our commitment to safe cycling
Keeping you safe—whether you’re with us on a group ride or on your own—is our top priority. Cyclists share rules of riding and riding etiquette (see below) that protect not only you but the cyclists around you. Also consult Will’s rules, below, and our frequently asked questions on the Ride Info page for more safety tips. The League of American Bicyclists and Washington Area Bicyclists Association provide even more safety and proper riding technique resources, including videos, and we’ve included links to both below. Stay safe out there!
Group Ride Etiquette
Group rides are a wonderful way of sharing your enjoyment of cycling with others. They can range from a very socially paced 5-mile “ice cream” ride, a 25-mile all-out training sprint, or a conversationally paced 100-mile century ride. Riding etiquette and common courtesies apply to all group rides, regardless of the number of riders, distance or predetermined pace.
Recreational clubs schedule group rides for the benefit of their membership to experience cycling with others of similar skills and abilities in a relaxed social atmosphere. It is expected that cyclists attending group rides will respect the work and effort of the ride leader and their fellow cyclists by maintaining a pace within 2 miles per hour of the advertised average. Example: If the average pace is advertised as 14-16 mph, then you are expected to average a minimum of 12 mph or average a maximum of 18 mph. After all, it is called a group ride.
If you find the paces of group rides are either too fast or too slow for you, then volunteer to lead a ride at the pace you enjoy. You’re sure to find a group of cyclists who would love to join you. Download a PDF copy of our group ride etiquette.
BASIC GUIDELINES FOR GROUP RIDES
- Provide Camaraderie and Support — Remember we are a social recreational bicycle club. Watch out for your fellow cyclist before, during and after the ride. Help make newcomers welcome by introducing yourself. Don’t immediately spin off to join up with your old cycling buddies, but spend a portion of the ride with the new cyclist. Give them some information about the club and the route, and introduce them to your friends. If the newcomer appears to be having gear or equipment problems, don’t pedal impatient circles in the parking lot; get off your bike and offer some assistance. The ride will get moving that much sooner, and you might need the favor returned some day.
- Be Punctual — Arrive at the ride start with your gear and equipment ready to ride. Accidents and equipment failures happen, so plan to arrive early enough to repair a flat or perform minor adjustments. Check your gear the night before, so your fellow riders won’t have to wait while you hunt the missing glove or sock.
- Be Predictable — Group riding requires even more attention to predictability than riding alone. Other riders expect you to ride straight, at a constant speed, unless you indicate differently.
- Change Positions Correctly — Generally, slow traffic stays right, so you should try to pass others on their left. Say “on your left” to warn the cyclist ahead that you are passing. DO NOT PASS ON THE RIGHT. In many cases, a cyclist may not hear or be aware of you approaching them from behind. An unexpected noise may cause that cyclist to swerve in your direction when you pass. If approaching a lone cyclist, the offer of “good morning” or “nice day for a bike ride” lets the cyclist know your position and intent to pass.
- Watch Out at Intersections — When approaching intersections requiring vehicles to yield or stop, signal your intention with hand and verbal signals. Call out “slowing” or “stopping” to alert those behind to the change in speed. In the event the leading cyclist calls “CLEAR,” remember each cyclist is responsible for verifying that there is no approaching traffic before entering the intersection.
COMMUNICATE WITH THE GROUP
Use hand and verbal signals to communicate with members of the group and with other traffic.
- Hand Signals — Hand signals for turning and stopping are as follows:.
- Verbal Warnings — Along with hand signals, verbally warn cyclists behind you of your changes in direction or speed. The lead rider should call out “left turn,” “right turn,” “slowing,” stopping,” etc. Announce a turn well in advance of the intersection, so that members of the group have time to position themselves properly.
- Announce Hazards — When riding in a tight group, most of the cyclists do not have a good view of the road surface ahead, so it is important to announce potholes, gravel, grates, and other hazards. Indicate road hazards by pointing down to the left or right, and by shouting “hole,” “bump,” etc., where required for safety. Everyone in a group should be made aware of hazards, but not everyone needs to announce them.
RIDE WITH SAFETY AND COURTESY AS YOUR GUIDE
- Watch for Traffic Coming From the Rear — Since those in front cannot see traffic approaching from the rear, it is the responsibility of the riders in back to inform the others by saying “Car back”. This warns leading riders to maintain position and alerts them to the potential of a passing car. Use discretion on the car back warning: on busy roads with continuous passing traffic, the call out of “car back” tends to lose its significance. Use the warning “Car up” on narrow roads to warn following riders of approaching traffic.
- Leave a Gap for Cars — When riding up hills or on narrow roads where you are impeding faster traffic, leave a gap for cars between every three or four bicycles. This way motorists can take advantage of shorter passing intervals and eventually move piecemeal around the entire group.
- Wait at Turns — If the group becomes at all separated, even by a few dozen meters, someone should wait at the turn until the next rider arrives at the intersection, and so on until all riders have made the turn.
- Move off the Road When You Stop — Whether you are stopping because of mechanical problems or to regroup with your companions, move well off the road so you don’t interfere with traffic. It is usually best for the lead rider to pull forward in the stopping area and for other riders to pull in behind the rider in front of them. As a courtesy, during regroups, the last cyclist to arrive controls when the group will restart.
- Riding Two Abreast — Ride single file or double file as appropriate to the roadway and traffic conditions and where allowed by law. Even where riding double is legal, set a good example and be an ambassador for cycling. Courtesy dictates that you single up when cars are trying to pass you if the lane is wide enough for them to safely do so.
Will’s Rules for Safer Group Riding
Local cyclist and HoCo Cyclists board member Will McKinzie is known for his contributions as a guide and instructor to rising cyclists in the club. A few years ago, he put together these tips for staying safe on the road, and they’re too good not to share.
- Anticipate and look ahead to give yourself time to react—don’t stare at the wheel in front of you, because, by then, it will be too late.
- Hold your line (no swerving) and hold your pace (constant speed). Be predictable.
- Never overlap your front wheel with another rider’s rear wheel. If you want to have a conversation with another rider, pull up even with their bike.
- When drafting closely behind another rider, offset the centerline of your bike 6 to 12 inches from the centerline of the bike you are drafting. This will give you more time to react if the rider in front of you brakes suddenly.
- Communicate with your group when slowing or stopping by calling out “slowing” or “stopping” in a loud, outside voice.
- Use hand signals to announce your turn. Point the direction you intend to turn. Use hand signals even in traffic circles. If you don’t want to take your hands off the bars, call out “turning left” or “turning right.”
- Identify road hazards for cyclists behind you by pointing to the hazard. If you find gravel at a corner, yell “gravel.” If you encounter a pot hole, yell “hole.”
- Use a helmet-mounted mirror. It allows you to be aware of what is happening behind you with only a small turn of your head.
- If you spot a vehicle approaching from the rear, yell out “car back.” If this vehicle starts to pass the group, yell out “passing.”
- If a vehicle approaches from the rear, ride single file.
- When you pass another cyclist, pass only on the left side of that cyclist. Never pass on the right. When you are behind and about to pass another cyclist, say “on your left.”
- Never run red lights, and come to a stop at major intersections with a stop sign.
- Use a front white headlight and a rear red taillight. Turn them on during daylight riding to be seen while riding in and out of shadows, fog, unexpected rain, and low-light conditions.
- Know how to change a flat tire on your bike. Be prepared with the proper size inner tube and stem length.
Smart Cycling Videos and Other Safety Resources
These Smart Cycling videos, from The League of American Bicyclists, will help you understand how to ride safely, improve comfort, find the right bike and gear, and know your rights as a bicyclist. The Washington Area Bicyclists Association also offers a great collection of resources on safety and other cycling basics, including content for new cyclists. The Global Cycling Network’s YouTube channel is another good resource—see this video on how to ride in a group, for example.