Preface: I lead a wonderful group called the PAL Ambassadors. PAL stands for Predictable, Alert, Lawful. It is a cooperative program between Washington Area Bicyclist Association and BikeArlington to promote street safety and responsible behavior, while building a fun, volunteer-based community of ambassadors. It is fun and EXTREMELY effective at making the region more safe. You should join us!
At our monthly PAL Outreach Block Party we were talking pedestrian and cyclist safety issues at one of the more dangerous intersections in Arlington County… Lee Highway and Lynn Street in Rosslyn. It is an event in conjunction with Arlington County’s Pedestrian and Cyclist Safety Initiative.
Now to my story:
A woman who works nearby and walks to and from work daily was quite angry and a little bit confrontational about how cyclists behave around pedestrians. Often times people expect me to reply to aggressive comments “with attitude”, so they open up with confrontational words and hands on their hips. She is more afraid of cyclists than she is of cars in that intersection. This fear and anger had built up over years! Now she’s got someone to point it at…. ME!
Over the years I’ve developed a very good technique for making this kind of interaction positive. Listen —> Find common ground —> Share the solution —> Enlist their help = WIN!
Here’s how it went:
Listen: Pretty easy. Be attentive. Make eye contact. Listen… I mean really listen. Don’t interrupt. Just listen! She talked for almost a minute non-stop. It seemed like a lot longer. It always does. I just listened and waited for her to relax a little and breathe. She felt MUCH better when she got to the end of her talk. I could see her visibly relax.
Find common ground: I totally agreed with her, so common ground was easy to find. Many cyclists behave badly in and around that intersection. I slipped in a little comment that many of us in that intersection could behave a lot better. I was helped by a pedestrian that ran out into busy traffic and a motorist that ran the red light. SHE brought up that pedestrians are horrible there too. We have common ground and she helped find it!
Share the solution: I gave a 15 second pitch for the PAL Ambassador program. I had 6 amazing volunteers talking the talk and walking the walk all around me. She could see people talking to pedestrians, cyclists and drivers. She liked it!
Enlist her help: I handed her a Kind Bar that had a PAL Ambassador sticker on it with all the info she needed to get involved. She got a snack and the ball is in her court to become a force for good!
WIN! I got a smile, a sincere handshake and a new force for good in the PAL Ambassador program. I hope she follows through.