Why cycle groups ride the way they do – a briefing for motorists
BMCC’s organised cycle groups are all experienced riders led by a ride leader who is well versed in both keeping the riders safely organised and in keeping the entire group safe from other traffic on the roads. It is never our intention to cause conflict on the roads we share with other users, nor to inconvenience others. However, as bicycles are inherently slower than cars and lorries, almost inevitably we may cause some delay when traffic is heavier and the road does not allow safe overtaking. We naturally chose to ride on smaller country lanes for this reason.
We also need to ride defensively: cyclists are more likely to sustain injuries than motorists if a collision with other vehicles occurs.
Why do we ride as we do?
We should never ride more than two abreast, and should ride in single file to allow traffic behind to pass where it is safe to do so. Sometimes though, particularly when riding up hills, there may be inadvertent overlapping of one rider following another, which may appear to traffic behind to give the appearance of riding more than two abreast.
The worsening state of the county’s roads has led to the development of many potholes, particularly at the road edges. If a cycle hits a pot hole, at best a puncture may ensue, or at worst the rider can crash. Following vehicles that are too close, may not be aware of these potholes and if a rider crashes, are more likely to run over the fallen cyclist. For this reason we usually ride about a metre from the edge of the road and appreciate it when cars follow at a reasonable distance.
Why do we usually ride two abreast? Simply put, it’s safer for cyclists to ride two abreast; it means that motorists usually have to overtake in a proper manner rather than overtaking in the same lane as the cyclists. If a group of cyclists are in single file, motorists will often assume they can overtake in places which are not safe and will not leave the cyclist enough room. Motorists should give cyclists the same amount of room they would give another car when overtaking (see below) which means they should be on the other side of the road and would have to wait until there are no oncoming cars. Being in two files usually forces this scenario but riding in single file can lead the motorist to think they can overtake on the same side of the road if there are oncoming cars thus not giving the cyclist the correct amount of space. Riding two abreast also allows the motorist to overtake the group of cyclists quicker as there is less distance between the front and rear of the group (about half!!). This means that the motorist is past the group in less time, spending less time on the other side of the road and alongside the group of cyclists and therefore safer all round. Please see here.
We expect overtaking vehicles to pass us safely. At the risk of becoming a barrack room lawyer, the relevant links to the Highway Code are on the UK Road Cycling Laws website. In essence, it states that vehicles need to pass bicycles (like horses!) slowly, leaving enough room as you would when overtaking another car. There are more general regulations in the Code about not overtaking when the driver cannot see if there’s any oncoming traffic (such as on a bend or near the brow of a hill).
For an excellent overview of how to safely overtake cyclists please see the excellent video below from Chris Boardman – Olympic Gold winner, three times Tour de France stage winner and one-time holder of the hour record.