For city bikers, safety lessons

Urban Riding Basics is a course taught by Bike Temple each semester on city biking safety.

Bike Temple offers instruction on how to properly care for bikes, including tire maintenance and chain cleaning. | Meaghan Pogue TTN
Bike Temple offers instruction on how to properly care for bikes, including tire maintenance and chain cleaning. | Meaghan Pogue TTN

Bike Temple plans to keep the commuter lifestyle that once defined Temple alive with the Urban Riding Basics course, taught by student employees like Blake Larson. The course is geared toward students who, like Larson, have a passion for biking, either for recreation or transportation.

Urban Riding Basics is offered every year to the Temple community at various residence halls and buildings throughout campus. The course was introduced in 2010 as a way to get new bicyclists comfortable with riding safely in the city. Bike Temple has been hosting these seminars ever since.

The course informs participants about the basics of safety, common road laws and basic bike maintenance. Urban Riding Basics is free to all members of Temple and will be taught by Larson and a few others.

“I’ve been commuting in the city for three years now,” Larson said. “I really enjoy it. Sometimes the bike commute is the best part of my day, and I am excited to share that with people.”

According to Bike Temple, the Temple community is becoming increasingly bike-oriented.

A recent geographical analysis by Bike Temple confirms that there is much potential for the use of bicycles as a form of alternative transportation. Bike Temple data shows that there are more than 3,300 faculty and staff members, or 31 percent, who live within four miles of Main Campus and more than 5,100, or 48 percent, who live within six miles of Main Campus.

“I think Philadelphia is a great city for biking,” said freshman bicyclist and actuarial science major Zhi-Yao Hu. “I think a bike is the optimal option to explore the city.”

Hu has two classes this semester located in Center City, and chose to be a bike commuter as a way to get exercise and save money.

“I think it is a wise investment, and it is environmentally friendly,” Hu said. “I definitely encourage people to bike. The course, I think, is definitely beneficial for anyone who wants to experience riding a bike in the city. I hope the course covers the basics of riding a bike, safety, maintenance and also what type of bike to buy.”

Hu said he believes that the Urban Riding course available through Bike Temple can give inexperienced riders more confidence about exploring the city by bike.

Larson also contests that bicycling remains a great way to meet new people. Bike Temple, in addition to hosting Urban Riding Basics courses, also plans events to get more of the community involved in Temple’s bike culture.

“The idea is to get people out on bicycles and have fun together,” Larson said. “Philadelphia is a compact city and it’s easy to get around quickly. I don’t think that a lot of Temple students necessarily get to experience that, especially in their first couple of years.”

Stationed in the Office of Sustainability, Bike Temple encourages the community to take up biking for a number of reasons, one of which is for its low environmental impact.

“By promoting bicycling [through Urban Riding Basics] as a viable commuter choice, we are working on decreasing our transportation related greenhouse gas emissions,” Director of Sustainability Kathleen Grady said. “But, the Urban Riding Basics class does a really great job of making sure that we’re not only encouraging people to bike, but to also bike safely.

Bike Temple offers Urban Riding Basics courses as a formal instruction by pairing new riders who need more experience riding in a city environment with more advanced bicyclists. In addition to being geared towards budding cyclists, the course stresses that drivers should also be knowledgeable in common bike laws and procedures.

“Part of our challenge is to make sure that drivers are also educated on the rules of the road as well,” Grady said. “Even if people aren’t planning to cycle, the course is great for those who want to be aware of those rules, too.”

Prior to taking the class, freshman entrepreneurial anthropology major Allie Wallace’s biking experience was limited to riding in rural settings, unlike the challenging dynamic of an urban setting.

“There’s a lot of useful Philly information and general urban riding information,” Wallace said. “I was kind of intimidated to start, but now I feel like I can ride around this weekend.”

Blake Larson presents the Urban Riding Basics course to a class on Sept. 6 for Bike Temple. | Meaghan Pogue TTN
Blake Larson presents the Urban Riding Basics course to a class on Sept. 6 for Bike Temple. | Meaghan Pogue TTN

Bike Temple’s Urban Riding Basics course is offered periodically throughout the month of September as a promotion of National Campus Safety Awareness Month. Information on the courses and when they are presented can be found on the Office of Sustainability’s events calendar. Bike Temple will be teaching another course at Morgan Hall on Sept. 17.

“This class ensures that [new bicyclists] are comfortable,” Grady said. “This can be a lifestyle that they can continue beyond their time here at Temple.”

Brian Tom can be reached at

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