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Design your Ride for Safety

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by Bob Zogg


Designing a ride for group cycling involves more than simply connecting together attractive stretches of roadway. Whether you're developing a new ride or modifying a ride you've been leading for years, make safety your first consideration. Even if you're not a ride leader, your knowledge of best practices for route selection will help you recognize weaknesses so that you can provide constructive feedback to ride leaders. Some pointers on ride design follow.

Ride Start: Your ride start should be convenient to the metro Boston area, easily accessible from a major highway, and convenient to a commuter rail station, if possible. In addition, look for a start location that is on a quieter street (that is, quiet on the day of the week and the time of day that you plan to start your ride). If possible, have your ride leave from a different exit than used for those arriving by car. That will reduce the chances of a collision between a latecomer and a departing rider.

The First Few Miles: Your goal is to spread out riders as quickly as possible to reduce the potential safety issues associated with congestion. Even if you plan to stagger your ride start, there will often be congestion in the early part of the ride. If possible, design your ride so that riders exit to the right from the parking lot to facilitate safe departure. Keep the first few miles of your route simple, with few turns (especially left turns). Because of the large concentration of cyclists, missed turns early in the ride are more likely to cause pileups if the riders stop abruptly. Even if they don't stop abruptly, they may lead others off course and cause confusion. Also, avoid numerous traffic signals in the first few miles as they may keep riders from spreading out.

General Routing: Keep the following in mind when laying out your route:

While no route can be totally free of potential hazards, make safety your top priority when designing your ride. It's better to forgo a beautiful stretch of roadway than to put riders at unnecessary risk.

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