Groups in Intersections
by John S. Allen
Riding through intersections in a group of cyclists is not to be taken for granted and requires different techniques than if you were riding alone.
Avoid the temptation to play “follow the leader” in a group, you must still look out for yourself. Your timing and position are different from those of the rider ahead of you. You can’t be sure that it is safe (for example) to merge, or to enter an intersection, just because it is safe for the rider ahead. Look back before merging, and survey the intersection before entering it, as you would when riding alone.
Avoid “swarming”. When cyclists must slow or stop before an intersection it is natural to bunch up. The cyclists in the back are catching up, and, while they would like to make it through on the green light, or the first gap in cross traffic, they should stay in the rightmost lane that serves their destination, and let motorists move up to the intersection, when the lane is wide enough to allow it. That’s common courtesy, which improves our welcome in the communities where we ride.
Cyclists in a group often take different routes for a left turn. Most use the correct vehicular technique, turning left from the left turn lane or from just to the right of the center of the road. Some however opt for unsafe and often illegal options such as turning left from the right side of the road or crossing all the way to the left side and making the turn on the wrong side of the street.
Taking various non-standard routes across the intersection presents other road users with a phalanx of cyclists, without any escape routes, thereby raising the chances of a collision. Training is often necessary to acquire the appropriate level of confidence and skills to use the proper technique, and the CRW Safety Committee can advise on a number of options available.
If you are in the middle or rear of a group, it’s important not to complicate matters for other riders by blowing past them. Those riders need to focus attention on other traffic, not you.
If you ride in a pace line, please take these additional suggestions to heart. While a pace line usually operates as a unit in traffic, pace line participants should proceed through intersections independently. Check for traffic, just as if you were riding alone. Because intersections require you to divert your attention from the rider ahead, and because the pace line may need to slow or stop, open up more space between yourself and the cyclist ahead of you.
Most car-bike collisions occur due to crossing and turning movements. Intersections are where most such movements occur. Good, mindful conduct when crossing intersections can prevent most crashes.
Safety is about choices, what choice will you make?