Bike mentoring program — recap of a successful first year

BPAC’s bike mentoring program exceeded expectations in its first year, with about 35 people requesting mentors or other bike help, and 23 people volunteering as mentors.

Mentors helped answer a broad range of questions, ranging from “what’s the best way to bike to my office?” to “where can I ride recreationally with my kids where they will be safe?”.  They also answered questions about trail etiquette, traffic laws, how to carry things on a bike, biking at night, trail connections, how to find out about trail conditions, how to look neat and presentable after riding to work, and much more.

BPAC launched the bike mentoring program in spring 2019.  When the Metro shutdown in Alexandria started this past May, the program was covered in the Alexandria Zebra, WTOP, Fox5, and ABC7.  The media coverage sparked greater awareness of the program, leading more people to request mentors and prompting others to volunteer as mentors.

Personally, I’ve worked with several mentees.  All were great experiences.  One of my mentees is Alison, who was a student in a bike safety class that I taught.  Alison told me that, when she bought her bike about a year ago, she only intended to ride on the Mount Vernon Trail.  But she wanted to know how to bike to the Shirlington library, so that’s what we did for our first mentoring ride.  We met up for coffee, talked about routes and road safety, and rode together through Alexandria’s neighborhood bikeways to the Four Mile Run Trail and then on to Shirlington.  Since then, we’ve explored different routes to Shirlington, ventured across the Potomac River to check out the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail, and discussed a wide range of topics: shifting, hills, bike shorts, pannier styles, bike-plus-metro options, traffic laws, switchbacks, Capital Bikeshare, and mapping apps, to name just a few.  Alison has also participated in a number of BPAC and WABA rides, and it’s been amazing to watch her confidence grow with every ride.

Alison was kind enough to share her perspective:

I also paired with a bike mentor, met her 3 times for 1:1 to work on specific things I requested, bike route to library, how to make tight turns etc. With each session, I pick up few extra tips about road biking, I definitely feel less nervous and become more assertive. Best part of it all: costs nothing.

Up until this summer, 1) I never expected I’d have the guts to ride on roads; 2) I did not know there are so many beautiful bike trails around DC area and; 3) I did not realize many bike lanes in DC are so well designed.

It also makes me a safer and more considerate driver. Before, it annoys me when I see cyclists on roads because they slow down the traffic. Now I am more patient and considerate. Before, I tend to cut in and out of bike lanes when driving and pay minimum attention to cyclists. Now I am more cognizant, stay in my lane and give cyclists ample space if they share a road.

Thank you to everyone who supported the bike mentoring program, including the local bike shops who put up flyers and everyone else who helped spread the word.  And an especially big thank you to all of the mentors who volunteered their time, knowledge, and skills to advise on safe routes, help others feel more confident on a bike, and spread the joy of cycling.

We’ve paused the mentoring program for the winter, but we plan to start again next spring.  If you’re interested in being either a mentor or mentee, drop me a note at, and I’ll get in touch when we relaunch in March 2020.

— Josephine Liu, BPAC Vice Chair and Bike Mentoring Program Coordinator