Michelle Cook, Farah Wong and Vivian Ortiz are League Cycling Instructors (LCI) who live and bike in Boston. Both Farah and Vivian work on the Let’s Get Healthy, Boston! Project and serve as a Healthy Community Champion (HCCs) and HCC coordinator in Allston-Brighton and Mattapan. Michelle Cook is the founder of Roxbury Rides and is a resident of Roxbury/Dorchester. As LCIs, they are certified to teach “Smart Cycling” classes to children and adults with an overall goal to help people feel more informed, secure and safe when riding a bike. They are women of color paving the way towards a Boston biking community that is inclusive to all. Below you will find their interviews regarding their experience, training and future endeavors as LCIs!
Name: Farah Wong
Quick bike story: I have been riding Hubway for the past five years (except winter) as my primary mode of commuting to and from work. I saw an ad for the 5 dollars subsidized membership and hopped on. It has saved me time, money and It gives me a thrill when I am zipping away in the bike lane past all the cars. I hear many people saying that they are afraid of riding. It can be intimidating navigating Boston’s streets and my advice is: take it one trip at a time, one pedal at a time. Hubway has helped me in allowing me to take those short trips and extending them longer and being a more comfortable biker. For those who are intimidated, I say, start with a short trip and then as you get more comfortable add a few more pedals and then a few more and so on.
What was the experience like to become a LCI? Getting trained in Boise, Idaho was truly life-changing. It was a wonderful experience where I learned not only the ins and outs of teaching bike traffic safety skills, but I truly realized what a biking community was and for that short period of time, I felt like I was part of one and it sparked an interest to seek out the Boston biking community. For the first time, I felt more like a cyclist and less like a person that happens to commute by bike.
What have you done/experienced since becoming a LCI? I have been helping out and learning about bike maintenance through the “Earn-A-Bike Program,” a collaboration with Common Wheels, the Allston Brighton CDC and Let’s Get Healthy Boston where Allston-Brighton residents and other Boston residents are able to learn bike maintenance in six classes, and earn bikes, helmets, locks and bike lights. Vivian and I have also taught some traffic safety, such as helmet fit and bike fit to 10 high school students at Fenway High School.
What do you plan to accomplish by September 2017? I hope to do a TS101 (Traffic Skills 101) with the Allston-Brighton Earn-A-Bike graduates in the summer. I also hope to help out at the various bike events in the summer, teaching people how to get comfortable riding on the streets.
Name: Michelle Cook
Quick bike story: When I was younger living on Cape Cod, we always biked. When we moved to Roxbury, living in the city, biking wasn’t as feasible. When I became an adult, I started to ride based on a dare and I’ve become hooked ever since.
What was the experience like to become a LCI? I was trained in St. Paul, MN. Becoming an LCI was an amazing and a lot of hard work but determined to get it done. Not to mention that I had the most supportive group to assist me!
What have you done/experienced since becoming a LCI? I am currently working on creating a “Biking Confidence” curriculum to teach individuals and family about biking safety. I will be working with Mass Bikes as a part-time Instructor, and have done speaking engagements.
What do you plan to accomplish by September 2017?
- My plans are to create a curriculum for Boston Public Schools on Bike Safety
- Speaking engagements on Bike Advocacy and Safer Streets
- Children/Youth/ Adult TS101 Training Classes
- May 20: Neighborhood Bike Ride Series: Roxbury
- May 21: Kids Bike Rodeo for BrewCycle in Framingham, MA
- June 11: TS101 with the Vigorous Youth in Mattapan with Vivian
Name: Vivian Ortiz
Quick bike story: I biked when I was a little girl, but I didn’t get interested again until I girlfriends in my hometown started sharing their triathlon adventures on Facebook. I was jealous and I wanted to have the same fun they were having. I attended a Boston Bikes Women’s Learn-to-Ride Clinic in 2014. I didn’t ride again until July 2015 when a friend gave me a bike that I rode occasionally during that summer and fall. Since joining the 30 Days of Biking Challenge in April 2016, I ride pretty much every day if it’s not raining, snowing, or too cold.
What do you want to accomplish by September 2017? I first heard about the League Cycling Instructor program in Worcester in 2015 at a walking and biking conference. My first thought was to share the program information with the men I cycled with! When invited to become and LCI, I was a little hesitant because of my short riding experience. But the instructors and fellow trainees in Boise, ID worked as a team to make sure we all completed the training. There was so much information to take in during those three days. Cycling on streets with different infrastructure that what we find in Boston was a great opportunity.
What do you want to accomplish by September 2017? Becoming an LCI has made me a more confident cyclist. I am so much more aware of my surroundings and make it a point to communicate with drivers (at intersections or parked in bike lanes!!) and offer tips to cyclists (on the street or during group rides) on how to ride more safely. I’ve been working with Farah and/or Galen to offer indoor trainings with students on how to get themselves and their bikes ready to ride.
What do you want to accomplish by September 2017?
- May 27: bike rodeo at the TNT/Boston Project Ministries’ Let’s Get Moving Healthy Block Party
- June 11: TS 101 class with Mattapan Food and Fitness Coalition’s Vigorous Youth members with Michelle
- Mid-July: TS 101 class with participants from the June 13 Learn-to-Ride class in Mattapan
- July 22: mini TS 101 class at Mattapan on Wheels biking event
- August 19: bike rodeo and mini TS 101 class at the Edgewater Drive Neighborhood Association’s Block Party