Setting An Example

Setting An Example

Leading a left turn

Others Are Watching What You Do

Whether good or bad, humans model their behaviour based on what they've seen/heard others do. Children learn by watching their parents, or being directly told how to do something, but adults mimic other adults, too. Perhaps you weren't sure where to find the concession stand, so watched where other people were coming from with food to figure it out. In this era of digital technology, I'm sure you've read a how-to article or watched a video of someone demonstrating how to do something. 

Teaching can be obvious, like what I do in my job, or it can be subtle, not really something you realize you're teaching someone or learning yourself. 
Novice course

Would You Jump Off A Bridge?

You probably remember this from your childhood, with the intent to prevent you from getting hurt through peer pressure: if your friends were jumping off a bridge, would you? The expected answer is no, because your parents want you to recognize that you could get hurt, that you need to make your own decisions and not be pressured into things that you really don't want to do. However, chances are high that even as an adult, if your group of friends jumped off a bridge, you'd jump too (or be one of the ones who jumped first). 

Why? Because humans use other humans as models to make predictions about what will happen to them. We also don't want to be left out, or the only one who is different. 

If all my friends were jumping off a bridge, there might be a valid reason, like perhaps one of the support cables snapped: wouldn't that be exactly the right time to do what everyone else is doing? Or perhaps we all decided to go ziplining and I'm the last one to go: is there any reason to believe that I'd get hurt? If I decided not to jump in either of these scenarios, I could get hurt or would be ridiculed for being afraid of something completely safe. If my friends jumped, would I? Probably.

Setting The Right Example

We've established that not all examples are bad examples. As an instructor, it's obviously my job to give the best example of what to do and how to do it on bike, but not every example is intentionally set. 

As a parent, it's my job to set the best example for my child. I have to do this with intention, every single day. When biking, some of the examples that I have to ensure that I demonstrate include: 
  • wearing a helmet properly
  • stopping at stop signs
  • using proper hand signals. 
When I'm out biking alone, though, continuing to do these things, as well as obeying other rules of the road, being respectful to other road users and properly positioning my bike in a lane set the example for other cyclists. Doing these things also teaches motorists how cyclists should behave and can mean that the roads are safer for all. 

Riding downtown

Practice Makes Permanent

I say this in every single course that I teach: everything gets easier with practice. You've heard the saying practice makes perfect, but that's not entirely accurate. 

The truth is that practice makes permanent

If you practice something incorrectly - for example you use one finger to type on a full size keyboard - you'll get really good at doing it, but not the right or best way. If your practice is risky, eventually it will catch up to you. It's just a matter of when, not if, that you'll get hurt. 

The more you ride, the less likely you are to fall off. I used to tell the story of how I hadn't fallen off my bike in 15 years, then I fell off twice in a 2 week period. I didn't hit my head either time, but I could have. On vacation one year, my family visited the Fernie Bike Park. After scoping it out, my husband - moderately experienced but not highly-trained or highly-practiced in mountain biking - rolled down the easiest jump track at the park... something surprised him in mid-air on the first jump, and he crashed. He landed on his shoulder and the side of his head. His helmet was visibly cracked on the inside (see photo below) and he suffered a minor concussion: this could have been fatal without a helmet. As we were cleaning his skin wounds, we watched another cyclist going over the advanced jump track, getting massive air, without a helmet. He rode by a few minutes later and I called out to ask why he wasn't wearing a helmet (which is actually required by law in BC for everyone). His answer: "I'm done now so I don't need one." My husband crashed on the first run of the day. Less likely doesn't mean impossible. 

When your daily routine is exactly the same, you don't miss things; they're just part of the habit. If you always put your helmet on when you go for a ride, the habit is there and you will feel weird without it. I've turned around after literally 3 seconds of biking many times because I realized that I'd forgotten to put my helmet on - it just felt wrong and I recognized it instantly. Practice putting your feet in the correct position on the pedals, using proper hand signals, always stopping at stop signs and these will become permanent parts of cycling that you just do without having to think about them. 

Practicing things the right way will make them good habits, not things that get you into dangerous situations. 
 
Broken helmet
Slow speed control
Practicing on pathway
Melissa profile

In Conclusion

There's probably not someone stalking you, but there's always someone watching what you do and learning something from you. Repeating the same things over and over creates habits of behaviour, either good or bad. In order to set the best example for children and every other person that's learning something from you, create good habits. Good biking habits will keep you safer, make the roads safer for you and everyone else, and teach everyone that cycling is a safe, effective mode of transportation. 

It's literally my job to teach you how to do these things: I'm here to help. 

- Melissa Malejko, Owner of Safer Cycling Calgary