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Share the Road

Safety Corner logoWe’ve all heard the slogan and seen the signs: “Share the Road.” It’s intended to remind motorists that they are not the only legitimate users of our roadways. Sharing the road, however, works both ways, and we cyclists can have great influence by setting a good example. The CRW Rides Committee has established four safety-related priorities for 2005, the first three of which pertain to sharing the road:

1) Riding Single File in Traffic;
2) Staggering Ride Starts
3) Yielding at Intersections; and
4) Skills Development.

A short discussion of each follows. You’ll hear more about these priorities as the season progresses.

Riding Single File in Traffic. This is our top safety-related priority for 2005 and, frankly, one that we as a club are not very good at. Massachusetts law requires cyclists to ride single file, except when passing. While it may be harmless enough to ride two abreast when the road is free of motor-vehicle traffic, we need to single up at the first sign of approaching traffic—especially if approaching from the rear—and keep as far to the right as is safe. There are probably a number of reasons why we don’t do this well. Perhaps we aren’t aware of traffic behind us. Perhaps we don’t anticipate the speed at which the traffic is closing. Perhaps we are just doing what everyone else in the group is doing. Perhaps some of us don’t really care (shudder, shudder). Let’s all make the effort to do this right. Just think of the positive message we will send to motorists when we single up promptly!

Staggering Ride Starts. CRW weekend rides can attract 100 riders or more. Centuries can attract two or three times this number. When we unleash at once that many riders onto the roadways, we not only create stressful riding conditions for ourselves, but we invariably impede motor-vehicle traffic in a big way. While this may be legal, it’s not very considerate and does nothing to endear ourselves to the communities in which we ride. Therefore, we encourage ride leaders to stagger starts whenever group size exceeds 30 to 40 riders. The ride leader will generally release riders in three groups based on riding speed. The leader will announce the ranges and ask you to select a group. For this purpose, your riding speed is your typical rolling average speed (i.e., not including stops) on CRW rides. No one is going to time you, so it doesn’t matter if you’re off a little either way. There should be at least a 90-second waiting period between group releases. This will seem like a long time when you’re eager to get going, but anything shorter may result in groups bunching up at traffic lights or stop signs. Use the time for a final check of your bike, helmet fit, cue sheet, and other gear. Please listen carefully to ride-leader instructions and do your part to help the process work smoothly. You’ll have a more enjoyable and less stressful ride as a result.

Yielding at Intersections. I had an interesting experience at the CRW Fall Century last season. I was at the back of a group of 7 or 8 riders when we approached a stop sign at a T intersection. We were turning left. As all the other riders moved into the intersection, I noticed a motorist approaching from the right. As much as I wanted to keep up with my group, I knew I should wait. And I did wait. After making the turn, another motorist who had observed this process gave me a big smile, a warm wave, and a friendly toot as he passed me. At first I didn’t know what was going on, but then I realized that this guy had probably never seen a group of cyclists who didn’t all follow the first rider as if linked together like so many train cars! Remember, you must judge for yourself whether an intersection is safe to enter. And, of course, no cyclist likes to kill his/her momentum, unclip a foot from its pedal, and re-clip at an intersection. But we all know what’s right, so let’s do it!

Skills Development. While our riding skills tend to improve as we gain more riding experience, participating in training courses can accelerate the process and give us additional skills that we would probably never develop on our own. Contrary to popular belief, not all cycling-skills courses are for racers. The League of American Bicyclists (LAB) offers their national bicycle education program through the Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition (MassBike). See the details of MassBike’s Cycling Skills Class and LAB instructor training/certification in this issue. We also hope to set up some shorter, less formal (and free) training sessions during the 2005 riding season. This, of course, is dependent on securing CRW volunteers willing to organize and instruct such sessions. Stay tuned for further information.

Remember—safety is about choices. What choices will you make?

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