The Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) has announced the 2023 schedule for its popular Learn to Ride program, which offers free bike riding classes for adults and children throughout the summer. The classes are led by the SAFE (Streets Are for Everybody) Ambassadors, the outreach and engagement team within CDOT providing direct education and encouragement to Chicagoans regarding traffic safety and active transportation options. There are multiple FREE classes designed for all experience levels – for Chicagoans who have never ridden a bike to those who want to brush up on skills and gain confidence.
“There’s never been a better time to ride a bike in Chicago,” said CDOT Commissioner Gia Biagi. “Along with expanding and improving Chicago’s bikeway network, CDOT is committed to making cycling an accessible and convenient option for everyone no matter your age or experience level. Our Learn to Ride program is a great way to gain confidence and learn new skills, whether you’ve never been on a bike or haven’t ridden in a long time.”
Adult Learn to Ride
The summer series kicks off on June 1 and will be available throughout the summer at four Chicago Park District locations. Each two-hour class allows pre-registered Chicagoans to learn, based on their experience level, the skills they need to be comfortable riding a bike. Classes are offered in both English and Spanish to better meet the needs of city residents and serve more people.
There are three different FREE classes based on experience levels:
- Beginner Learn to Ride for people who don’t know how to ride a bike yet, as well as those who learned long ago and would benefit from a refresher course. Classes are taught on a car-free course.
- Skill-Builder Learn to Ride for people who have completed the beginner course and those who already have basic riding experience on their own. These lessons support the development of skills such as signaling, turning, and interacting with other people biking or walking. The Skill-Builder class will also provide instruction to help riders preparing to bike on city streets. This class will also be conducted on a car-free course.
- Road Ride, the third Learn to Ride class offered this summer, features SAFE Ambassadors leading students on city streets to help them experience everyday situations and build confidence. Topics covered include how to plan routes to your destination, the different types of bike lanes, and how to position yourself on the street in various traffic situations. The course is designed to help Chicagoans expand their understanding of how to travel by bike all over the city.
Beginner and Skill-Builder classes will take place at Washington Park (5531 S. King Dr.), Seward Park (375 W. Elm St), McKinley Park (2210 W. Pershing Rd.), and Piotrowski Park (4247 W. 31st St.). Road Ride classes take place at Seward Park.
Participants who have pre-registered for the two-hour classes will receive a free helmet, subject to availability. The classes are for adults and teens ages 13-17 with a parent or guardian if space is available.
Kids Learn to Ride
In partnership with the Chicago Park District, the SAFE Ambassadors are also offering Learn to Ride classes for children ages 6-12. Each two-hour class will be facilitated by peer-to-peer educators known as Junior Ambassadors, who are Park District recreation leaders.
Starting June 13 and ending August 1, classes will take place at the following locations and dates: McKinley Park and Washington Park on Tuesdays, Portage Park on Wednesdays, and Humboldt Park on Thursdays.
Reservations are required and granted on a first-come, first-serve basis, with priority given to families already enrolled in the Chicago Park District’s Day Camp programs. Parents or guardians registering a child will need to supply a bicycle that is fully functional and the right size for the child. Each child will receive a new helmet and individual helmet fitting.
The Learn to Ride program is one of many ways CDOT is working to make cycling a safe, accessible, and affordable transportation option for more Chicagoans. Earlier this year, CDOT released the Chicago Cycling Strategy, outlining a community-driven approach to expanding Chicago’s bike network and increasing everyday cycling. With a focus on providing low-stress options, working with community stakeholders, and filling gaps in the citywide network, this strategy will make Chicago a better place for cycling and help create a more connected, healthy, and sustainable city. CDOT will be designing and implementing 150 miles of bikeways in the coming years – the vast majority of which are low-stress – with several projects already underway this spring.
This year also marks the second year of CDOT’s Bike Chicago program, an initiative to distribute 5,000 free bikes and safety equipment to income-eligible Chicago residents over the next several years. While picking up their bike and equipment, CDOT’s SAFE Ambassadors provide residents with information and resources to confidently travel the City’s bikeway network and keep their bikes working for years to come. More than 900 bikes have been distributed through the program so far.