Route Planning for Group Rides
by Bob Zogg
from the February 2007 issue of WheelPeople
Are you planning to lead a CRW ride? It’s one thing to select a route for yourself and a few friends, but quite another to design a ride for a large group. Here are a few tips, focusing on safety.
Designing a good route is hard work, and starts at least several months prior to the ride. Consider using an existing route to save yourself gobs of time and effort. As a courtesy, consult the person who developed the route or who currently leads the ride using the route. Cue sheets for most CRW rides are available on the CRW website (http://www.crw.org/cuesheets/index.php), along with descriptive information, including the name(s) of the current or most recent ride leader(s). If no one currently leads the ride, you are free to tailor it to give it your personal flair.
If you decide to develop your own route, consider the start location early on. Information on our most popular ride-start locations is available at http://www.crw.org/rides/StartInformation.xls. (Please email with any additions/corrections to our ride-start database.) Many locations require permission, and some, a permit. Pick a location that will be lightly used on the day of your ride, is away from town centers, and has plenty of space. Examples include: business lots that are normally used only weekdays (for weekend rides), commuter rail lots (for weekend rides), church lots (except Sundays), or synagogue lots (except Saturdays).
It’s best to start the ride with a right turn leaving the lot (rather than a left), especially if the road is heavily traveled. Avoid bike paths (they can’t handle large groups safely), dirt roads, busy roads (unless the lanes are wide or there is a good shoulder), badly broken or very bumpy pavement, and places where riders would need to walk their bikes. Good road-surface conditions are most important on down hills. Avoid fast down hills having intersections or stop signs at the bottom. It’s generally better to climb steep stretches and descend on the more gradual stretches. Right turns are safer and easier than left turns, and clockwise routes generally have fewer lefts than rights. Keep the route relatively simple, without too many turns (especially if the ride won’t be arrowed), traffic lights, or stop signs. It’s particularly important to keep the route simple for the first few miles, when riders tend to be more bunched up. Check schedules for events that may create heavy entering/exiting traffic along your route, such as religious services, flea markets, fairs, etc.
Obviously, compromises must be made to form a continuous route anywhere in eastern Massachusetts. Despite the aesthetic drawbacks, heavily traveled roads are often reasonably safe, especially if wide with smooth pavement. If possible, enter busy roads either with a right turn or at a controlled intersection, and where there is good visibility in all directions. Exit busy roads the same way. If there are tricky places along your route, note them in your pre-ride talk and on your cue sheet. If the ride is arrowed, you may wish to place an arrow, with three exclamation points (!!!) under the arrow, far enough in advance of the potential hazard to give riders time to react. Use these warnings sparingly. If you have more than one or two potential hazards, consider modifying your route. As close to your ride date as possible, ride or drive your route to look for problems that may have come up (road construction, bridge closures, etc.), so that you can warn riders during the pre-ride talk.
Remembersafety is about choices. What choices will you make?