Cycling Etiquette is For Safety

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Every time I ride in a non-ALC event, I have to learn the hard lesson over and over: no one likes being told they are cycling unsafely, even when they are. However gentle the reminder, I always manage to piss someone off. Is the admonition not to pass on the right such a stinging blow to the ego? I suppose it is considering the reactions I’ve gotten!

CJ and me; Photo by CJ Julian.

This past weekend I rode in the Tour de Palm Springs, a charity ride with multiple courses of varying length. There were, according to the volunteer who checked me in, over 8,000 pre-registered riders and an expected 2,000 additional riders. That’s an astounding 10,000 riders! I did the century, and from what I could tell no fewer than 2,000–3,000 riders did that route with me, and it felt like we were all on the road at the same time.

Despite some killer headwinds (followed by even more killer tailwinds!!), I did not observe anyone injured or stranded. Still, for all 100 miles, I could count on one hand the number of people who engaged with their fellow riders.

Few people said “good morning” as they passed, let alone calling out “on your left.” Often, the entire travel lane was crowded with buddies riding side-by-side, requiring passers to enter the oncoming lane. Few people announced when they were on your wheel, but expected you to know they were there.

What does this mean? It means that we who care about this sport have to check our own egos and spread the word that friendly cycling is safe cycling. Keep admonitions to a minimum, but make them pointed and clear. Make sure to follow the general rules of etiquette ourselves. And remind our new rider friends to ride as safely as they can before they go out on the road.

And for me it means keeping cool and keeping my comments to a minimum.

Just for completeness sake, here is a simplified version of the ALC safety rules:

  • Obey all traffic laws, traffic signals and signs — and stop at all stop signs.
  • Ride as far to the right as is safely possible
  • Ride defensively, predictably and stay alert; assume car drivers cannot see you.
  • Always wear your helmet when on your bicycle.
  • Ride single file and leave at least one bike length between you and the rider in front of you.
  • Communicate your intentions and potential dangers with hand signals or by calling out in a loud, outside voice.
  • Look behind you before passing to make sure it is clear.  Pass only when it is safe to do so and pass only on the left.  When passing, call out loudly, “On your left!”
  • Never wear headphones or ear buds while on your bike.
  • Control your bicycle: Keep at least one hand on the handlebars at all times.
  • Be courteous and respectful of others. We are a diverse community. Please be thoughtful in your conduct and choices, and sensitive to the feelings of your fellow participants. 
Not all these rules make sense all of the time, but in events such as the Tour de Palm Springs — and the ALC, of course — they are very important.
Happy Valentine’s Day,
Your Bear

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One thought on “Cycling Etiquette is For Safety

    Tim Wood said:
    February 15, 2013 at 9:13 pm

    As a long-time ALCer and TRL, I ride in the TDPS every year and witness the exact same thing. You can spot the ALCers a mile away — using hand signals, calling out, saying “Good Morning”, following the rules of the road. It makes you realize & appreciate what an OUTSTANDING record of safety & kindness ALC promotes in our community! That said, I did admonish two riders this past weekend: both for passing on the right. One I rode up behind and requested that he stop engaging in reckless behavior…..he was putting so many riders needlessly at risk. The other I yelled at….not something I normally ever do. This guy passed so closely to me on the right that he nearly caused an accident between himself, me and several other riders. So not cool, and I let him know that….loudly. We promote cycling respect, kindness & safety, but sometimes risk takers must be called out immediately to avoid potential accidents. Great article, Bear! Keep up the great work! Tim

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