Eight Week Program for Novice Female Riders

By Bill Smith

Cathe Carnes and former Jonesboro resident Sally Broadaway were out on a group ride of mostly women along a county highway when she saw the need for a cycling class.
“It was a hilly, winding road and I watched in horror as some of them rode three or four abreast along those curves,” she recalled. “Then Sally had a at, and the group left us behind on the side of the road. We decided, right there on Highway 226, we needed to teach some etiquette, road rules and street smarts.”

Adopting the famous Rosie the Riveter icon, Women Can Ride (WCR) began in 2011 and became an outreach of the Northeast Arkansas Bicycle Coalition (NEABC). The name was an adaptation of the popular Women Can Run groups across the country. Starting with the basics on bike safety and maintenance, the rst ride typically is around a spacious church parking lot near downtown Jonesboro. As the twice-a-week meetings continue, the rides get longer by adding neighborhood streets, then parts of the hilly sections of tow, and, nally, incorporating the busy main roads.

“By the end, we want them to feel con dent with any road, any situation,” Carnes said.

After the rst course, Carnes and Broadaway paid their own way to become League Certi ed Instructors (LCI) from the League of American Bicyclists (LAB). They adapted the LAB’s Smart Cycling course into their eight-week program designed to build skill and con dence for novice female riders.

Perhaps as important, WCR is the network for the riders. Carnes maintains a private Facebook group for current participants, alumnae and other interested women in the Jonesboro region. Carnes has some male LCIs that assist as sweepers and support for the twice-a-week course rides, and spouses of WCR alumni on the list, including her husband, Zeb.

“I’ve found we feel safer riding in groups,” she said. “The list gives us a place where we can announce to others we trust, ‘Hey, who wants to do a ride tomorrow at 6 p.m.?’ You can let people know where you will be without the worry of someone using social media to nd out that you are out in a remote spot by yourself.”

The value of the training is real. Recently, a pair of teenage boys in a four-wheel ATV rode up alongside a group that included Carnes on a Sunday afternoon in the Valley View area of Jonesboro. One of the boys reached out and slapped Carnes on her rear as they passed.

“I’m not sure what they were thinking, but I know if I hadn’t had the experience and training to hold my line when he startled me, I might have swerved into the rider to my right,” she said. “Two of the other three ladies had been through WCR and I think it helped them also.”

While WCR concentrates on bringing newcomers onto the roads, Carnes knows there is something for everyone in these types of safety courses. She continues to assist with the traditional two-day Smart Cycling 101 curriculum of the LAB that is hosted by NEABC in the region.

“Learning to ride in traf c isn’t dif cult, but it is a skill,” she said. “The League’s motto for Vehicular Cycling is ‘Cyclists fare best when they act as, and are treated like, vehicles.’ It’s true. Even the most experienced road riders will pick up knowledge about crash avoidance or road strategy in one of these courses.”

The 2018 program begins on the Tuesday after Mother’s Day in Jonesboro.