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PROVO — According to the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration, the number of cyclist fatalities has increased by 12 percent in the last four years.
A Provo nonprofit called the Bicycle Collective just launched a new urban cycling safety course to protect their riders.
Tesla Harbaugh and her father, Thayne, participated in the first session of the three-week class. Thayne bought his 16-year-old daughter a new bike for her birthday last fall.
Instructor Ikaika Cox taught the riders the rules of the road, basic biking skills, and techniques for handling emergencies.
Cox led the group of cyclists to an empty parking lot where we set up multiple courses with cones for the class to practice on their bikes.
Tesla said the class helped her feel more confident.
“It’s really useful, because if I want to bike to school I have to bike on some majorly busy roads,” she said.
Tesla's father said the class also gives him more peace of mind before sending his daughter on the road.
With a new bike, Thayne said his daughter needs some time to practice. “I think this is a good place to come and get some good experience and understanding and develop techniques,” he said.
Thayne said this course is especially important for Tesla since she has a blood clotting disorder. “It usually results in a larger injury that takes longer to heal,” he added.
Tesla said, “If I hurt myself while riding or fell off, I could be seriously injured, whereas most people could just [get] minor scrapes.”
Cox worked with each student individually to make sure they knew how to stay protected. Tesla took a couple spills during the lesson but admitted falling was part of the process.
“You have to practice to get better, I guess,” she said.
Cox also encourages motorists to do their part to share the road. “Don’t be in such a hurry that you can’t slow down or move over to help a cyclist stay safe,” he said.
Thayne agreed. “There are times when a bicycle is just like any other vehicle and it needs to be on the road in a lane,” he said.
Cox said teaching people how to ride safely is rewarding and can even remind people of the feeling they had when they first learned how to ride a bike as a child.
“You begin to see the world in this whole new way … distances seem smaller, doors open up, the world gets brighter a little bit,” he said.
The Bicycle Collective is starting another three-week session late this summer. Visit the Bicycle Collective website to learn more.