LCI Spotlight: Deana Acklin
The League certifies hundreds of League Cycling Instructors every year and there are thousands of LCIs around the country leading bike education efforts in their communities. In our LCI spotlight series, we are sharing the stories of League Cycling Instructors doing what they do every day: educating, mentoring, empowering. You don’t have to be an extraordinary athlete or overachieving student to be a stellar LCI, all you need is the conviction that life is better for everyone when more people ride bikes.
We’re continuing to shine the spotlight on League Cycling Instructors who are molding the next generation of cyclists. Meet Deana Acklin, our LCI in the spotlight this month. Find our earlier LCI Spotlights in our blog archives.
Deana is the campus bicycle coordinator for Bicycle Friendly University Lees-McRae College and an adjunct instructor for the university’s Outdoor Recreation Management program. There she spends time promoting the benefits of biking around campus, and in the community, as she works with the campus advocacy group to offer bicycle safety courses and free children’s bicycle safety rodeos.
In addition to introducing young cyclists to the freedom and joys of riding, Deana serves as co-chair for the Banner Elk Bicycle and Pedestrian committee and as a board member for BikeWalkNC. Read on to learn more about Deana and her bicycle journey.
TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF AND WHY YOU ENJOY TEACHING OTHERS TO BIKE.
Having access to a bicycle as a child saved my life! I was born with congenital heart disease and had to undergo open heart surgery at the age of five. I was told many times that my “condition” would limit my physical abilities throughout life. Having access to a bicycle created a space for me to recover from open-heart surgery and to simply play again! As I grew older, the bicycle gave me the confidence to challenge my body in ways I was told I never could. The confidence, strength and endurance from riding carried over into other sports. I became a multi-sport athlete in High School, obtained an athletic scholarship for college and became an endurance athlete into adulthood. Riding a bicycle has allowed me to pedal towards my best self, physically and mentally!
My heart fills with so much joy when I see others become empowered by the skills and knowledge, they obtain in my education classes! Whether they are children learning to ride for the very first time, or college students and adults reconnecting with the joy of riding a bike; or someone who wants to become more confident riding in traffic so they can choose a bicycle as a sustainable source of transportation. My goal is that everyone leaves my presence with that feeling of bike joy and a seed planted for the lifelong health benefit that comes with riding.
WHAT FIRST MOTIVATED YOU TO BECOME AN LCI?
The city I was living in at that time had a significant population of people who were using bicycles for transportation; kids biking to school, parents biking with their kids to school and for shopping; and adults biking to work…to include myself. There were way too many collisions occurring on the streets, too many “broken” bicycles, and too much theft in the neighborhoods and the city. There just wasn’t enough education, for both bicyclists and motorists, not enough resources such as affordable access to helmets, lights, and bike repair; and there was a lack of a safe network of cycling infrastructure and almost no secure bike parking. I wanted better for our city. I knew we could do better and that I could help us get there. Becoming an LCI was one of the first steps in this process.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR GREATEST REWARD IN TEACHING BIKE EDUCATION?
Seeing families reconnect and get healthy together through bicycling!
WHAT IS YOUR BEST PIECE OF ADVICE FOR AN LCI WHO WANTS TO TEACH A CLASS BUT ISN’T SURE HOW TO GET STARTED?
Find out where the greatest need for bicycling education is in your area and meet those families where they are at. Ride the streets with them, see where they need and want to get to…safely. Find out where the kids are playing and riding, and how they are getting to school. Are there members of the community with disabilities that want to utilize a bike for transportation or fitness but don’t know where to begin? Doing a little research will allow you to create a curriculum that highlights the daily challenges in the community you are serving and how they can overcome them. You may not have all the answers but don’t hesitate to reach out to other LCIs or other community organizations for their guidance and assistance.
WHAT IS SOMETHING YOU THINK THAT ALL LCIS SHOULD KNOW ABOUT TEACHING BIKE EDUCATION?
Every child and adult learns in different ways. Have a “tool belt” full of different skills, drills, and game options for all levels of riders…and be ready to use them on the go! Safety is paramount. What is your plan for falls, bumps, and scrapes? And no matter the age, keep them moving and keep it FUN. You want them to leave your presence wanting to ride bikes more often!
GIVE US AN INTERESTING OR FUNNY FACT ABOUT YOU.
I’ve had the pleasure and experience of working for a bike touring company leading tours across the United States. I will have to say, it is a life-changing and beautiful experience to explore our world by bike! Pedaling with and assisting 45+ riders at a time, over 3600+ miles for 50 days straight was an amazing way to connect with folks from all over the world! It allowed for the beauty of learning how others experience “bike joy” and how I can better serve those with the dream of pedaling cross-country, across their city, or just to the other side of the neighborhood.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE MEMORY FROM BEING ON A BIKE?
Going back to the “little me” who snuck out to ride her bike for the first time after heart surgery. Prior to my surgery, I would spend every day outside playing all day long. But after my operation, so much was taken away from me and I just couldn’t keep up with the other kids anymore. The absolute joy and freedom I felt being fast and free again was a feeling I will NEVER forget! There was no stopping me on my bike after that!!
Know an LCI who should be featured next? Nominate a stellar bike educator here!