It could be a matter of swallowing one’s pride, but when The Girlfriend recently asked me to participate in a couple levels of “free bicycle safety classes,” the reflexive reaction was to scoff.

After all, I bike-commuted my way through college and raced as a team mountain cyclist, back when. Better yet, I’ve also survived light collisions with RVs and liberal amounts of stitches from helmetless dirt-jumping adventures gone astray.

What could I possibly learn? Umm, yeah…

As summer approaches, many riders — myself included — will take to the roads under cover of night, among moderate temperatures and cruddy visibility. But — knock on wood — 2008 is already taxing cyclists’ skins at a quick pace.

Two cyclists have already been killed within city limits this year, double the tally from the past two annums. Surrounding Pima County has been a bit kinder, with only one fatality since 2007.

One of those killed this year kissed a pickup truck’s grille while riding against traffic flow. Without a helmet.

That particular cyclist’s conduct might draw Darwinistic comparisons, but both of his trespasses are covered under those bike courses’ first round of classes, offered by Pima County Department of Transportation and the League of American Bicyclists in celebration of May, a.k.a. Bicycle Safety Month.

Frankly you don’t need to be killed to have a bad day aboard your prized hunk of aluminum (or carbon fibre, if you’re one of those haughty types.) Over 1,500 riders were injured during 2006 in traffic-related accidents.

Those ADOT numbers include everything reported from scraped palms to compound fractures, and don’t take into account incidents absent from automotive issues.

So, you can imagine it only gets worse from there.

Everyone knows that gas prices are skyrocketing, ballooning, levitating. It’s the favorite subject of bored journalists on slow news days. But pump prices are gouging many folks into mimicking students’ actions and biking to work.

Noble a notion as that is during this blossoming era of green responsibility, many novice riders aren’t really prepared to negotiate the hazards of rush hour without airbags and cup holders. Especially when those car doors swing open from nowhere.

Fortunately, bike commuting gets it’s due in the canons of Pima County’s free bike safety classes, once the basic prerequisites are filled.

Most of the courses run three hours, covering maneuvers, crash avoidance and maintenance issues. Fitness and training courses are also available. And you get a bunch of free schwag upon completion — including pricey helmets, light sets, water bottles, patch kits, tire levers and reflective tape.

There’s also a free U-lock in the deal, which helps guarantee that your ride will still be outside Sprouts when you return with that perfect mango hummus you spent the entire afternoon searching for.

Which is a lot tastier than swallowing one’s pride — or teeth.

Check out the full roster of courses, times and availability at or call 243-BIKE.

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