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Old 12-09-05, 12:52 PM   #1
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In my bike club there are many who advocate a "swarm" of cyclists acting in unison, as one vehicle. According to this approach, the swarm can take on many forms, from a long thin line to a "peloton" like bunch, but the guiding principle is: act in unison. Part of this includes the principle that no two in-line cyclists should ever be separated by more than a bike length - most of the time gaps should be much smaller.

Act like a big long truck, they say. If the light turns red while a long truck is going through an intersection, does the second half of the truck detach from the front half and stop? Of course not, and, so, the "swarm" should not be split in such a situation either.

This could apply if the group is 2 or 3 cyclists, or 40, or even 100 or more.

A similar way to look at it is to engage "parade" or "funeral procession" rules, though of course it's unofficial.

What do you think? Should a group of N cyclists act and be treated like one vehicle, where the person in front is the driver, or should they act and be treated like N separately driven vehicles?

I'm conflicted. If such a group is "driven" properly, then it does tend to work out quite well. But those in front have to keep in mind that they are driving a "large" vehicle, and act accordingly. Turns have to be started wide, you keep going on yellow in situations where a solo cyclist would stop (since you can't suddenly stop at the front of a peloton, the stopping distance of a swarm is considerably worse than most vehicles). On the other hand, every cyclist out for himself is utter chaos.

Of course, some solve the problem by not riding in groups.

Experiences, comments, thoughts?
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Old 12-09-05, 01:01 PM   #2
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What matters today is what the law states or how it would be interpreted. My guess is N.

So if you want to ride vehicularly (which includes following laws) ride as N riders.

If one doesn't like this, then advocate for changing the law (and with that all the secondary flak one will get, like should groups of cyclist be allowed on road) , or ignore it and play truck.

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Old 12-09-05, 01:04 PM   #3
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I love it when this happens, the air seems cleaner all of a sudden.

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Old 12-09-05, 01:05 PM   #4
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Noisebeam and I had a conversation about this a while back... I say the long truck model (or as a better metaphor... bus) is a good way to look at it. As long as the group stays together, they should act and be treated as one large vehicle. As soon as any breaks in the group form, those sub groups are on their own, just as passengers let off a bus.
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Old 12-09-05, 01:09 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by genec
Noisebeam and I had a conversation about this a while back... I say the long truck model (or as a better metaphor... bus) is a good way to look at it. As long as the group stays together, they should act and be treated as one large vehicle. As soon as any breaks in the group form, those sub groups are on their own, just as passengers let off a bus.
And this is how is best works in practice.

But... it is not vehicular and it is not legal, nor should be expect to be treated as one vehicle, although most drivers do.

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Old 12-09-05, 01:37 PM   #6
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Al, you seem to be equating "vehicular" with technically legal.

One of the common misconceptions about VC noted in the Wikipedia article on vehicular cycling is, "VC means you have to follow the letter of the law"
In the context of understanding vehicular cycling, one must comprehend the subtle but significant difference between cycling on roadways in accordance to the vehicular rules of the road (which is VC), and cycling on roadways in accordance to the vehicular laws of the road (which is not necessarily VC). Sometimes this important distinction is missed and VC misunderstood as a result.
...
Vehicular cycling requires judgment, not blind following of the letter of the law.
Anyway, I agree that according to the letter of the law, each cyclist is operating an individual vehicle. But the point of this thread is how should things be.

I will say that trying to adopt this in law would be very difficult. Even in the artificial and controlled environment of a bike race, it's hard enough, where judges decide whether a given gap is sufficient to warrant separate treatment in terms of assigning who gets what time at the finish line.

On our ride we have climbs, and lights on climbs. On climbs gaps start to develop, and what often happens is a light will switch when the gap is marginal. Some cyclists will proceed, others will yell "stop" and hit the brake. What the right call? Who knows? You're never going to get everyone to make the exact same call about every gap.

Anyway, it would be nice if the law could somehow recognize this, but I don't see how it could. In the mean time, common sense makes the determination, as best as it can.
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Old 12-09-05, 01:53 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Helmet Head
Al, you seem to be equating "vehicular" with technically legal.

One of the common misconceptions about VC noted in the Wikipedia article on vehicular cycling is, "VC means you have to follow the letter of the law"
In the context of understanding vehicular cycling, one must comprehend the subtle but significant difference between cycling on roadways in accordance to the vehicular rules of the road (which is VC), and cycling on roadways in accordance to the vehicular laws of the road (which is not necessarily VC). Sometimes this important distinction is missed and VC misunderstood as a result.
...
Vehicular cycling requires judgment, not blind following of the letter of the law.
Anyway, I agree that according to the letter of the law, each cyclist is operating an individual vehicle. But the point of this thread is how should things be.

I will say that trying to adopt this in law would be very difficult. Even in the artificial and controlled environment of a bike race, it's hard enough, where judges decide whether a given gap is sufficient to warrant separate treatment in terms of assigning who gets what time at the finish line.

On our ride we have climbs, and lights on climbs. On climbs gaps start to develop, and what often happens is a light will switch when the gap is marginal. Some cyclists will proceed, others will yell "stop" and hit the brake. What the right call? Who knows? You're never going to get everyone to make the exact same call about every gap.

Anyway, it would be nice if the law could somehow recognize this, but I don't see how it could. In the mean time, common sense makes the determination, as best as it can.
I meant it is not vehicular, not that it is not Vehicular Cycling. Not vehicular means that the behavior is not predictable based on the vehicular rules of the road which are the laws and conventions.

Al
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Old 12-09-05, 01:56 PM   #8
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Our club does a group ride every Saturday. Sometimes in the Spring we will have 50 cyclists. On our way out of town to the open country, we ride double pace-line at a moderate pace and keep the pack close together. Front guys don't peel off until the road is clear to the back. Since the pace is moderate, front guys can chat and ride a long time at the front. Front guys are responsible for pointing out hazards and making sure the whole pack can get through any traffic lights we may encounter. On the infrequent times when the back of the pack gets caught, we continue through the intersection. Never even been beeped at by the cars....
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Old 12-09-05, 02:16 PM   #9
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It's really quite simple - you are each operating a vehicle. The law applies to each individual, not a "big truck" of bicyclists. Why should bicyclists get special treatment? How about a group of motorcyclists? I guarantee you if a group of motorcyclists run red lights and a cop is there, at least one of them will get caught and ticketed.

The only time I've seen bicyclists operating as one was many years ago in Boy Scouts when I was working on my cycling merit badge. The adults held up traffic at a left-turn in order for all of us to get by.
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Old 12-09-05, 02:32 PM   #10
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When I ride rallies with our local Vespa club we take the big long truck approach. We have a technique, though, that makes this work. We have a couple of folks who serve as traffic blockers at intersections. They park their motorcycles in front of the other lanes and signal to the cars not to go. Then when the final scooter gets through, the guys blocking traffic go, race up to the front, and do it again at the next intersection. The traffic waiting seems to get a kick out of all the scooters and they don't seem to mind.

I don't know if this is legal or not, to tell you the truth. But once we approached an intersection, everybody got set to take their places, but a Highway Patrol officer happened to be there, so he took over blocking traffic for us, smiling and waving at us as we went by.
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Old 12-09-05, 02:48 PM   #11
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So, stereotype pickup driver coming up to signalled intersection on green. Line of cyclists (50 in group?) continues to pass thro on red.

S.P.D. thinks, "Wahey! Hunting season!". Even in a country where some idiot woman can successfully sue MacD's for scalding coffee in her lap, your clubmates wouldn't stand a chance of winning a civil suit against him.

Your clubmates' reasoning is just the same as a driver blowing thro' on red because, " What the heck, I can get through ok". The utterly self-centred reasoning is based on the same desire not to stop or slow down. The lead riders who go thro' on green should wait for those who muststop on red. A bunch of 50 riders is nota "big truck".

The argument is stupid, the action illegal and the potential consequence fatal

Please, don't be such bloody idiots
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Old 12-09-05, 02:56 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by atbman
So, stereotype pickup driver coming up to signalled intersection on green. Line of cyclists (50 in group?) continues to pass thro on red.

S.P.D. thinks, "Wahey! Hunting season!". Even in a country where some idiot woman can successfully sue MacD's for scalding coffee in her lap, your clubmates wouldn't stand a chance of winning a civil suit against him.

Your clubmates' reasoning is just the same as a driver blowing thro' on red because, " What the heck, I can get through ok". The utterly self-centred reasoning is based on the same desire not to stop or slow down. The lead riders who go thro' on green should wait for those who muststop on red. A bunch of 50 riders is nota "big truck".

The argument is stupid, the action illegal and the potential consequence fatal

Please, don't be such bloody idiots

OK, look at it another way... you are driving behind this group, now they come to a stop sign, do you want to wait while they all stop individually? And as far as precident... what about funeral processions?

Now as far as a light is concerned... that is where breaks in the bunch occur. Sorry folks you just did not make the cut this time.
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Old 12-09-05, 03:01 PM   #13
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It is illegal to procede thru a green if the way is not clear.

(that may not be exactly right, but is a paraphrase of what a green light means)

Al
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Old 12-09-05, 03:07 PM   #14
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We had this same debate a few months ago. I'll stick by my position that if you tried to drive any other vehicle that way, they'd lock you up in a heartbeat.
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Old 12-09-05, 03:08 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sbhikes
When I ride rallies with our local Vespa club we take the big long truck approach. We have a technique, though, that makes this work. We have a couple of folks who serve as traffic blockers at intersections. They park their motorcycles in front of the other lanes and signal to the cars not to go.
Known as "Corkers" in Critical Mass land.
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Old 12-09-05, 03:09 PM   #16
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I think the comparison to a truck may be the most useful. At least in California there are limits on how big a truck can be. You can't just keep adding on trailers. Most auto drivers do not seem to mind a few extra bikes pushing through a light, or a group of 10-20 cyclists going through a stop sign as a single unit. But change that to a line 20 long pushing a light or 100 blowing a stop sign and they get upset, and I think rightly so.

As far as the law goes each cyclist is a seperate vehicle and anyone who behaves differently when there might be a cop nearby is asking for a ticket.
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Old 12-09-05, 03:22 PM   #17
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Sound like a Critical Mass ride to me...

"Critical Mass" was inspired by a line in Ted White's classic film, Return of the Scorcher , where the term is used to describe traffic patterns in Beijing. There are no traffic lights there -- so the large numbers of bicyclists pool together at intersections until there are enough of them ("kind of aa critical mass thing") to stop truck and car traffic and make their way across.
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Old 12-09-05, 03:32 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by noisebeam
It is illegal to procede thru a green if the way is not clear.

(that may not be exactly right, but is a paraphrase of what a green light means)

Al
Perhaps, but this is a case of "Dead Right" because if a motorist just arrives on the scene and doesn't realize what is happening and choses to gun past the other motorists that are "inexplicitly" stopped... it is the cyclists that will suffer.

Last edited by genec; 12-09-05 at 03:51 PM.
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Old 12-09-05, 03:35 PM   #19
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Whether technically legal or otherwise, I let circumstances play significantly in my decisions on how to ride. I seek to avoid injury and death while getting exercise. I am not out there to assert or extend my rights.
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Old 12-09-05, 03:57 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by genec
OK, look at it another way... you are driving behind this group, now they come to a stop sign, do you want to wait while they all stop individually? And as far as precident... what about funeral processions?

Now as far as a light is concerned... that is where breaks in the bunch occur. Sorry folks you just did not make the cut this time.
If I'm driving behind such a group, I have no choice but to wait while they stop individually. They can't do anything else. If it's a stop sign, they should stop. It's no different if I'm behind a number of motor vehicles. Now if they can halt briefly without putting their feet down so that they can set off with the minimum pause, that's fine with me.

Unless, of course, you want them to break the law because not to do so would hold you up? Ah, we're back on the "I shouldn't have to stop because it slows me down" syndrome
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Old 12-09-05, 04:19 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by atbman
If I'm driving behind such a group, I have no choice but to wait while they stop individually. They can't do anything else. If it's a stop sign, they should stop. It's no different if I'm behind a number of motor vehicles. Now if they can halt briefly without putting their feet down so that they can set off with the minimum pause, that's fine with me.

Unless, of course, you want them to break the law because not to do so would hold you up? Ah, we're back on the "I shouldn't have to stop because it slows me down" syndrome
Hey it is a catch-22. That is why it is up for discussion. But compare this to a funeral procession... which does not stop "individually."

Perhaps bike bunches should be escorted, thereby giving them the exact same rights as a funeral procession.

Those are the questions being debated here... BTW it is not so much a matter of "slowing me down," as it is training to ride in groups. While the whole group ride issue may be one that some never face or chose to participate in, there are cyclists that enjoy both racing and long distance riding that entails group riding. Typically for those rides, roads are closed.
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Old 12-09-05, 04:47 PM   #22
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Hey Gene, you should join us for our annual Toy Ride, a week from this Saturday, from UC Cyclery to the Joan Croc center/Salvation Army. Meet at 8:30am. it's 50 miles roundtrip, but very slow, "holiday pace", probably similar to the memorial ride we did together. No one will be allowed to pass Santa, who will be riding at the front supposedly throttled at about 15 mph, at least on the flats.

Everyone is supposed to bring one new unwrapped toy and 2 food donations to be carried on the rider/bike... no sag wagon.

Non-club members are welcome.

Oh, and we will get police escort "funeral procession rules" at least part of the way.
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Old 12-09-05, 04:49 PM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Helmet Head
Hey Gene, you should join us for our annual Toy Ride, a week from this Saturday, from UC Cyclery to the Joan Croc center/Salvation Army. Meet at 8:30am. it's 50 miles roundtrip, but very slow, "holiday pace", probably similar to the memorial ride we did together. No one will be allowed to pass Santa, who will be riding at the front supposedly throttled at about 15 mph, at least on the flats.

Everyone is supposed to bring one new unwrapped toy and 2 food donations to be carried on the rider/bike... no sag wagon.

Non-club members are welcome.

Oh, and we will get police escort "funeral procession rules" at least part of the way.


PM me with details. Or send right to the home email adder you have.
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Old 12-09-05, 08:37 PM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by noisebeam
It is illegal to procede thru a green if the way is not clear.

(that may not be exactly right, but is a paraphrase of what a green light means)

Al
It's also illegal to proceed through an intersection if you weren't in the intersection when the light changed to red.
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Old 12-09-05, 08:41 PM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by genec
Hey it is a catch-22. That is why it is up for discussion. But compare this to a funeral procession... which does not stop "individually."

Perhaps bike bunches should be escorted, thereby giving them the exact same rights as a funeral procession.

Those are the questions being debated here... BTW it is not so much a matter of "slowing me down," as it is training to ride in groups. While the whole group ride issue may be one that some never face or chose to participate in, there are cyclists that enjoy both racing and long distance riding that entails group riding. Typically for those rides, roads are closed.
Actually, someone asked about this in my paper recently. The answer from the police was that funeral processions are required to stop for red lights. The private motorcycle escorts that most funeral homes use have to wear a uniform approved by the police, and must file some type of short report notifying the various agencies whose jurisdiction they will be passing through.
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