Monday, November 4, 2013

The Rules - Part 1 - Communication is Critical

I am going to start this series that may or may not be without a break. (I have several posts that I am working on with diverse topics

But I had a request yesterday to talk about group/ road cycling and the rules.

Cycling on the road and in groups can be very safe and enjoyable, just by following some simple rules but while the rules are all simple and likely will make sense to you, there are a lot of them, so this will likely take a few posts.  If you don't understand something or have questions, feel free to post a comment or message me and I will hopefully give you a reasonable answer :)

Many of you may know that I am on a quest to change the face of cycling in the following ways
  1. make cyclists more courteous and safer users of the roads to enhance the experience of not only cyclists, but the motorists what we share the roads with (notice that I put share the road, not the lane - this is what I think that those share the road signs should say)
  2. help cyclists to interact with each other in a more efficient way to further the cause for number 1 and that is what I am going to focus on today.
If you have been on a group ride with me, regardless of whether it was on a bike path or road way, you were likely delighted to hear my pre-ride safety speech that has the following elements.

One of the first things you learn when riding with me is that a bicycle has all the same rights and obligations on the road as a motor vehicle in Indiana.   Meaning that bicycles are entitled to a whole lane and are allowed to ride 2 abreast legally. (re: share the road not the lane)  So bicycles are required to stop at stop signs and stop lights as well.  All that said, there is such a thing as courtesy which relates to helping traffic get past in a safe manner when the opportunity presents itself (more on that in a later blog) Also keep in mind that if you don't live in Indiana, the laws will likely vary a bit, mostly as regards to not impeding traffic flow of motor vehicles on the highways and byways. If you are traveling to another state to do a ride, it pays to spend at least a few minutes studying the laws, so that you can be aware and interact safely with traffic at your destination.

I also talk about communication and this is the cornerstone of safe road/group riding and that is what we will deal with primarily in this article.

I have had riders learn all of the communication and safety rules and then go on an organized group ride with SAGs, safety talks, police support etc... and then be amazed that none of the riders will talk to each other.  I'm not talking about "how's the weather on your side of the lane", "nice bike", pleasantries in general, but safety communication.

Repeated Warnings
The following communication should be repeated when you hear it so that the people all the way to the back of the line will have ample warning that something is happening that they need to be aware of and that they need to acknowledge.
THIS IS IMPORTANT - Do this even if you think it is ridiculous,,,it's not....Do this with all of the following communication IT IS IMPORTANT!

- Slowing or Stopping - When you are stopping or slowing on your bike, you may not be aware that you do not have brake lights!  So first of all when you are slowing, stopping, using the brakes for any reason or if you just stop pedaling and find your self loosing speed, the correct thing to do is sing out, "Slowing" or "Stopping" be sure not to mumble.

- Car Back - this means that you have a car either coming up behind the group or following and waiting to pass.  Repeat this Even if you are the very first one in line on the front of the group - it lets the people behind you know that you heard.  The same goes for the next signal

-  Car Up - this lets the people behind you know that  #1 they should be alert not to stray across the center line (you should avoid this anyway) #2 if the people behind you in line are trying to help a car behind to pass, the group, they will know that it is not safe and will take the appropriate action. Again repeat "Car Up" even if you are the last person in line, it lets the people in front know that you heard.

- Car Passing or Passing - this alerts people in front that they now have a car passing the group, so that they can give a friendly wave as the car passes (more on this later, it is very important to wave)

- Car Right or Car Left - indicating a vehicle that is at an intersection or driveway looking to enter the roadway

- Right Turn, Left Turn or simply Turning - while we do encourage and demonstrate hand signals (more on that in another blog) I also encourage people to call the audible.  Everyone needs to acknowledge the turn, for the same reasons listed above :)

Non- Repeated Warnings

- On your Left, On your Right or Passing - This should be used any time you are passing another cyclist and you should repeat it multiple times if you are passing a line of cyclists so that the other riders are aware of your presence and do not pull out into you possibly taking out your front wheel and sending you rolling down to the pavement.  You should also give this warning when passing pedestrians of any variety for the same reasons.

- Social Interaction - If 2 riders are having a conversation, do not feel obligated to repeat everything that they say.... on the other hand always be sure to stop your conversation to further the cause of important conversation for the purpose of safety by repeating warnings (i.e. slowing, stopping, car up, car back etc....)

This is what I start all riders with who are new to my groups.  Up next time; hand signals, road courtesy, and more group etiquette.

Until next time, safe riding!

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