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October 2018

Taking the Opportunity

by John S. Allen

This article could be about any two people on a CRW ride, when one rider catches up with another.

I don't know who you are but you'll remember me after you read this, if you read this. Or maybe not, because countless similar encounters happen on CRW rides. In any case, I have an apology to offer you.

You were stopped at the side of the road when I caught up with you. You were poring over the smartphone clamped to your handlebar. I think that it's fair to assume that you were trying to get RidewithGPS working.

As I passed, I asked “are you OK?” I do this when I catch up with people who are stopped. Often they are having mechanical problems. I'll give myself a pat on the back for quite a number of flat tire fixes and other minor repairs. Often when I ask “are you OK,” people simply reply that they are. And you did, this time, but it was different.

Why and how? Well, for one thing, it happened twice on the same ride. I was following the arrows painted on the street for this ride, and I missed a turn. My deviation from the route ended up being a shortcut, and I caught up with you poring over your phone again. For the second time, I asked “are you OK,” you said “yes,” and I rode on.

If I had not been so intent on maintaining the steady, if slow, pace of my ride, I would have stopped and asked whether I could help sort out the GPS issues, maybe ride with you. It looked to me as though this might have been your very first ride with CRW. And the helpful assistance and companionship of another, more experienced rider might have avoided its also being your last.

How does this tie in with safety? CRW has over 50 years of organizing rides on the beautiful rural roads of eastern Massachusetts -- sometimes not so beautiful roads, when necessary to make connections. We have a tradition of respect for traffic law and of reasonable riding skill. It isn’t perfect, to be sure, but we do better than most.

As older CRW members like me age out, maintaining CRW's tradition requires that we recruit younger members, and ride leaders. CRW's membership count had been declining slightly until only this year, when it again began to rise, thanks to multiple recruiting efforts and improvements to our Web site and social media presence. We could go a lot further with this, and I hope that we do.

CRW's continued presence and example are essential in setting the tone for bicycling in the communities where we ride. This is important not only to the people who enjoy our rides; it is important to the larger bicycling community, to the public at large and to the political climate for bicycling.

I missed an opportunity with you. The best promotion for our rides is the rides themselves, but people often need a little help to get started and to feel welcome. This is how we recruit new members, maintain our tradition and now expand it.

I might have gained something too, myself if I had stopped. A pleasant encounter? A riding companion? A friendship? If I’d helped with the GPS, and turned on the GPS on my own phone – or ridden with you, at least I would have finished the ride. I should have gotten the message after already missing a turn. Some arrows a bit farther along didn’t look quite like the earlier ones. I rode past them and found myself prematurely on my way home.

Got what was coming to me, I suppose. I hope to do better next time. Readers, please do as I say, not as I did!

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