It’s a good idea to look around the OSW website from time to time. Lots of work has gone into it, and many members may not know all the information that it contains.
For example, at http://www.outspokinwheelmen.com/index.php/learn/tips
there are about a dozen “Safety Tips.” Here they are:
Obey All Traffic Laws including stop signs, traffic lights, right turn only lanes.
Ride on the Right Your bike is a vehicle! Never ride facing traffic.
Watch for Road Hazards Gravel, glass, potholes, wet metal in the rain.
Avoid Amish Buggy Grooves!! If your wheel touches one, it can throw you!!
Warn Other Riders Call out "Hole", "Glass", "Car Back", etc.
Don't Ride Too Close To Others and NEVER let your wheels touch!
Ride Straight and Steady and stay away from anyone who doesn't!
Use Hand Signals Let folks know when you're slowing, stopping or turning.
Give Cars Room to Pass unless the lane's too narrow to share. Promote good will, please!
Pause Well Off the Road when resting, fixing flats, or studying maps.
Descend Hills Slowly Enough that you're well in control.
Ride Safely and Maturely Your life, and our reputation, depend on it!
Those tips are pretty basic. Yet some long-time members say that those tips are being ignored more than ever before, and that we need to do better. They’ve asked me to write about them; so let’s go over specifics.
“Obey all traffic laws” includes one law that’s slipped off the radar. In Ohio and PA, cyclists are permitted to ride “no more than two abreast.” Yes, even if the road is empty of cars! It’s a practical law, especially on a potholed road. If someone has to dodge a road hazard or move rightward to let someone pass, three abreast is just too crowded for safety. This doesn’t mean it’s illegal to move to the other lane to quickly pass two side-by-side riders; but it’s time to stop hanging out side-by-side-by-side-by-side to have a conversation!
“Ride on the Right.” Amazingly, we have some riders who now think nothing of spending lots of time on the left half of the road! Sure, you can go there briefly to pass others, or to avoid potholes. But you must realize you’re doing something very wrong if you stay there; and you’re setting yourself and others up for serious trouble if a car appears from a blind curve or hill crest. Riding on the right is arguably THE basic traffic law! Set a good example! Don’t violate it!
“Warn other riders:” We’re good at calling road hazards and cars. But a few folks are notorious for close passes with no warning. I’ve gotten very specific complaints, including “If that guy does that again, I’m going to punch him!” Please, call “On your left” if there’s any chance you’ll surprise a rider. And if you do pass on the right - a sketchy move at best! - always call out a warning!
“Don’t ride too close” can be a judgment call. Experienced, rock-steady riding buddies may be comfortable two inches apart, either side by side or drafting. But if you haven’t developed a thousand miles worth of trust with a particular person, don’t assume it’s OK to ride close or pass closely. Also, never get your front wheel close alongside anyone’s back wheel. If they swerve just a bit and touch your front wheel, you will go down, and so will those behind you!
“Ride straight and steady.” This is a matter of skill, but it’s a skill we should all develop. Can you ride on top of a 6" painted road stripe for a long distance? If not, practice until you can. Instead of twitching randomly side-to-side, you should look like you’re riding a rail. And some riders are notorious for speeding up, then slowing down, then speeding up... Don’t be that person! In fact, don’t ride anywhere near that person!
“Use hand signals.” And why not call out “Left turn” or “Stopping”? Any deviation from straight and steady needs plenty of warning, so people have time to react all the way back in the pack. We’ve had more than enough crashes and near-crashes from sudden moves. Please, folks, let’s communicate! (And what’s the proper signal for a sudden U-turn? Answer: There isn’t one! Don’t do that!)
“Give Cars Room to Pass unless the lane's too narrow to share.” Really, most roads we ride have lanes too narrow for sharing. Sharing usually requires close to 14 feet. So on most roads, we should have riders near the lane center, and even riding two abreast can be fine (although I usually prefer a clear space to my right for maneuverability). But if the road is wide enough, please share it.
“Pause well off the road.” We’ve forgotten this, too. At stop signs, waiting for the group to gather back together, we’re often taking up a whole lane. Sometimes, we take even the whole road! It’s best to stop off the road, but if that’s not possible, we should at least be single file at the right edge. (This is probably the only time it’s good to be a gutter bunny!)
“Descend hills slowly enough.” Sure, it’s fun to blast down a hill. But everyone has their own personal speed limit, depending on their skill and knowledge and judgment. The guy flying downhill in front of you may have done that hill dozens of times, and memorized all the bumps, holes, curves and gravel. Ride within your own limits!
A dozen tips. Sadly, I’ve seen most of those violated on club rides. As a result, I’ve seen and heard of crashes, near-crashes and collisions. We don’t have to ride like a military parade, but we can do better.
As that last tip says, our club’s reputation depends on our riding.
We can do better.
- Frank Krygowski, OSW Safety Chairman