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Encouraging your Fellow Rider

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by Bob Zogg
(Adapted from the September 2008
Safety Corner article)


You may be sold on safe, courteous and lawful cycling, but do you ever wonder how to influence your fellow cyclists to think and act the same way? There are at least three ways. First, set a good example by cycling in a manner that you would like others to mimic. Second, talk it up—find opportunities before, during, and after rides to emphasize the importance of appropriate cycling conduct.

Third, provide constructive feedback—this can be very effective, but difficult to execute. There are many barriers to speaking to riders who exhibit undesirable conduct:
- It can be tough to catch up to a rider with whom we wish to speak
- Riding conditions may not be conducive to conversation, or other riders may be around, making a private conversation impossible
- If we are angry, we may find it tough to convey a constructive tone
- Our words may not be effective
- Most of us find confrontation unpleasant, and we try to avoid it.

Finding the Opportunity to Talk: 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.

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: 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. Further, all CRW ride participants agree to the CRW safety policy—to cycle in a safe, courteous, and lawful manner, and to encourage the same among other participants. This policy empowers you to approach other riders about their riding behavior.

Providing constructive feedback can be challenging, but becomes easier with practice. 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.

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