A few years ago, Robinson turned his passion for cycling into a full-time job with the Washington-area Cyclists’ Association, where he oversees the organization’s cycling ambassador program.
WABA Cycling Ambassadors are cyclists who help promote cycling in the metropolitan area. WABA provides resources for cyclists of all levels, including classes, workshops, tips on what equipment to buy, and dozens of online tutorials. Robinson spoke to The Washington Post about how to get started and stay safe when cycling in the metropolitan area. The interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
Q: Was it scary when you started riding in DC?
a: It was hard to get used to cycling in DC, because I always cycled in Maryland, always riding in a park or enclosed by traffic. I wasn’t used to cycling in traffic much, but I got used to it fairly quickly. Coming from where I was in Prince George’s County and going to D.C., I actually had designated riding spaces versus having to ride on the sidewalk or the occasional traffic. It definitely took some getting used to, but I would definitely call myself a confident rider.
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Q: How long do you think it took to become a confident D.C. rider?
a: It took me a few months, and I was persistent. I often, of course, go to work. But then, instead of going home right after work, I would explore the streets of the capital. It was definitely a challenge. I started working with WABA, and they gave me a lot of good advice. Many people who have been cycling in the area have also shared some useful knowledge.
Q: What do you like about cycling?
a: I really enjoy being outdoors. [With biking] You will really feel the breeze on your face and experience all that fresh air. I love him. You really see things because you’re not trapped in a car.
a: I already own a car, but I leave it parked most of the time, especially now with fuel prices. I only use it if I’m doing family events or other things, but most of the time my car is parked during the week and I’m cycling most of the time.
Q: Do you have tips for people who are just starting out with horseback riding?
a: Start in your area. Start in smaller places or on lanes and then move on to riding in traffic or using bike lanes. I think riding on driveways and residential areas makes people feel safer if they aren’t confident cycling on the road or cycling in traffic. In my experience, learning indoors in front of traffic allows you to be a better rider when you’re actually ready to get out there. Get to know your bike. Learn how gears work and get to know your brakes.
Q: Are there any good basics when starting out?
a: Light is one of the essential tools, because you never know when you will be caught riding in the dark. You want to make sure drivers see you, so we recommend front and rear lights, which are generally a white light and a red taillight, and you can pair them with reflectors. you can find [reflectors] As attachments they go directly on your bike or accessories for your body. There are reflective vests or reflective tapes attached to your leg. And bike lock, because you never know when you’ll need to lock your bike and possibly come back to it later.
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Q: What are some tips for driving in traffic?
a: Remember that you must follow the rules of the road. This means stopping at all stop signs and red lights, using your hand signals so people around you know what your next step is about to be. You can use hand signals, but you can also verbalize it. I know when I’m outside, I indicate where I’m going by screaming or using my hand signals so people around me know where my next move will be. Monitoring road hazards is another matter. Be alert, look ahead and make sure there are no cars or any objects that might slow you down.
Q: For those who want to go further, do you have tips for getting around by bike?
a: Yes, I think the first step in cycling is to plan a route: figure out where you’re going and test ride that route. There may be a few different ways or places to go to your destination, so give it a try. Maybe you do it on a day when you don’t have to work so you don’t have to worry about time constraints. I bike to the metro, so that’s an option – they can bike and ride the metro so they don’t have to bike all the way.
Q: Are there other things to think about?
a: Change your clothes, maybe something to wash quickly if possible. You can also leave some of your things at your workplace so you don’t have to ride with them. A change of clothes or something to freshen up and dress up is very helpful, especially if you are commuting in the warmer months.
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Q: Are there other good items if you plan to ride a bike to work?
a: When commuting, I find having a bag of some sort is helpful. Other things I like to take with me on my trip – plenty of water and Portable charger. There are some essential tools that I keep on hand – a patch kit with all the tools you need to repair your apartment. Also know that there are plenty of bike shops around to help you if you are not comfortable [fixing] on your own.
Q: Do you have ideas on how to encourage diverse communities to take advantage of cycling as an exercise and perhaps when commuting?
a: Take advantage of existing resources, so even if you don’t have your own bike there, there are bike rentals or places where you can use Capital Bikeshare to get around. There are a number of different cycling clubs that have already started during the pandemic. If you are not comfortable driving alone and are looking for other groups or people who have similar interests or come from similar backgrounds, try looking into some of the cycling clubs in the area.
Q: Can you talk about your work as a cycling ambassador?
a: I coordinate a lot of in-person and virtual events. We are a mobile information center, which means we can provide resources or answer your questions. If you are intimidated, we can offer resources to point you in the right direction, depending on your comfort level. If you have questions about being a confident rider, we will direct you to join the class that talks about it or guide you through being a confident rider and riding in traffic. Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of webinars aimed at new cyclists to teach them the basics of bike maintenance and tips for riding on the trails and in traffic.