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  1. #1
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    cycling in groups

    Hello,
    I'm new here and am not a cyclist, but have concerns about the safety of cyclists who frequent the roads around my home and, frankly, myself (as a motorist).

    First, please know that I understand the importance of advocating safety measures for people who bike on the roads. Bicycles are the clear underdog, right?
    Bike vs. car: bike loses. Every time.
    One only has to scroll through this thread and the tragic multitude of "cyclist killed" headlines to understand that the danger is real. As the wife of someone who occasionally bikes to work, this is particularly terrifying.
    I treat bicycles as a vehicle. When possible, I wait for a dotted line to pass and I ALWAYS veer completely over into the opposite lane as I pass someone to give them ample space.
    I live in a rural area on a country road with just enough hills and scenic views to attract a ton of cyclists, especially as the weather warms. The road is long with absolutely no broken lines anywhere to be seen. It has double solid lines the entire length.
    So, that means someone, at some point, looked at that stretch of road and said: "You know, the visual clearance here just isn't that great. I don't think it's a safe passing zone."

    After about twenty minutes of internet research I'm still not completely clear on whether or not it's legal to cross a solid line to pass a cyclist in Virginia.
    As a responsible motorist, however, I understand that there are instances when I can use my best judgement and feel safe passing a cyclist, a mail truck, a tractor, etc..

    My problem is that the situation changes drastically if we're talking about a group of fifteen cyclists - or more. We get huge groups of cyclists on the road I live off of all the time. I might as well be trying to pass a Mack truck on a curvy road over a solid yellow line.. No, thank you.
    If I take that chance and it goes badly, it goes VERY badly. Either I get hit head on, I run another driver off the road, or I veer into someone on a bike and either severely injure or kill them. Any of those scenarios would then be MY fault.
    I don't like having to take that chance, so I go with my other option: my fifteen minute ride home with four kids turns into an hour.

    I understand that there's safety in numbers. But is it unreasonable to ask that they ride in car-length groups? With at least two-car-spaces in between?
    In my opinion, if there are going to be groups of cyclists on the road it needs to be an organized event. Cars should have detours provided or notice.

    Thank you for reading. And I appreciate any constructive feedback.

  2. #2
    Yabba-Dabba-Doo! AlmostTrick's Avatar
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    Good on you for realizing that safety, and the law, dictates that a motorist must sometimes wait behind cyclists for a safe space to pass.

    my fifteen minute ride home with four kids turns into an hour.
    The situation you posted is such that you literally can not find this space for 45 minutes?

    Quote Originally Posted by lynnlee View Post
    is it unreasonable to ask that they ride in car-length groups? With at least two-car-spaces in between?
    No, it is not unreasonable to expect road users to be aware of, and work with each other.

    I often take the lane for my safety when riding by myself, and always do what I can to facilitate overtaking when possible. In the situation you described, I would not include myself as part of a huge blockade.
    Last edited by AlmostTrick; 05-20-15 at 09:54 AM. Reason: added quote
    Have Bike, Will Travel

  3. #3
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    As a cyclist of over 30 years, I agree that huge groups of riders are dangerous. They should break into smaller groups or ride single file when someone is trying to pass. Many cyclists forget that "share the road" works both ways.

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    Quote Originally Posted by lynnlee View Post
    I don't like having to take that chance, so I go with my other option: my fifteen minute ride home with four kids turns into an hour.

    Thank you for reading. And I appreciate any constructive feedback.
    Very often, large groups of riders like you describe are breaking numerous laws pertaining to road-going vehicles, and driving/riding common sense.

    That said, and since you have kids, perhaps if you considered a group of cyclists the equivalent of a schoolbus, it might lend you an extra, needed dose of patience. My guess is that during any given timeframe, you are more impeded by other motorvehicles, spend more time delayed in motor vehicular traffic, than you spend stuck behind a group of cyclists.

    What kind of feedback would you expect if you posted annoyance at driving delays due to schoolbuses on the forum of a local PTA chapter, or as a letter to the editor in a local paper...?
    I know next to nothing. I am frequently wrong.

  5. #5
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    I'm honestly not looking to be incendiary and I hope my post came off as respectful, not just conveying "annoyance," as mconlonx phrased it.

    I think the school bus analogy is a good one. And, as far as inconveniences on the road go, it's probably right to say that cyclists are low on the list.

    Mconlonx: to answer your question, however, if I felt like I had a valid opinion about a road situation that involved schoolbuses and the safety of their passengers or myself, I would absolutely consider joining a PTA forum to discuss it in a respectful way.

  6. #6
    Nobody mconlonx's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lynnlee View Post
    I'm honestly not looking to be incendiary and I hope my post came off as respectful, not just conveying "annoyance," as mconlonx phrased it.

    I think the school bus analogy is a good one. And, as far as inconveniences on the road go, it's probably right to say that cyclists are low on the list.

    Mconlonx: to answer your question, however, if I felt like I had a valid opinion about a road situation that involved schoolbuses and the safety of their passengers or myself, I would absolutely consider joining a PTA forum to discuss it in a respectful way.
    Fair enough.

    But if you accept the schoolbus analogy, what else is it other than an annoyance? The only safety issue you described is a need to pass such a group of riders, or doing so safely. There's no safety issue if you have the patience to drive behind them... like most do regarding schoolbuses.

    Here is relevant VA motor vehicle statute for passing cyclists:

    § 46.2-839. Passing bicycle, electric personal assistive mobility device, electric power-assisted bicycle, moped, animal, or animal-drawn vehicle.[
    Any driver of any vehicle overtaking a bicycle, electric personal assistive mobility device, electric power-assisted bicycle, moped, animal, or animal-drawn vehicle proceeding in the same direction shall pass at a reasonable speed at least three feet to the left of the overtaken bicycle, electric personal assistive mobility device, electric power-assisted bicycle, moped, animal, or animal-drawn vehicle and shall not again proceed to the right side of the highway until safely clear of such overtaken bicycle, electric personal assistive mobility device, electric power-assisted bicycle, moped, animal, or animal-drawn vehicle.

    § 46.2-843. Limitations on overtaking and passing.
    The driver of a vehicle shall not drive to the left side of the center line of a highway in overtaking and passing another vehicle proceeding in the same direction unless such left side is clearly visible and is free of oncoming traffic for a sufficient distance ahead to permit such overtaking and passing to be made safely.
    I know next to nothing. I am frequently wrong.

  7. #7
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    Large groups of cyclists are a safety issue because it makes the decision to pass or not to pass a more difficult one and the process of doing it more dangerous.
    For me, passing a large group over a solid line is unsafe. Period.
    I can promise you, however, that I'm in the minority.

    I saw the laws you referenced when I searched though the DMV website but was unsure if they only pertain to legal passing zones.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by lynnlee View Post
    Hello,
    I'm new here and am not a cyclist, but have concerns about the safety of cyclists who frequent the roads around my home and, frankly, myself (as a motorist).

    I understand that there's safety in numbers. But is it unreasonable to ask that they ride in car-length groups? With at least two-car-spaces in between?
    In my opinion, if there are going to be groups of cyclists on the road it needs to be an organized event. Cars should have detours provided or notice.

    Thank you for reading. And I appreciate any constructive feedback.
    Lynnlee

    I use a bicycle as my primary mode of transportation. I ride to work very early in the morning because at least where I live, later in the day there are large groups of motorists, who clog the roads and become irate with one another, and drive dangerously - do you notice this in your area too? Do you ever wish that more of these motorists would leave their cars at home and ride a bicycle instead? - Safety is a major concern, and surely our streets become safer each time someone moves from driving a car to riding a bicycle.

    I do sympathize with the fact that in your car you are capable of driving much faster than I am capable of propelling myself on the bicycle, and that you may feel that you are being delayed when there is a slower vehicle in front of you, but I wonder if you get this same angst when you are delayed by large groups of motorists on the road.

    I do agree that groups of cyclists should travel in platoons, making it easier for a motorist to leapfrog the groups, but also realize, that as a motorist, you must wait to pass until it is safe to do so - I don't know how many times abuse is rained down upon me, and my life is endangered because I ride in such a way as to prevent a motorist from passing me in a place where it is unsafe to do so.

  9. #9
    Not quite there yet Matariki's Avatar
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    Thanks for being sensitive to the need for the safety of vulnerable road users. My personal view is that we should all see ourselves as partners on the road and make every attempt to help each other out. If cycling, this means understanding the negative effect of long lines of riders on motorists. The group rides that I participate in have a standing rule that riders should avoid bunching into groups of 10 or more. Sometimes this is hard to avoid, for instance when going up a long hill.

    I'm not sure what you can do about it, though, other than trying to connect with some of your local cycling groups to discuss. Perhaps a sign on the side of the road that has a polite message to cyclists asking them help out the motorists.
    Any information, no matter how good, will always under-represent reality.
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  10. #10
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    You can cross a solid line to go around a slower user, like a tractor or a bike. If a UPS truck was stopped and 1/2 in the lane, you would just go around it, correct?

  11. #11
    Packfodding 3 caloso's Avatar
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    Everyday on my ride home large groups of cars cause huge backups on N Street, which is on my route home. They block the road going at most 10 miles an hour, well under the speed limit and holding up traffic. Is it unreasonable that they break themselves into bike sized groups? With at least two bike lengths between? In my opinion, if there are going to be groups of cars on the road, it should be an organized event.
    Cyclists of the world, unite! You have nothing to lube but your chains!

  12. #12
    Nobody mconlonx's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lynnlee View Post
    Large groups of cyclists are a safety issue because it makes the decision to pass or not to pass a more difficult one and the process of doing it more dangerous.
    For me, passing a large group over a solid line is unsafe. Period.
    I can promise you, however, that I'm in the minority.

    I saw the laws you referenced when I searched though the DMV website but was unsure if they only pertain to legal passing zones.
    I don't see that large groups of cyclists would be any more or less an issue than, say, a tractor trailer struggling up a hill, a farm tractor carrying a trailer or two of hay, and the like. The decision to pass will be more difficult, and the process of doing it potentially more dangerous. In which case the best and only course of action would be to follow along behind until such a time as a pass is safe or you arrive at a turnoff or your destination. If you feel that passing such a group is unsafe under any condition, be content to follow the group at a safe distance.

    Since the general passing law references the centerline of the highway with no mention of indicated passing zones or not, I would assume that passing slower vehicles is allowed even over a double-yellow line, where safe. But you should definitely check with police in relevant districts for clarification rather than rely on an international bicycling forum for such advice.
    I know next to nothing. I am frequently wrong.

  13. #13
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    Leebo,
    Finding a safe area to pass one bike or a tractor, even on a solid line, isn't an issue for most people.
    If a UPS truck was stopped and in half the lane, whether or not I went around it would be determined by whether or not I could see what was coming in the opposite lane and how far I had to get over.

  14. #14
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    Caloso,
    Maybe my post did make it sound like cars have more of a right to the road than bikes. I agree with Matariki that we should see ourselves as partners.

    That said, I've never seen a cyclist wait patiently in traffic behind a line of cars.
    I live in a rural area, not in the city, so maybe I'm wrong...
    Last edited by lynnlee; 05-20-15 at 12:32 PM.

  15. #15
    Packfodding 3 caloso's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lynnlee View Post
    Leebo,
    Finding a safe area to pass one bike or a tractor, even on a solid line, isn't an issue for most people.
    If a UPS truck was stopped and in half the lane, whether or not I went around it would be determined by whether or not I could see what was coming in the opposite lane and how far I had to get over.
    Does this not apply to any pass, whatever it is?
    Cyclists of the world, unite! You have nothing to lube but your chains!

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    Yep, that was my point.

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    Mconlonx,
    I wasn't relying on this forum for information on Va law; I'm sorry if I gave you that impression.
    Contacting the police to find out for sure is good advice, however. Thank you.

  18. #18
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    Good topic. as a cyclist, I encourage cyclists to be more polite in these group settings. It is not safe as cyclists to ride in large groups blocking traffic when the option of not doing so is possible. I know for fact that some groups of cyclists feel an overwhelming right to take up the lane and will refuse to move or even make it difficult to pass. this is rude and unacceptable in my opinion as both bike commuter and occasional car driver. It only gives cyclists a worse name to dedicated motorists. be safe and courteous, the same as you expect cars to behave.

    we are all on the same team at the end of the day, just trying to get wherever it is we are going.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by lynnlee View Post
    I'm honestly not looking to be incendiary and I hope my post came off as respectful, not just conveying "annoyance," as mconlonx phrased it.
    Actually, you raise a really good point. Of course it would be a good idea and courteous for a large group to arrange themselves to make it easier and safer for you to pass. This should be a win-win for everyone, you get down the road safely with minimal frustration and cyclists get passed more safely.

    But how do you instill such behavior in cyclists? I don't know. Who takes the initiative to create a break in the group and how to stop other cyclists from passing him or her to stay with the main group? Many groups like that have no designated leader, or just one, and many cyclists riding in a group like that take anything the leader says as a mere suggestion.

    In our own club I've moved up from the B group to the A group and I find the A group to be much more inconsiderate of drivers. We ride in a suburban area with lots of intersections and stoplights. The A group consistently blocks the right turn lane whenever stopped at a light. We try to get them to move out and take the rightmost thru-lane, but it just doesn't happen. Gets drivers mad, and our club gets nasty emails and facebook messages.

    I appreciate, compliment and thank you for your situational awareness around cyclists. We don't have the same geography as you, I don't think I've ever encountered this situation with a large group on a narrow road, but if I do I will see if I can find a way to make it easier for cars to pass safely.

  20. #20
    Senior Member intransit1217's Avatar
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    I can't say for sure but if it's possible to find out what the groups name/ club is, you may be able to at least ask them nicely to break into smaller groups.

    I know my group has a standing rule of no pelotons. Peloton being 20 riders. Rarely are we close to that number, thankfully. And if we were, we would break into two.

    FYI tonight is the ride of silence and there will likely be large groups of cyclist on the roads tonight. Check your local listings !
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  21. #21
    Cycle Year Round CB HI's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lynnlee View Post
    Hello,
    I'm new here and am not a cyclist, but have concerns about the safety of cyclists who frequent the roads around my home and, frankly, myself (as a motorist).

    I don't like having to take that chance, so I go with my other option: my fifteen minute ride home with four kids turns into an hour.
    Is this a typical case of exaggeration? Most ‘large’ groups of cyclist on rural roads travel at speeds of 18 - 25 mph. They pack together for the drafting benefit.

    So if it takes you an hour to get home at the low end speed of 18 mph behind the cyclists, then you would have to be traveling at 72 mph to make it home without the cyclist (15 minutes), and you drive that fast with 4 kids in the car/SUV? Not very safe for the road as described.
    Land of the Free, Because of the Brave.

  22. #22
    Cycle Year Round CB HI's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bikepro View Post
    As a cyclist of over 30 years, I agree that huge groups of riders are dangerous. They should break into smaller groups or ride single file when someone is trying to pass. Many cyclists forget that "share the road" works both ways.
    As a cyclist of over 30 years and member of these forums, why do you not understand why riding single file for a large group of cyclist is more dangerous than riding as a tight group?
    Last edited by CB HI; 05-20-15 at 06:02 PM.
    Land of the Free, Because of the Brave.

  23. #23
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    The problem with the crossing of the solid yellow is that in many states, it's not specified. I'm in Ohio where it is, if safe to do so. A twisty road where you can't see far enough ahead wouldn't qualify. A cop may allow it if he sees it, but that's not the same as allowed by law.

    As for large groups, I think it's also partially how large of a group. If for example there's a large turnout for a Ride of Silence, it would be prudent and reasonable for the ride to break up into groups of about 20 or fewer. But even that is a fairly large group.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by CB HI View Post
    As a cyclist of over 30 years and member of these forums, why do you not understand why riding single file for a large group of cyclist is more dangerous than riding as a tight group?
    Everyone is entitled to an opinion. I said "break into smaller groups OR ride single file".

  25. #25
    Cycle Year Round CB HI's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bikepro View Post
    Everyone is entitled to an opinion. I said "break into smaller groups OR ride single file".
    As a bikepro of 30 years, why express an opinion of riding single file in a situation that makes cyclists less safe?
    Land of the Free, Because of the Brave.

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