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Calling Out "All Clear"

Safety Corner logoby Eli Post

There are many hot-button safety issues in cycling and this one is near the top of the list. “All Clear” likely had its origins in warfare when the danger had passed, and the expression has made its way into cycling as a courtesy to fellow riders. There is an unmistakable elegance when the lead rider can shout “all clear” so that those behind can continue through an intersection, not break their pace, and remain otherwise unperturbed. This all makes for a smoother ride, and can add to the sheer pleasure of moving swiftly without disruptive breaks, but it may carry serious risks.

While we encourage you to communicate with other cyclists, and especially to let other cyclists behind you know of approaching hazards, we do not recommend that you shout “All Clear” in the absence of a traffic hazard. Traffic conditions can change in an instant. Riders further down the line might hear the “all clear” when it no longer applies and place themselves in jeopardy. Cyclists must always take personal responsibility and obey traffic laws, riding in control and in a manner that they can stop safely no matter what another rider may report. In a word, call out the hazards but not the non-hazards. The risk to fellow riders far outweighs your good intentions.

Although it is often safer to have a group of cyclists clear an intersection together, this situation should not be confused with the “all clear” shout. Moving across a clear intersection as a group should always be the product of forethought and coordination. Even an organized paceline, where riders are riding inches off the wheel of the person in front, should open enough at an intersection to allow riders to slow or stop without endangering the one behind. Again, you should signal your intentions clearly, call out road hazards, and otherwise keep safety uppermost in your thoughts as you cycle.

Safety is about choices— what choices will you make?

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