Encouraging your Fellow Rider
by Bob Zogg
When signing our CRW membership forms, we each agree to a) cycle in a safe, courteous, and lawful manner when participating in CRW rides, and b) encourage the same among fellow members and CRW guests. The second part of this agreement, encouraging others, is key-it is the only way that we can achieve the cycling experience that the vast majority of members want. Some excellent ways to encourage safe, courteous, and lawful cycling are a) setting a good example, b) talking it up, and c) providing constructive feedback. Setting a good example simply means cycling in a manner that you would like others to mimic. Talking it up means raising awareness by talking (before, during, and after rides) about the importance of appropriate cycling conduct.
The third way, providing constructive feedback, means speaking to riders who exhibit undesirable conduct to help them improve. Easier said than done! Consider all the barriers:
• It can be tough to catch up to a rider, who could be some distance ahead
• Even if you can catch up, riding conditions may not be conducive to conversation, or other riders may be around, making a private conversation impossible
• We may be angry, and if our tone conveys that anger, the rider may become defensive
• Our words may not be effective
• Most of us find confrontation unpleasant, and we try to avoid it.
Finding the Opportunity to Talk: If you can catch up, attempt to speak only if you’re riding at moderate speed with favorable road conditions, and with no motor traffic in sight. Don’t create a second unsafe situation to talk about the first. If possible, talk to the rider out of earshot of others. If you’re unable to catch up to your intended audience, consider some alternatives:
• Ask another (stronger) rider to catch up and deliver the message
• Wait for a traffic signal, water stop, lunch break, or the end of the ride.
There will be times, however, when you’ll simply have to let it go.
Managing Anger: Feeling angry about what you just witnessed? Take a deep breath and relax. Give the rider the benefit of the doubt- that is, assume the rider just didn’t know or simply made a mistake. Whatever it takes, get calm before you speak. Your objective is to effect change. Anger will not help you.
Being Effective: As the old saying goes, “You catch more flies with honey than vinegar”. Introduce yourself. Be friendly. Be positive. Be empathic. Speak of the benefits of safe, courteous, and lawful cycling rather than the negatives associated with unsafe, discourteous, or unlawful cycling. Focus on the behavior, not the person. You may still get a defensive reaction or denial, but even an apparently unreceptive individual may eventually reflect upon your words.
Overcoming Fear of Confrontation: Focus on the benefits of taking action, and know that you’ll feel better for having done so. We have so few opportunities to influence our world—don’t pass them up.
Providing effective feedback can be challenging, but practice makes perfect. Give it a shot. And, when it’s your turn to be the recipient of constructive feedback, take it gracefully and thank your critic. We can all benefit from an occasional reminder.
Remember—safety is about choices. What choices will you make?
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