Currently I am having a bit of a debate about this issue and the “perception of risk” in cycling on the voleospeed blog. I strongly believe that cyclists need to do more to promote the fun and enjoyment of cycling, I am not going to go into great length over this right now but regular readers will already know my thoughts on this.
I had written a very large post about getting people onto their bikes – it was not only long but it was well thought out (amazingly enough) and with plenty of links to other posts on the issue. Google swallowed it and I am a bit flat right now – I will have to write it all again – this time I will save it off-line as well though!
As part of this supporting and helping other get back into the saddle, we must make that experience of cycling as pleasurable as possible – one way we can achieve this is to help other cyclists. I mentioned in my post about getting a puncture that I was disappointed that no one offered me assistance. I didn’t need assistance but it would have been nice if one out of the 30 or so cyclists who passed me would have stopped to check I didn’t need help.
On another occasion, I stopped (halfway up a hill by pure coincidence) to adjust the cleats in my shoes – I had been fiddling with their position to see if I could find a better position. What was nice was a guy, all in Lycra and on a road bike, stopped just to check I was OK. I didn’t need help but it was nice to know that someone was looking out for me.
In the past few months I have stopped about 3 times to ask people if they needed any assistance dealing with a puncture – each time they were OK but they also thanked me for asking.
Yesterday evening I saw another guy stopped by the side of the road – he was pumping up his tyre – I asked if he was OK, he explained he had a slow puncture and needed to stop every mile or so to pump his tyre up. He had no cash on him to buy a replacement inner tube (the current one already had 3 repairs and had just about given up for life). It just so happens that we had the same tyre size – so I offered to give him mine.
I knew he had no cash on him and I “didn’t know him from Adam” but because he was a fellow cyclist and he was in difficulty, I gave him my spare. I texted him my address and he promised to send me a replacement over the next few days. There is no rush, as I will have to pop to the shops and buy a new one today – otherwise I am running around without a backup myself (maybe I wouldn’t be feeling such a good Samaritan if I got a puncture on my in this morning).
Will he replace the inner tube? I think he will – he texted me back this morning to thank me. If he doesn't, would it stop me from doing the same thing again? No it wouldn’t, this is because I actively believe that cyclists (and society in general) need to help each other out more. The cost of an inner tube is no big thing – but the random act of kindness by me, means that it is more likely to be replicated by the receiver and so on.
So why no start your own chain of “random acts of kindness” and think yourself fortunate for being offered the opportunity to start such a chain? There may be some new cyclist who is not fully set-up to deal with punctures etc. and they come into difficulty – if you help them out they will see how cyclists are a community that helps each other and that will make them far more likely to continue cycling.