Pathways to safe group cycling…

…it’s dangerous he said. What’s dangerous, asked his friend? The number of new people coming into the club who haven’t a clue how cycle in groups, eh, strike the groups bit, he said, the number of new people who don’t know how to cycle - full stop!  What can we do to encourage people to join Orwell safely they mused? and much musing later Scott Orwell Pathways Program was born.

Leonard Kaye and Bryan Johnston were the men having that conversation. Since it was first started their Pathways concept has been acclaimed by many, but in particular, by the participants of the course. This safety course has real potential to save cyclists from injury and may even save lives. What a contribution to our club and safe cycling!

Scott Orwell Pathways is a highly effective process to welcome new members in a safe and orderly manner.  It comprises of four elements (1) an online application form, including a simple but effective questionnaire (2) a desktop “segregation” of riders based on their abilities (3) Cycle training and assessments sessions in the closed and safe environs of Corkagh Park (a dedicated cycling track) (4) and finally, accompanied road cycles to various coffee destinations.

New Members – now there’s the first pothole! We have applications from; new cyclists, once/twice a year cyclists, get fit before holidays cyclists, commuters, inexperienced solo riders, hugely experienced solo riders, Ironmen/triathletes, ex. Orwell members, ex. members of other clubs, ex. racers, men, women, very young to God knows how old? riders who know everything, riders who know nothing and then you have the ones who keep quiet!  So, you can see just how dangerous this particular pothole could be.

Currently Pathways is run twice a year, spring & autumn, and is delivered in six two and a half hour sessions over three weekends. The course content is designed and delivered by two Level 3 Cycling Ireland coaches, Aidan and Michelle Hammond with the assistance of an organising committee and up to seventeen volunteers who act as mentors to the group.

Pathways has three pillars. Firstly, ALL new leisure cyclist applicants must attend and pass this course. Secondly, we arrange cycling experience and skills into appropriate groups.  Thirdly, everybody must attend sufficient sessions for our tutors and mentors to establish that they are safe to ride in groups. For example, riders “claiming” to be advanced are invited to a session where they are put through their paces at a very high level and if passed, they may join club activities without further attendance. This common-sense approach effectively frees up our coaches and mentors to focus on the participants who need more attention.

At the beginning of the first Pathways session for each intake, participants are told very clearly that they are joining a cycling club – not the army! The sole purpose of us being there is to learn how to cycle safely in groups while at the same time having great craic with like minded people.

The course starts with our professional tutors taking the participants through the now famous “M Check” and other mechanical aspects of the bike. We then break the class into groups of ten with two mentors in each group. Aidan begins with very basic exercises, such as, in-line cycling, up-and-overs, singling out, obstructions, cycling calls etc. As the course progresses, he will introduce more advanced exercises like; handing off water bottles, changing you front bottle to the back holder, close proximity riding, cornering and gear selection (no, not that type of gear – the ones on your bike!) All this is performed with great friendless and fun. It is amazing and very rewarding to see their skills and confidence grow, often by the hour! Their genuine appreciation for what the Orwell Wheelers club is doing for safety is a feature of every session. The email below is typical of the many we receive;

To: Orwell

The welcome already afforded over the last few weekends by you and your fellow club mates was much appreciated.  Well done on some great organisation - I know how much work is involved in “herding” this number of people and you did it splendidly.  If these last few weeks are an indicator of what’s to come, then joining Orwell will be very worthwhile and bound to be good fun too.

Thanks again

D.

Unfortunately, not all cyclists pass because of illness/injury, insufficient attendance or inability to cycle safely in a group, however the vast majority do pass into our club. In the two years of Pathways operation over three hundred cyclists have successfully passed and are safer cyclists because of Scott Orwell Wheelers. You know, it’s ok to dream, and I dream that there are three hundred people out there using their “Pathways” knowledge and skills to cycle safely, help their kids, family, work colleagues and friends to do the same.

As far as we know, we are the only club in Ireland with such a programme. We understand that other clubs are looking very closely at Pathways for their own members. It is the intention of the Pathways committee to continue developing and refining this system as we truly believe it could be lifesaving.

The Scott Orwell Wheelers Pathways skills programme is both an embodiment of, and a monument to, the Orwell culture. Two guys talking about a problem who asked, “how can we make this safer for everybody?” and then set about finding a solution!

 

 

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