this country desperately needs. More importantly, perhaps, they'll be out there actually connecting with life on a very visceral level, and soon they'll discover how much fun it is to roll around under your own power, out in the elements, instead of being trapped in a big, steel isolation chamber and propelled by long-dead plants and animals.
However, as long as there are at least some cars on the road, I am concerned for the squadrons of bike newbies who will emerge, blinking, from their garages on new bikes and old bikes alike. I am concerned because the vast majority of Americans seem never to have been educated at all about the safer ways of cycling -- with traffic, on the road -- and those safer ways often feel counter-intuitive to newbies who aren't bike-mad and don't spend every free moment reading bike forums on the Innertubes.
I'm worried that we're going to see a lot of new riders tentatively creeping along, going the wrong way down the road, or on the sidewalks.
The obvious solution, to my mind, is to offer bike education classes for free and get really friendly people to teach them. LBC already hosts a series of League of American Cyclists classes for free -- but I wonder, will folks attend them in anticipation of rising gas prices? We Americans don't have a great track record for planning ahead (with the exception of a few small groups that are extremely, extremely well-prepared for The End of the World, but possibly not for having to ride a bike in traffic).
If you had to think of a creative way to get folks learning to ride safely, what would you do?