A message to new CRW membersBy John S. Allen
CRW is thriving: the club has more than 200 new members this year. Welcome. We all want to enjoy ourselves on our rides. Massachusetts, once the weather warms up and the trees leaf out, offers some of the most scenic and enjoyable riding anywhere in the USA, and close to major population centers. But, call out especially to new members: both for our own sake and to be welcome in the communities where we ride,we need to interact in a conscious, courteous way with other bicyclists and motorists.
First principle is that bicyclists operate according to the standard rules of the road. These should hardly need repeating: we ride on the right, heed traffic signs and signals, pass on the left and merge to the center of the roadway before turning left.
But, groups on the road pose issues which do not occur when riding alone. Chief among them are the risk of bicycle-bicycle crashes, and motorists’ increased difficulty in passing a group.
Crashes most commonly occur on CRW rides when a rider’s front wheel overlaps the rear wheel of the rider ahead. Trying to steer away dumps the following rider; the only chance to avoid crashing is by bracing the front wheel against the rear wheel of the rider ahead for a moment or two, slow down and fall back. Better than that is to stay alert and maintain a safe distance. Paceline riding may look really cool in the Tour de France, but it is always a little risky, and best avoided unless you can put all your trust in the rider ahead to be steady and predictable. And, if you are the rider ahead, paceline or not, that means you have to be steady and predictable. Sudden braking is a cause of many wheel-overlapping crashes. You have every right to refuse the responsibility of having another rider close behind you.
As to interactions with motorists: the central concern is to be conscious and decisive. CRW rides use roads with light traffic whenever practical. Encourage motorists to pass whenever that is safe, but especially on those beautiful, narrow rural roads, a motorist sometimes cannot pass safely. There may be oncoming traffic or a blind curve so you can’t see whether there is. You have skin in the game, literally, and you may have to take charge, controlling the travel lane and using a “don’t pass” signal – arm held out straight, palm of the hand facing backward. But then, as soon as passing becomes safe, merge back to the right.
This is easy when riding alone but more difficult in a group. It is best to ride in groups of 8 or fewer, so that motorists can merge into the gaps in between. Too often, one rider in a group stays out to the left, so that a passing motorist gets stuck next to the group, not good! Certainly, it is enjoyable to ride next to a companion and chat. And it is legal to ride side by side when that does not unnecessarily impede overtaking traffic. If the lane to the left is clear, a shorter group of cyclists side by side can be easier to pass than the same number of cyclists single-file, but the decision to double up must be conscious. Only the rearmost rider (and leftmost if double-file) in a group is in a position to interact with motorists who approach from behind. If you are in that position, that is your task!
Whew. Well, welcome to CRW. Be safe out there.
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