Syllabus

mural section showing San Francisco streetcar and two exuberant cyclists
Duboce Bikeway Mural (1998) by Mona Caron

The humble bicycle is at once a child’s toy and a masterpiece of engineering. It’s both healthy and dangerous; it brings freedom but is also a tool of war. It’s cheap transportation and $60-billion global industry. It’s a regular workday commute and a high-profile dope-riddled sport. It’s a marvel of science and a work of art. It is, as San Francisco bicyclist Robin Williams once said, “the closest you can come to flying.”

Speaking of Bicycles is a first-year seminar at the University of San Francisco, Fall 2016. In this course, our focus is public speaking, an ancient discipline and a modern essential. We’ll zoom in on four key issues for public speakers today: credibility, evidence, analysis, and advocacy. Our main goal: to help students grow as a communicators—to be taken seriously, to know how to find and evaluate evidence, to share valuable information, to make an impact.

Along the way, we’ll study bicycle culture, science, politics, and art here in San Francisco, a global epicenter of cycling history and innovation. We’ll get out of the classroom and explore San Francisco, the most bike-friendly city in the US. Together, we’ll meet San Francisco’s people and travel across the entire city (and beyond). Students will discover your own favorite bicycle places and share them with others.

This class is for everyone, regardless of experience, able-bodiedness, physical fitness, mental health, or neurotypicality. It is not necessary to own a bike (or even to know how to ride one). This class is interdisciplinary, which means that whatever your intended major, you can do interesting work in this class. Finally, the class is highly collaborative: it involves one-on-one attention from the instructor as well as extensive work in teams.

Some past topics explored by students:

  • The history and politics of Critical Mass, bicycling’s “defiant celebration”
  • The role of bicycles in health care in rural Africa
  • What’s the most cost-effective way for a college cycling team to be more aerodynamic?
  • Traffic safety and bike lane debates
  • Arguing innocence: pro cyclists and doping denials
  • The science of hydration
  • Farmworkers and bicycles: transportation in California’s Central Valley
  • Hipster style in San Francisco
  • Pablo Picasso and the bicycle
  • The Rise of electric bike in China
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