A Portland bike advocacy group wants to teach women how to fall off their bikes

A Portland bike advocacy group wants to teach women how to fall off their bikes


A falling class taught by We Bike NYC has inspired a local version.
(Photo: We Bike NYC)

The non-profit Bicycle Transportation Alliance has a mission to get more women on bikes. But strangely enough, they first plan to teach women how to fall off them.

We often talk about fears and barriers to bicycling for would-be riders. Most of the time it’s about fears of riding next to traffic, getting sweaty before work, not having enough cargo space, not wanting to get rained on, and so on. But falling? It never occurred to me that would be a significant barrier until I saw an email from BTA Program Manager Nicole Davenport. She posted a message to a local email list with the subject: “Bike Falling Expert?”

“Is anyone out there really good at safely falling off their bike?” she wondered. “Would you like to help teach a group of people to safely fall off their bikes?”

I recall doing falling drills while on the cycling team in college. We’d run on a field and then dive head-first onto the grass, breaking our fall with our arms and then tumbling into a tuck-and-roll. The idea was to get our bodies familiar with landing as gracefully as possible. During a race, falls can happen in an instant. Teaching your body what to do when it happens is a key skill (and one I’m sorry to say I used more than I care to remember). But falling drills for new riders who’d only be biking in the city and for fun? That was new to me.

I followed up with Davenport via email to learn more. I asked why she wanted to host a falling workshop. She said the inspiration came via an Instagram post from We Bike NYC, a group that promotes women’s empowerment through bicycles.

“Falling off my bike is one of my own largest fears while riding,” Davenport shared. She also races cyclocross but doesn’t worry about falling in the mud and dirt (“It’s a bit more forgiving than pavement.”). “But when it comes to urban riding,” she said, “I do get nervous about flying over my handlebars and breaking a wrist, clavicle or my face when I hit the pavement.”

Davenport hopes her upcoming workshop teaches people “how to hurt themselves less when they take flight from their bike.” And obviously not only women would benefit from a class like this, it just so happens that Davenport is managing the BTA’s Women Bike program so she’s starting there.

Davenport is still putting things together and the workshop won’t happen until spring or summer. If you consider yourself a falling expert, or want to learn how to fall better, get in touch Davenport via email at nicole@btaoregon.org.

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – jonathan@bikeportland.org

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