At this year’s Illinois Bike Summit hosted by Ride Illinois, Active Trans board member and Chicago Heights resident Larry Mysz was given the prestigious Illinois Educator Award.
The award was well deserved. As a bicycle advocate and educator over the last two decades, Larry has touched the lives of thousands of people, inspiring many to seriously consider the bicycle as a mode of transportation for everyday use, even in the suburbs.
Larry started a program that has taught hundreds of adults to ride a bicycle for the first time and has trained about 200 League of American Bicyclists Cycling Instructors (LCIs) from around the country how to conduct bicycle safety classes.
Last fall, Larry attended our Bike Walk Every Town suburban advocacy training with the understanding that as more residents in our region gain confidence and find joy in riding a bicycle around their communities, increased interest in advocacy for better and safer bicycle infrastructure will naturally follow.
He also strongly believes in the importance of bicycle education and the role it can play in saving lives. At the advocacy training, Larry shared a story about his cousin who was tragically killed in a crash while riding his bike.
“As a young adult, my cousin was killed in a right hook crash with a large truck," he said. "If either my cousin or the driver had taken a traffic skills class, that crash would have never happened. Because of the loss of his life, I became motivated to help others. I wanted to teach skills that could save lives and help people feel more comfortable riding on the roads.”
After taking a traffic safety course, Larry soon found himself teaching others about bicycle safety skills and decided to become certified as a League of American Bicyclists Cycling Instructor (LCI). LCIs go through a 3-day seminar training and become certified to teach Smart Cycling classes to children and adults, ensuring people learn how to ride safely and legally on their bikes.
“Most adults learn to ride a bike within two hours," he said. "When you see someone riding for the first time, there is usually a lot of joy and excitement. It’s very satisfying and rewarding.”
Larry eventually became an LCI coach traveling around the country teaching and certifying others to be LCIs. He has so far trained more than 200 instructors.
To better connect residents in the region to local instructors and bicycle safety classes, Larry created a useful website full of resources at www.chicagobicycle.org. You can also email [email protected] to be connected to a cycling instructor nearest you.
Today Larry and his wife enjoy taking bike trips throughout the region and world. In 2013 they celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary on a bike and boat tour through Austria.
In addition to his travels, Larry is still activity involved in teaching others how to ride confidently and safely and is meanwhile behind the scenes encouraging the City of Chicago Heights to beef up their efforts to improve bicycling and walking infrastructure on the ground.
Thanks to Larry for all of his hard work promoting safe cycling and inspiring others!
If you’re interested in getting involved in suburban walking and biking advocacy and encouraging others to ride or walk more in your community, visit the Bike Walk Every Town webpage for more information or email [email protected].