Do I really really want to be a Bikeability Instructor?

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alicej
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Do I really really want to be a Bikeability Instructor?

Postby alicej » 23 Apr 2014, 6:01pm

I'm going to be made redundant from my job of nearly 11 years very soon. Seriously thinking of training as a Bikeability Instructor. Quite excited about it.

If you are already an instructor, please could you tell me a little bit about what the job is actually like? What are the bad days like? What are the most difficult things about it? What are the best bits? Is there anything you wish you'd known about it before you started training? What sort of person do you think an instructor should ideally be?

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Si
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Re: Do I really really want to be a Bikeability Instructor?

Postby Si » 23 Apr 2014, 7:42pm

My 2p'#s worth but you'll find different opinions from different instructors depending on where they are and who they work for....

You may find it quite hard to earn enough to live comfortably on...but if it's that or nothing then go for it.
Most of the other instructors I know either have additional income, are semi-retired or are pretty young and are doing bikeability until they can get into their proper profession.

The average day for an instructor varies depending upon who you work for and where you are. When you start you'll probably be a free-lancer.

In my area the main employer is the Council, and employs instructors mostly to work in junior schools on a free-lance basis (no sick-pay, no pension, etc). There is an additional project bolted on that does a bit of training for adults but very few instructors get to work on this. Another large employer is BikeRight, who do training for adults in this area, but also do children in other areas (Manchester, Liverpool, etc). They have lots of freelancers on their books so you might find that you only get four or five days a month from them.

When you start you will be an unaccredited instructor which means that you shouldn't be able to lead sessions unless there is an accredited instructor with you (although some organisations ignore this). Thus you'll be an assistant....which pays less and has fewer opportunities for work. Some people prefer to stay as assistants as it is a fair bit easier than being a lead. To be a lead you'll have to get something like 20 sessions of experience and then pass accreditation (and with a number of employers then pass their test to become a lead).

As for the job.....well, again it can depend on who you work for and if with kids or adults. The kids can be great fun to work with and in the time I've been doing it I've met very few properly naughty ones or ones that I didn't like. But a lot, especially in the inner city, can be a tad slow on the uptake. Get a load of kids who are comfortable on their bikes and good learners and they are joy to work with. Get a load who just haven't had the riding experience and just don't understand what they ought to do...and by the last session you can start to feel despondent (even though you'll like the kids). Oh, and when you start you will be terrified, and your heart will be in your mouth every time you set one of them off on the road.....this will pass and you'll start to realise that even if they do something really stupid they are unlikely to get into serious trouble if you've done everything right.

Adults can learn a bit faster and have a different dynamic - you don't need to entertain them so much, but you aren't meant to shout at them! You are also more likely to do LTRs with adults - this can be really fulfilling - when they come to you having never been on a bike in the 50 years of their life and having never thought they could do it - then you get them riding and it's like the greatest thing they have ever done - unbridled joy...they can't thank you enough.

Unfortunately the paperwork is getting worse and more standardisation is entering the work. So with some employers you have to be more uniform on how you deliver training whether you agree with their system or not (luckily the ones that I've worked for have been OK...but some go a bit OTT, for instance not allowing snaking so you lose half a session just walking to and from the training area).

Also, don't expect to do much riding...most of it will be standing around watching them ride. Even on L3 there is a lot of standing around.

So what do you need to do it? Well, surprisingly enough you don't need that much riding experience, least ways if you are not going to do much L3. You need to be a good communicator, cool headed, be able to ride the demos OK, patience of a saint, good with kids, a bit of basic mechanics knowledge, and the determination to keep going. You may also want to find a temporary job over winter when there's not much training on.

Is it worth doing? Heck yes, if you can afford it. It can be hard work but loads of fun. It'll also improve your own riding a lot.

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Si
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Re: Do I really really want to be a Bikeability Instructor?

Postby Si » 23 Apr 2014, 7:45pm

Oh, the other thing - you'll probably find that you get work cancelled with little notice...as mentioned the income and work can be patchy. And there do seem to be a lot of people training to become instructors so it'll only get worse, especially if such things as LSTF dries up.

alicej
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Re: Do I really really want to be a Bikeability Instructor?

Postby alicej » 23 Apr 2014, 9:26pm

Thanks so much, that's all really really helpful!

Redundancy pay will mean I have a little freedom to take the time to train and take the risk that there might not really be enough work to not do anything else. Doing a bit of something else would be ok, although I'm not sure what yet. I only work part-time at the moment anyway so it's not a full-time income that I need to replace, although the irregularity might become a problem, and cancelling at the last minute is really frustrating...

I think I'll at least do the training and see what's what in my area, given that I have I think just enough flexibility before I really need A Proper Job. Nothing else has really inspired me yet like this has. The best bits sound brilliant :) and I would like to be out of doors, even if not actually cycling, for large parts of the day.

Vinko
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Re: Do I really really want to be a Bikeability Instructor?

Postby Vinko » 24 Apr 2014, 10:53am

I applied and sadly they insisted I wear a helmet, so that was as far as it got.

alicej
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Re: Do I really really want to be a Bikeability Instructor?

Postby alicej » 24 Apr 2014, 12:30pm

Do they? Why?

I suppose I'd wear one if I absolutely had to, but that's another expense I'll rack up. I suppose I'll need it for the training? Don't think it was mentioned in the course info.

Children will think I'm a hypocrite when they see me riding around without one outside of school.

Vinko
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Re: Do I really really want to be a Bikeability Instructor?

Postby Vinko » 24 Apr 2014, 8:09pm

Well thats what they told me and gave me hassle over it.

Having said that Sustrans were funny about it too when I led one of there rides....but hey, this isnt the place for a "lid debate".

Would be interested to hear if you are required to wear a helmet where you are.

All the best

Vinks

alicej
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Re: Do I really really want to be a Bikeability Instructor?

Postby alicej » 24 Apr 2014, 11:48pm

Maybe if they don't mention it then I won't mention it either and we'll see what happens.

I would be willing to wear one if absolutely required to though, I'd rather have a nice job than try to prove that it's probably not worth it to someone who would just decide it's not worth the bother of employing me at all, and probably wouldn't have the power to allow me an exception anyway...

Pick yer battles, etc. :roll:

alicej
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Re: Do I really really want to be a Bikeability Instructor?

Postby alicej » 24 Apr 2014, 11:54pm

BTW I have a Surly LHT which I LOVE TO BITS.

Manufacturers say not to use a kick stand as it will damage the frame.

How much will I miss having a kick stand while teaching, given how much I'll be not actually riding myself during lessons?

Is my own bike likely to get ridden into, knocked over, scraped/scratched/dented any more than it will with only careful me near it?

Could I possibly use this whole enterprise as an excuse to buy the Brompton I've been wanting for a while..?

Any other kit I might need? I already have warm waterproof footwear and a big hi-vis bomber jacket which is very warm and waterproof.

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Si
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Re: Do I really really want to be a Bikeability Instructor?

Postby Si » 25 Apr 2014, 9:35am

Different employers/organisations will have different requirements. You'll commonly come across the requirement for helmets, hi viz, non-race/lycra type clothing, etc, I even know of one that gets upset if you use SPDs. You might not like wearing it but I guess you can look at it thus: wear something you don't want for a few hours but give these kids a much better chance of surviving on the roads - is the trade off worth it? And, as said in another thread, you do not have to preach wearing these things, only tell the client that you (and they) are wearing it because your employer says you must.

As for bikes - yes, they will have a hard life. You will get kids (and some adults) riding into you. Your bike will fall over now and then. It'll get stuff leant on it. You'll probably find yourself going down horrible cycle paths to get to work, etc etc. Kick stands are very helpful, but not crucial.

Warm and waterproof clothing is an essential - remember you will not be riding most of the time (and when you do it will be very slowly) so even in your normal warm cycling gear you will freeze. Your employer will not want you to stop work just because it's cold or damp. Then summer comes and you'll be slapping the sun screen on all of the time.

You'll also need luggage capacity - your spare clothes, dinner, paperwork, cones, tool kit, basic spares (pads, cables, etc) first aid kit, set of hivizes, etc etc plus your clients will come badly dressed so you need to carry their spare clothes for them plus their food and drink. You'll also find yourself weighed down by inhalers and other medical bits and pieces, which you will get your ear bent about when the kid forgets to ask for them back and leaves them with you.

Best bike to go for is a robust one, that has luggage capacity, weather protection, and gives a stable ride to make the slow speed demos easier. Oh, and ideally, not an expensive one as it may get left by the side of the road while you are a short distance away talking them through a junction....you will probably work in some dodgy areas.

You will probably also need your own insurance (CTC do this for intro offer of around £60 per year), emergency 1st Aid Cert (various people do one day courses £50-£100), 1st aid kit, if working with kids a DBS/enhanced CRB(employer should do this for you - and will probably charge you for it). If freelance you will need to register as self employed, do a self assessment tax return, plus register for NI and send off a cheque every now and then. As said earlier, no sick pay, no pension, no holiday pay, etc...but on the other hand: you only work when you want to.

But before all of that you need to stump up £500 for the four day course. If you are lucky you might find someone like Bike Right who will give you the course free but then require you to deliver so many sessions for them at a reduced pay rate to pay for the course.

Vinko
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Re: Do I really really want to be a Bikeability Instructor?

Postby Vinko » 25 Apr 2014, 12:12pm

alicej wrote:
Could I possibly use this whole enterprise as an excuse to buy the Brompton I've been wanting for a while..?


I understand that as a Sustrans volunteer you get 10% ....or is it 15% discount off a new Brompton. Might be worth checking out.

:D

EDIT : I just checked, it's 15%. Although I havn't done this myself because I had my Brompton before I got involved in Sustrans so i dont know what you need to do to qualify either!
Last edited by Vinko on 25 Apr 2014, 4:38pm, edited 1 time in total.

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pjclinch
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Re: Do I really really want to be a Bikeability Instructor?

Postby pjclinch » 25 Apr 2014, 1:54pm

Lids...

National Standards outcomes (and thus Bikeability) doesn't have any requirement for helmets, but local authorities and training companies delivering Bikeability might and you are stuck with their small print. You may point out to them that the Get Britain Cycling report specifically recommends that schools and workplaces should not have a helmet requirement, and you might like to show them the front page of the Association of Bikeability Instructors website (http://www.tabs-uk.org.uk/) and have a think about the row of lidless child cyclists there, but at the end of the day it's their game and their rules. But you should make a point of telling them their rules are counter-productive to encouraging cycling and have no demonstrable health and safety benefit.

In Scotland it's mostly delivered by volunteers like me so I'm not forced to swallow my pride to accept the coin. The local authority I deliver for insists on lids for the kids but if they do insist for instructors they've not told me and I've not been in a hurry to press for an answer... The Scottish syllabus requires me to "Outline both advantages and disadvantages of helmets and fluorescent reflective clothing and encourage informed decisions", which is what I do with a classroom session all about it. I got considerably more intelligent thought about it from P7 than I got from the council...

Pete.
Often seen riding a bike around Dundee...

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Si
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Re: Do I really really want to be a Bikeability Instructor?

Postby Si » 25 Apr 2014, 3:10pm

You may point out to them that the Get Britain Cycling report specifically recommends that schools and workplaces should not have a helmet requirement, and you might like to show them the front page of the Association of Bikeability Instructors website (http://www.tabs-uk.org.uk/) and have a think about the row of lidless child cyclists there, but at the end of the day it's their game and their rules. But you should make a point of telling them their rules are counter-productive to encouraging cycling and have no demonstrable health and safety benefit.


Unfortunately the reply is often: yeah, know all that, put your hat on and get on with it.

Anyway, I think that we've covered lids to death in terms of what this thread is about, and so before this one gets hived off to the Helmets section of the forum I think it better we return to the eider subject of becoming an instructor.

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Re: Do I really really want to be a Bikeability Instructor?

Postby pjclinch » 25 Apr 2014, 3:42pm

alicej wrote:If you are already an instructor, please could you tell me a little bit about what the job is actually like? What are the bad days like? What are the most difficult things about it? What are the best bits? Is there anything you wish you'd known about it before you started training? What sort of person do you think an instructor should ideally be?


Noting that it's an extra I do as a volunteer, and not a paid job for me...

The bad days... it's cold, dreich, hardly anybody wants to be there, hardly anybody's learning anything, you wonder if the point about positioning you're failing to get across will get someone not really taking it in killed etc. etc.

Best bits... remember when you learned to ride a bike? Taking someone to the Magic Bit isn't quite as special as getting there yourself, but it's pretty damn special all the same, and you can do it again and again.

What sort of person... someone who can get the job done, which on the one hand is a cop-out answer but on the other reflects the actuality that different pupils and groups respond better or worse to different people and styles. It's also something that underlines the usefulness of complimentary styles in an instructor team. But I suppose "flexible" is quite a good characteristic!

Pete.
Often seen riding a bike around Dundee...

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Re: Do I really really want to be a Bikeability Instructor?

Postby Vorpal » 25 Apr 2014, 11:29pm

alicej wrote:I'm going to be made redundant from my job of nearly 11 years very soon. Seriously thinking of training as a Bikeability Instructor. Quite excited about it.

If you are already an instructor, please could you tell me a little bit about what the job is actually like? What are the bad days like? What are the most difficult things about it? What are the best bits? Is there anything you wish you'd known about it before you started training? What sort of person do you think an instructor should ideally be?


I became a Bikeability instructor when I was made redundant. I was also working on an on-line degree, and have two children, so the flexibility was ideal for me. Honestly, I loved it, and planned to do it for at least a couple more years than I did, but Mr. V lost his job, so one of us had to find something that would support a family. If teaching Bikeability had done so, I'd still be doing it.

The best bits: helping someone learn to ride, or seeing a child find joy in cycling can be amazing
The worst bits: seeing a child gutted when you have to ask them not to continue on-road training

The absolute worst day I had, I called a head teacher to come and collect two students. The best day ever, was 25 degrees and sunshine, and 24 kids did all of the level 2 work like they'd been born on bikes.

The most difficult thing for me was communication via the local authority.

I think that anyone with reasonable communication skills, plus experience with, and enthusiasm for cycling will be a better instructor than the majority of those currently employed doing it.

There are three different ways to do this:
-work directly for a local authority or their staffing agency
-work for a private company
-become a self-employed contractor

Local authorities will sometimes provide training, insurance, clothing, and equipment. They are more likely to do than private companies, but also don't pay as well. Private companies tend to pay better, but provide less. The self-employed route will pay the best hourly rate, but of course, you have to arrange for all insurance and training. Additionally, it may be hard at first to find business.

The best part about working for a local authority is that they will provide at least some of the work. They may provide all of it, or also provide a list of contacts at the schools.

Working for a local authority may also lead to other job opportunities, such as coordinating Bikeability instructors, teaching road safety, etc.

My advice... (take what you want and leave the rest :) )

Contact someone (or a couple of someones) working as a Bikeability instructor in your area. Check http://www.ctc-maps.org.uk/training/
Ask them what demand is like, if the market can bear another instructor, and what pay and conditions you can expect.

Work for someone else initially, as this will allow you to start earning while you learn the business. They may also be able to pair you with other instructors. My teaching partner was a club mate, but some of the instructors in my area just worked with someone else assigned by the local authority.
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