Common Rules For Group Riding In North Carolina

Posted: April 3, 2012 in Cycling, Information

Related Regulations:

  • Bicyclists are drivers of vehicles – with roadway rights and duties (§ 20-4.01(49)).
  • Bicyclists cannot be cited for impeding traffic –non-motorized vehicles and inherently slow vehicle types are exempt from the impeding traffic law § 20-141
  • Riding side-by-side – NC state law provides no specific restrictions, but some city ordinances prohibit bicycling more than two abreast. Riding abreast means matching speed. Cyclists may pass each other when riding two abreast, as in a double pace line.
  • Bicyclists may use a full lane – NC Driver’s Handbook, p.77:

Cyclists obeying the same traffic laws as vehicles, have one-fifth the accident rate.
John Forester, “Effective Cycling”


Lane Control = Defensive Cycling

  • Assert control of the entire lane when it’s unsafe to pass within your lane.
  • If the lane is wide enough and staying to the right will help drivers pass safely, move to the right as a courtesy.
  • When stopping at intersections, always take control of the entire lane and do not pass stopped cars
  • Approach left turns from near the center of the road, approach right turns from near the right side, approach through movements from between these extremes. Use the correct lane if marked.

Group Composition

  • Limiting group size to 18-20 cyclists can be safer and reduce stress with drivers
  • Keep the group tight and compact in order to make it safer for cars to pass
  • Riding closely and two abreast improves inter-group communication
  • Riding two abreast is generally safer:
    • On narrower roads where it is unsafe for a car to pass in your lane
    • When there are two lanes in the same direction
    • When the group contains four or more cyclists
  • Riding single file is a helpful courtesy on busy two-lane roads with usable pavement that is wide enough to accommodate safe passing without changing lanes
    • Don’t string out and force cars to “hop” past individual cyclists

Be Predictable

  • Follow the rules as if you were driving a car
  • Always look behind you and signal intentions before moving left
  • Hold your line – don’t make sudden moves left and right
  • Use hand and vocal signals to show intent and call out hazards
  • Anticipate problems by looking up the road and listening behind you

Be Efficient – Your actions impact everyone behind you

  • Limit gaps in front of you
  • Each gap becomes magnified toward the rear
  • Repeatedly closing down these gaps burns unnecessary energy
  • Pedal smoothly and use gearing to maintain a continuous effort
  • Coast only on steep downhills or to stay behind the rider in front of you
  • Limit braking by:
    • Predicting speed decreases
    • Briefly sitting tall and wide to catch more wind
    • Soft pedaling on slower sections
  • The rider(s) in the front need to maintain a constant effort – the speed will vary
    • Limit coasting as it can bunch the riders behind you
    • Be aware of the capabilities of the weakest riders – especially uphill
    • When rotating to the front, pull through without picking up the pace
  • Drafting is the great equalizer
    • It makes it much easier to ride faster and/or for longer distances
    • Varying time at the front allows different caliber riders to stay together

Be Aware – Group norms are sometimes unique

  • The more established group rides tend to have a leader(s) who communicate the norms, set the pace and over time develop the group “story”
    • For example: “the ride may start slowly, attack the hill and regroup at a faster pace”
  • Strong leadership helps keep groups safe and the rides consistent and fun
    • Don’t be surprised by a friendly admonishment if you make a mistake
  • Group communication practices vary
  • Hand signals for turning and stopping vary from group to group
  • More experienced riders tend to use less vocal and more minimal hand signals
  • More Experienced Cyclists Have An Obligation To Teach and Lead

Be a good example – cyclists learn from tribal knowledge

  • Stronger does not necessarily equal a better cyclist
  • It takes about 50,000 miles to qualify as experienced

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