Riding with a group can be rewarding. You can make new friends who also like to ride, you can learn new skills, and there is safety in numbers. But when you’re riding in a group, your mistakes can be magnified. Knowing the rules of the road, and best practices for group riding, can keep you and your fellow riders safe.
The League of American Cyclists, which promotes safer roads, stronger communities, and a bicycle-friendly America through cycling information, advocacy and promotion, lays out basic rules for safe riding on its website. League Director of Education, Alissa Simcox, gave us further recommendations specific to riding with a group:
1. Know the Law
“In general, bicyclists should follow same rules of road as drivers,” says Simcox. “Stop at stop signs and red lights, pass on the left, and signal your turns.” Cycling specific laws are different in every state, and often counties and cities have their own bike laws. Look up your city, county and state laws through department of transportation (DOT) or department of motor vehicles (DMV) websites.
2. Be Predictable
“Make sure everyone around you knows what your intentions are—maintain a straight line, signal and communicate when you are going to deviate from that line,” advises Simcox. And on U.S. roads, always pull off to the right and onto the shoulder when you’re dropping out of the group for a rest stop or mechanical.
To best communicate, you need to use the same terms as your fellow cyclists. “On your left” informs the cyclists in front of you that you’re passing on the indicated side. “Car back” means there’s a car approaching from behind. “Car up” means a car is approaching from in front of you. “Slowing” and “stopping” are also important verbal cues to others in your group advising them of dangers, and how you will be behaving. “Don’t ever say ‘clear!’” says Simcox. “It discourages people from thinking for themselves in intersections. The way may be clear for the first rider, but it may not be for the fifth or sixth.”
4. Share the Road
One of the best parts of riding with a group is spending time with your fellow riders. Don’t ever ride more than two abreast, and don’t ever take up more than half the lane or trail—you might block traffic. And when a car approaches, return to single file. You’ll minimize driver–rider conflict, and in some states, that’s the law. “Bicyclists need to be courteous to everyone and should yield to other users,” says Simcox.
5. Pull Over
“If the group stops, each cyclist needs to get off the road and out of way of traffic,” says Simcox. Move off the road far enough so that the riders behind you can also pull off the road.
6. Find a Group That’s Compatible
“Talk to the ride host,” advises Simcox. “See what the ride is about and whether it’s a good match for your skills and goals.” You’ll have more fun if you’re riding with others who set a similar pace.
7. Carry Tools
If you get a flat or have another mechanical issue, it’s best to have a spare tube and your own tools. Even if you don’t know how to fix a flat, if you have the materials, a fellow rider can help.
Follow League of American Cyclist rules above, and you’ll ride more safely whether you’re alone or with friends.