TRF:Hi James. This is a very interesting video for a number of reasons. All riders are aware of the sensitivities that come with accessing the countryside in vehicles, and at one time or another we are often faced with confrontation. Could you give a little background to what took place in your video?
James:Back in 2013 another TRF member and I had just started the return half of a ride from Wiltshire to Cheltenham and back when we were denied access to an unclassified road by a farmer who insisted that the road was actually a bridleway. The farmer obstructed a gateway and insisted that we turn back and leave ‘her’ property, which led to an impasse as we were unwilling to do so until we had explained our position. I keep a video repository on YouTube of ‘green roads’ which I have used so had my camera running for the entire duration of the confrontation.
TRF:In this case, as I would expect with all trail riders who ride within the TRF Code of Conduct, you were clearly within your right to access the route that the farmer was blocking. You were not breaking any rules. However, she was clearly not happy and we will never know exactly why - perhaps 20 riders had come in convoy the previous week, and whilst not illegal, very disruptive. Or perhaps she just didn't want you there. Either way, your film shows remarkable restraint on your behalf when confronted with such anger. How did you stay so calm?
The second half of the ride, post confrontation...
TRF:I think it's a very good point that meeting anger with anger rarely results in a positive outcome. It's easy for those who take issue with trail riders to disassociate their perceptions and frustrations with the actual person standing in front of them. What advice would you give to anyone else who finds themselves in a similar situation?
TRF:Do you think that confrontation is just an inevitable part of trail riding? Is there anything that we as a club and as individuals can do to reduce the chance of it happening in the future?
James:Confrontation remains rare with the overwhelming majority of people from other user groups being happy to share roads with motorcyclists. The minority of people who decide to remonstrate without good cause tend to be either ignorant to our rights (usually because they can take walking where they like for granted with only so much as a telling off should they stray onto private property) or unwilling to accept them. The former are best dealt with by being able to explain yourself in a friendly manner and the latter best dealt with by understanding what it is that they are trying to achieve – namely, that they are trying to spoil your day. Patiently hearing them out before informing them with a big smile that you’re ‘having a great day’ and that ‘this will all be over when we part company’ is a good way of showing them that they have no power over you and that you are not rising to their bait.
TRF:Finally, it was a nice touch to see you write a letter to the farmer at the end of the film. You didn't need to do it. Why go to the effort?
James:Because I was grateful for her change of heart on the matter and wanted to thank her for her gracious compromise – particularly as we were about to turn around when she backed down and we knew that other motorcyclists would want to use the road.