Keep A Safe Distance
by Eli Post
The pattern is familiar. Riders moving at about the same pace meet along the route and end up riding together. They may or may not know each other. They make no formal arrangement about the ride but basically hang together for the pleasure of being part of a group or enjoying the benefits of drafting. There is no denying that is one of the joys of riding and one of the opportunities presented by CRW rides. If not properly done however, this practice is risky, and we have encountered crashes on rides as a consequence.
One such group formed on a recent ride. There were six or seven, and the rider in front missed the first right-turn arrow. When he spotted the second arrow near the intersection, he braked without warning so he could execute the turn. The rider directly behind went down, and the third rider rolled directly over the fallen rider. There were cuts and bruises as well as a bent wheel, but fortunately there was no serious injury. On an earlier ride, however, several riders who crashed under similar circumstances were not as fortunate, and required medical assistance.
We do not discourage riders from forming groups, but riders must communicate to confirm that all are comfortable with riding as a group and are aware that others are close behind. Pacelines, where riders are inches off the wheel of the person in front, require specialized skills, and there are specific rules for paceline riding such as: leader never stops pedaling, new leaders maintain same speed, ride with wheels offset, ride with people of similar ability and experience, etc.
In any case, you should not ride in close proximity to other riders without permission and an agreement as to how the ride will be handled. Without this, the group is asking for trouble. Again, you should have a prior understanding, one that is the product of fore-thought and coordination.
When cycling, safety is paramount, and riders must be constantly on the alert for the unexpected. You don’t have to be a physics whiz to understand that the faster you go, the less time you have to react. In general, you should signal your intentions, keep a safe distance, and limit sudden, abrupt, or unexpected stops to situations in which they are truly necessary-certainly NOT upon missing a turn, dropping a water bottle, or to answer a cell phone. Following these simple guide-lines can help prevent mishaps.
Remember—safety is about choices. What choices will you make?
Please send corrections, additions, comments and praise to