While cycling alone can be very satisfying, riding with others can be lots of fun and rewarding in many ways. Having company can make a ride go by faster; encourage you to ride faster or further; or give you the confidence to ride in new areas or push your cycling skills. When riding with others, however, it’s important to be a courteous cyclist.
Not only will common courtesy make riding in a group more pleasant, but it will also engender greater safety for each rider. Organized groups may have their own protocols and others may totally disagree with the ones I’ve included here, but these are a few practices I’ve found to be common.
1. If your group is riding on a road with car traffic, it’s safest to ride single file in order to minimize how much room you’re taking up on the road and to make it easier for cars to safely go around you. Some cyclists disagree with this philosophy and are of the opinion that if cyclists take up more room on the road, traffic will be forced to slow down to accommodate them. I think our cycling cause will be best served in the long run if we all cooperatively work toward multi-use roads. Cooperation is not engendered if cyclists annoy and enrage car drivers by intentionally impeding their progress.
2. On a road with very little traffic or on a bike path, it’s acceptable to ride side-by-side. You must maintain situational awareness, however, so that the rider closer to the middle of the road can pull over behind the other rider in order to get out of the way of other road or trail users.
3. If you overtake another rider (or runner, walker, etc.) and want to pass them, it’s generally considered polite to let them know you’re behind them and intending to pass. A friendly call of “on your left” will let them know you intend to pass on their left. Please don’t wait until the last minute and scream at them as you blaze on by unless you want to frighten them and make them angry.
I’ve noticed increasing difficulty with my attempts to be polite when passing others due to the use of headphones. If I’m not confident that someone has heard me call out, I slow down and say something again when I get closer.
4. If you’re riding with others and need to come to a stop, call out “stopping” to alert those behind you. Everyone’s day will be ruined if your companions ride into you because you stopped suddenly.
5. If you’re stopping and need to stay on the path for any reason, please step off the side of the path (or road) and get out of the way as much as possible so you don’t impede or endanger anyone else.
6. When you’re ready to start riding again, make sure you check for traffic and don’t step right out in front of someone else.
7. It’s generally considered polite to alert the others riding with you if you encounter obstacle in your path or see cars coming up behind. A simple “pothole,” “glass,” or “car back” will do nicely.
There really are no hard and fast rules for group riding. Common sense and courtesy should govern your actions. Follow the Golden Rule: do unto others as you would have done unto you.
Ride safe and have fun!