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Communicating from the Saddle—Road Hazards

Safety Corner logoby Bob Zogg
from the November 2006 WheelPeople

Effective communication is central to safe group riding. In addition to communicating one’s intention to stop, slow, or turn, it is generally helpful to warn riders behind of road hazards such as holes, bumps, cracks, debris, obstacles, or narrowing lanes. Riders in front can sometimes obscure the road surface from view of those riding behind. A warning can help those behind avoid an unexpected jolt that’s at best unpleasant and at worst crash inducing. Riders can warn those behind of hazards by pointing them out, calling them out, or both. Pointing out hazards generally provides more information to those following because you show them exactly where the hazard is, but calling out is safer for you because your hands stay on the handlebars. If you hit one bump while pointing out another, you may be the one who crashes. And if you crash, those behind you (remember, the ones you were trying to help?) may end up crashing into you.

While it is a good idea to alert other riders to road hazards, it can be overdone. Point or call out only the significant hazards (i.e., ones that could potentially cause loss of control), and then only if they are in the general path of travel. Pointing too frequently unnecessarily puts you at greater risk. Calling out too frequently may unnecessarily distract riders from taking in the big picture view while they are busy scanning the pavement for hazards.

Similar judgment should be used when maneuvering around rough pavement. When riding in a group, scan far ahead and pick a clean path. Try to avoid last-minute swerves around obstacles unless they are really serious. Better to hit a small bump or hole than to possibly lose control or side swipe a fellow rider. Just call out the bump as you go over it. Those behind you are counting on you to ride in a steady and predictable manner.

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

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