Originally published as the Bicycle Safety Tip of the Month in the September 2011 Flat Tyre
September’s Tip of the Month is: Communicate with other riders that are around you. Cyclists in our area have a common language of hand signals and shout outs that are very important to know and use to safely ride in a group.
Be sure to let others know where you are if you are passing them by shouting out, “Passing on the left” which is usually shortened to “On the left.” When you slow down be sure to call out “Slowing” and when you are stopping, call out “Stopping”. The hand signal for slowing down is an open hand out and down by your side and for stopping it is a closed fist either down by your side or behind your back.
It is important to make the people behind you aware of any obstacles that are ahead by pointing to the obstacle if possible and shouting out what the obstacle is (hole, bump, tracks, glass, car door etc). Be sure to pass the message on to those behind you, if someone has pointed out an obstacle to you repeat the shout out for those that follow behind.
When there is someone or something obstructing the bike lane or moving slowly in the lane be sure to call it out. If the group will shortly be passing a pedestrian call “runner up” or “walker up” to let the people behind you know that they will soon need to shift over in their lane.
When you are towards the back of the group and you become aware of a vehicle approaching from the rear call out “Car back” so the group can move to the right in preparation of the car passing. When you hear “car back” from behind you relay the message ahead to those that may not have heard it.
Bottom line is: talk to the bicyclists around you, don’t come up on someone by surprise and try not to make any sudden or erratic moves when riding in a group.
***Special note about hand signals: Hand signals should be held for about four to six seconds so the riders behind you have a chance to see them. Only use a hand signal if you feel comfortable taking your hand off the handle bar. There are some instances where keeping both hands on the handle bar is more important for safety and in that case a hand signal should not be used. If you are a novice rider and do not yet feel comfortable taking a hand off the bars while riding in a group, you might try it first while riding by yourself and practice it until you get more comfortable with the skill.
Below are two links to the Marin County Bicycle Coalition (MCBC) webpage/Share the Road campaign that is dedicated to educating bicyclists and motorists to share the road courteously and safely.
The above link will take you to “Ride Right” which is a 3 ½ minute video that includes techniques for safe group cycling.
This second link takes you to a 7 ½ minute video made by the League of American Bicyclists called Bicycling Safety Tips for Adults. It includes things like bike fit and equipment, an ABC check list and some rules of the road.