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Taking Stock

Safety Corner logoby CRW Safety Committee


As the year draws to a close, it’s appropriate to take stock of the safety information we’ve presented in this column over the months. Here are some highlights from our recent articles. We hope you take a few minutes out to refresh your memory or perhaps catch up on an idea or suggestion you might have missed.

When Not to Stop! If you drop something from your bike, like a water bottle, resist the tendency is to stop immediately and retrieve the fallen object. On a group ride, you are never sure if other cyclists are nearby, you must first signal that you are stopping, then slow gradually, so others can react in time and not crash into you.

Keep a Safe Distance. You should not ride in close proximity to other riders without permission and an agreement as to how the ride will be handled. Signal your intentions, keep a safe distance, and above all, avoid sudden, abrupt, or unexpected stops unless it’s an emergency.

Descending a Steep Road. Steep descents can be tricky. Steering requires less movement, turns become more difficult, and your weight is transferred forward, which can make your bike more difficult to handle. This is a very different experience from riding the flats, and you must know how to counteract these forces. On descents, shift your hips back, gently pinching the saddle between your thighs, put one pedal forward and one back (crank arms horizontal), divide your weight between the pedals and saddle, and place your hands in the drops using a relaxed grip. In addition, the road surface conditions play a greater role. At slow speeds, potholes, gravel, spilled oil, and fallen tree limbs are a challenge, but at high speeds such conditions can become a greater threat. Scan carefully for possible hazards.

New Bicycle Laws. New laws legalize riding side by side (limited to two abreast). This puts Massachusetts’s law in agreement with those of most other states. BUT, riding side by side is allowed only when it would not impede overtaking traffic.

Straying into Traffic. A common bad habit involves riders not keeping right, and not riding single file, when there is a car back. When there is motor traffic, riders must get into single file and stay to the right. It does not matter where you are in the pack. It only takes one rider in the middle of the road to impede an overtaking motorist. However, you should occupy the lane (by riding in the middle) when it would be unsafe for a motorist to pass within the lane.

Predictability is one of the most important elements of road safety. Other riders and motorists expect you to maintain a consistent lane position and speed, unless you signal otherwise.

Follow the rules of the road: Riding by the same set of rules as motorists (as required by law) greatly reduces your risk of a crash.

Communicate with the group: Use hand signals prior to turning, slowing or stopping. Point out hazards for riders following you. While at the back of the group, announce traffic coming from the rear by calling out “Car Back!”

See! Be Seen, Be Safe! The majority of cyclists on the road do not use lights at dawn or dusk, or even at night. Many riders forget or simply neglect to equip their bikes with appropriate lighting. Plan ahead with two simple questions: will it be bright enough to ride safely on my way home? Will a flat, a mechanical failure or any other unexpected event delay me? If there’s any doubt, bring lights. You’ll need both a headlight and a taillight. Bright clothing greatly improves your visibility any time of the day.

Winter Riding. Ice on the road requires extra care. Try to avoid ice, but if you can’t, do not brake or turn, but coast straight across the slippery stuff. Watch for dry patches where you can brake or turn safely. Ice patches can form even if it hasn’t snowed in weeks. Keep a careful eye on the road surface.

You can view an archive of past Safety articles at We encourage you to do so for any of these topics where you seek more information.

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

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