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BIPOC League Cycling Instructor Seminar: Overview, Stories & Discussion | Bike Walk Leadership Network Webinar

This month’s Bike Walk Leadership Network webinar featured bike education legend and advocate Neil Walker, alongside BikeMN staff members Angela Olson and Maya Sheikh. Speakers discussed the BIPOC-led and focused League Cycling Instructor (LCI) seminar in October. League Cycling Instructors (LCIs) are ambassadors for better biking through education. After earning certification through a 3-day, League Coach-led seminar, LCIs teach Smart Cycling classes to children as well as adults. Their goal is to help people feel more secure about riding by educating cyclists and motorists and to ensure that people on bikes know how to ride safely and legally. Participants in this month’s webinar also had an informative and important round table discussion about bike education in Minnesota. We learned so much from our panelists, we encourage you to check out the highlights below and watch the full replay available on YouTube.

Angela Olson, BikeMN Education Coordinator

Angela’s discussion during the webinar centered on the many education programs BikeMN offers, including our Walk! Bike! Fun! Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety and Education curriculum, and the upcoming BIPOC-led and focused LCI Seminar held in October. BikeMN’s Walk! Bike! Fun! training includes reviewing the Walk! Bike! Fun! curriculum, on-bike parking lot drills, and group riding skills. BikeMN also provides technical assistance to schools that have completed training. Applications are still open for educators and schools to request a Walk! Bike! Fun! training!

Next, Angela shared background information about the BIPOC LCI Seminar, which was the first training of its kind held in the nation last year. The first BIPOC LCI training in Minnesota was held in partnership with the League of American Bicyclists and Quality Bicycle Products in fall 2021. Legendary bike advocate and educator, Neil Walker, led the training and successfully trained eight new bike educators. Certified educators can teach people of all ages how to ride a bike safely and confidently, lead Smart Cycling courses to build confidence biking in traffic, support encouragement events like bike rodeos and skills workshops, and facilitate basic bike maintenance training for businesses, schools, and universities.

This year, BikeMN has teamed up with the League of American Bicyclists and Quality Bicycle Parts (QBP) to offer another BIPOC LCI Seminar this October! The seminar is open to up to 16 participants, who are all eligible for full scholarship funding to receive the training. New for this year, BikeMN also received private funding to sponsor two participants from Greater Minnesota, encouraging participation from folks outside of the metro and ensuring bike educators are available across Minnesota in urban, rural, and suburban environments.

Neil Walker – Founder of Cycles of Change and League Educator

It was never Neil’s plan to become a cycling coach. Growing up, Neil wanted to be a pilot and after a knee injury shortened his athletic career, he began bicycling. After finding bike joy, Neil became a League Certified Cycling Instructor and began his bike-education work in Atlanta in partnership with REI to get more people of color outdoors and pedaling. Neil shared he enjoyed teaching people to be on bicycles, and to have that multi-modal transportation experience with youth, women, and people of color, specifically in communities with little access to the outdoors and biking. Still working with the League of American Bicyclists, Neil formed United Cycling Voices and joined the Equity Advisory Council to support the League’s Bicycle Friendly America equity initiatives. Neil’s work on the Equity Advisory Council included developing an Equity Toolkit that promotes greater inclusion of people of color by communities, businesses, and universities seeking Bicycle Friendly Awards.

Like other educators, Neil’s teaching is informed by his life and experiences. Growing up, Neil was taught to ride against traffic, and saw an undercurrent of stigma against those who bike for transportation. Teaching others to ride safely by sharing knowledge on how to position themselves on the road, be predictable, visible, and alert, and changing the narrative of who rides a bike remains an important motivator as he continued his education work. In 2016, Neil was awarded Instructor of the Year by the League of American Bicyclists, and his education career since has continued to reflect his skill, dedication, and commitment to diversifying the bike world. Cycles of Change was started after Neil saw the bicycle as a tool to mentor people and give them the opportunity to dream beyond their neighborhoods, cities, and world. The after-school program provides mentorship opportunities through bicycling trips that explore state parks and national parks across the state.

Classroom time led by Neil Walker

In 2021, Neil taught the first-ever BIPOC-led and focused LCI Seminar in the nation, right there in Minneapolis! Having visited Minneapolis several times over the years, Neil shared he considers the city his second home. While in town to lead the seminar last year, Neil shared Minneapolis was the first place he had seen a fat-tire bike, and the first time he experienced a bicycle traffic jam while crossing the river. From then on, Neil said he had a fire within him to get involved in the bicycling scene, riding with others, including our friends at the Minnesota Major Taylor Bicycling Club, and joining the Rondo Days festival.

This year’s BIPOC LCI Seminar is supported by the League of American Bicyclists and Quality Bicycle Products (QBP), which provides scholarships for attendees to get trained and certified. QBP’s support for increasing the diversification of the bicycling world goes beyond education, funding mechanic trainings, and facilitating urban parks, which “transform our cities and spaces,” Neil shared.

Excited to return to Minneapolis and lead the upcoming BIPOC LCI seminar this October, Neil closed by sharing how the bicycle has molded his career and life.

“I was an athlete getting on the bicycle after a knee injury, and I felt like it was my obligation to share that gift with other people. Whether they had an injury, access, or opportunity, I felt called to share what the bicycle has done for me with others. My career as an educator, instructor, and coach has given me the opportunity to travel to over 35 states in the US, travel internationally to Belize and Jamaica, and I consider it a blessing and a gift that has supported me even now. Biking is one of two things you can do throughout your lifetime, and I am thrilled to be able to teach it.”

-Neil Walker

The Webinar included a round-table discussion on how education opportunities can go further, and cultivated a deeply insightful and raw conversation among participants and panelists. The discussion included important observations about the different lived experiences Black, Indigenous, and people of color have in daily life, and on the bike. These lived experiences shape bicycling experiences and education, and participants felt they needed to be discussed openly and honestly.

“When I talk to folks about biking I emphasize that there are things that are physically safe and things that are emotionally safe. There are a lot of instances where what is taught as being safe in Safe Cycling can be very emotionally unsafe.” -Webinar Participant

“I can totally relate to your perspective and this is why I do the work that I do, advocating and educating riders.” -Webinar Participant

We hope you enjoyed this recap of the September Bike Walk Leadership Network Webinar. If you missed it, don’t worry! You can watch the full webinar on BikeMN’s YouTube channel here. The Bike Walk Leadership Network meets every third Wednesday around the lunch hour (11:30 am) via Zoom with the purpose of connecting local leaders to share stories and ideas on how they are lifting the walking and biking culture in their communities. 

If you haven’t already signed up for the group, we want you to come along for the ride! Learn more about the Bike Walk Leadership Network and sign up for the group here.

Join us for the next Webinar on October 17th.