Notes from the Chair – October 2016: Thanking our Volunteers

Martine Palmiter, Vice-Chair

Recently the club received an email from an unhappy member, who had a valid complaint… the leader forgot the cue sheets, the slower riders were dropped, and he commented that this was his experience of the leadership over the years in the club and that “to think that we pay for this[expletive].”

This kind of experience happens to members, and to non-members. It’s true. I’ve been on rides where the leaders and fast riders disappear. I’ve seen rude behavior or bad behavior from fellow cyclists on rides. I’ve also been a leader who experienced rudeness: where the cyclists who attend my ride don’t say hello, grab a cue sheet and that’s the last I see of them. Also, the reverse is true. Leaders come to a ride start and there are riders who are not prepared to ride/their bike is insufficient, they need help! Ride leaders have been asked to sweep from the rear, stay with disabled or slow riders, keep track of all the riders’ safety and ride skills, plan the rides in advance. I’ve also been very impressed by the numbers of regular volunteers who sponsor the weekend events, the annual rides such as the Black Hills and Nokesville, Memorial Day and July 4th rides, overnight ride weekends, the rides to the shore, training rides, women’s rides, trail and rural rides. The club offers all its events to members and nonmembers.

As one Club member commented to me at lunch, “this issue has been discussed over and over since I started in the Club 30 years ago (or did he say 40?) —the ride pace does not match the ride description, speed creep, what pace leaders should ride at, is there a sweep? Will I get dropped? What is the responsibility of the ride leader? People get frustrated and there does not seem to be a solution.”

The Club has gone through many years of ridership/leadership—we’ve been in existence for 50 years!!—and cyclists and leaders come and go. And some cyclists never come back—and some stay for years. Where does this leave us?

Those who are looking for a lot of rides, riding companions, and ride events come to Potomac Pedalers. We offer a huge variety of rides. You don’t need to be a member to ride—it’s free if you want.

The leaders and volunteers are unpaid. There is few paid staff but even those staff work many hours day and night on communications and making sure the club pays its bills—their dedication is apparent. But most members do not know that the Club leaders have a lot of responsibility and the Club offers many things to the community—the club carries liability insurance, it gives out thousands of dollars a year in grants money, it addresses advocacy of bike laws, it mourns cyclists accidents, it supports and runs a website to post the rides, it maintains a storage unit and supplies, it pays for credit card processing, mailing out, formatting, editing the many Pedal Patters and email blasts, and tries to thank its volunteers with a dinner, awards, and other items of value (we hope!) It plans for the annual century, worries about the budget, designs jerseys. And much more. The Ride Coordinators alone are true heroes in trying to get more of us to post and lead rides. They beg and plead with us. There are those who spend countless hours planning rides, and checking routes.

So, yes, the Club has its problems as any club does. The volunteers and leaders make mistakes. Some cyclists stay and some leave. There are many other groups that offer cycling experiences. But Potomac Pedalers has a strong volunteer ethic and hopeful leaders who want to improve rides and cycling in the metro DC area. We hope that when you receive an email from our team, and you attend a ride, or you get some encouragement from a ride leader, you thank those volunteers who work so hard, or you can help them figure out a way to solve some of the problems you have seen…we need your help. And we need your enthusiasm and new ideas as well to keep the club viable for the next 50 years.

~ Martine

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