Safety Reminders for New Members
by Eli Post
If you are new to CRW and to group cycling, you should recognize that group riding dynamics are very different from those for solo or small-group rides. Riding in groups requires a new set of skills and introduces several safety concerns. Some common characteristics of CRW group rides are: a) riders having a wide range of riding speeds and styles, b) routes and roadways with which riders have little or no familiarity, c) possibility of sudden slow downs, stops, or moves to avoid obstacles or bad pavement, and d) limited visibility when a rider’s view is blocked by other cyclists.
Riding in a group can feel intimidating at first, so we encourage you to identify yourself to the ride leader prior to the ride. He or she may be able to match you up to an experienced rider or group that is appropriate for your ability or the type of ride you feel like doing that day. Ride with a group that is suited to your abilities. In the early spring, we offer many follow-the-leader rides, which are perfect opportunities to more fully appreciate the safety considerations that arise in group riding, the techniques for handling them, and the rewards of group riding.
Once underway, keep several pointers in mind:
- Take in the big picture. While you should focus attention on what’s in front of you, be sure to check to the sides and behind you so that you know what’s going on and can be better prepared to react. Observe what motorists, pedestrians, pets, and other riders are doing, as well as roadway condition, parked vehicles, intersections, traffic signs/signals, etc.
- Leave room for other cyclists to pass on the left unless there’s a good reason not to, such as when preparing to turn left, or distancing yourself from hazards at the right edge of the road.
- Look back and signal before changing lane position. Signal your intention to slow down; turn right or left before approaching an intersection. Call out “Slowing”, “Left Turn”, or “Right Turn” to alert other cyclists of your intentions when it’s not safe to signal. Shout it out so that riders behind you will hear.
- Always pass a slower cyclist on the left and call out “On Your Left” or “Passing”. Before passing, check behind you for vehicles or other cyclists. Give about three feet of clearance while passing-more on a fast descent.
- Single up at the first sign of traffic from behind. Do the same for traffic approaching from the front whenever the roadway is narrow, hilly, or winding. Call out “Car Back” or “Car Up” to alert other riders of approaching vehicles.
- Avoid “monkey see, monkey do”. If the cyclist in front of you enters an intersection or changes lane position, do not assume it’s safe for you to do the same. Check for traffic and make your own decision.
- Alert your fellow riders to road hazards. You can shout “Bump” (for broken pavement or bump), “Hole” (for a pothole), “Sand” (for sand, gravel, or stones) “Glass” “Dog”, “Car Right”, or “Car Left”. When stopping, move well off the roadway, and remind others to do the same. Try not to stop abruptly.
- When approaching a red light, stop behind the motorists already waiting, rather than riding up to the light. There are exceptions, such as when turning right on red, or in some heavy traffic situations.
- Even if you manage to start a ride in a small group, you may find that groups merge along the way. Slow down or speed up to join another group if you find yourself in a large pack.
These guidelines do not substitute for exercising good judgment based on the specific circumstances that you encounter while riding. Find additional discussion of group riding tips in Chapter 7 of John S. Allen’s “Street Smarts”, available at your favorite cycle shop or online at http://www.bikexprt.com/streetsmarts/usa/index.htm.
Again, we remind new riders that cycling is a sport where safety is paramount, and participants must be vigilant and constantly on the alert for hazards. There’s more to safe cycling than remembering a few basic guidelines. It means developing a mindset that keeps the safety mission uppermost in your thoughts so that you are prepared for any mishap that might cross your path.
The act of foreseeing, anticipating and taking measures against possible exposure to risk is common in sports. It’s the downhill skier, ever watchful for patches of ice or exposed terrain. It’s the diver, ever mindful of the hazards of the marine environment. And it’s the cyclist who must be alert to potential road dangers. Your awareness and anticipation will go a long way to ensure your safety on the road.
Remember—safety is about choices. What choices will you make?
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