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Old 07-24-14, 06:06 AM   #1
Machoman121
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Group riding much safer than alone?

Just how much riding in a group makes one safer? There are roads and routes i would love to ride but am fearful of being run over by a car. Would my safety margin increase greatly if i get others to ride along with me? I often hear or read of riders getting killed or worse..permanently disabled from car collisions. Only the big ones involving numerous riders makes it to the news or newspaper.....the single rider's family suffers alone.

Surely a bunch of riders stands out more and makes a drugged up, drunk driver sit up and take notice compared to a single rider. Their innate fear is that if i run one down the others will attack me.
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Old 07-24-14, 08:04 AM   #2
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People get killed riding in groups too, in fact I would not be surprised if there is no additional protection statistically. I think sometimes a group can be in increased danger because they can cause added aggro in car drivers because they're harder to pass.

For the most part, nobody WANTS to hit a cyclist. They just don't see you in time, usually because they're distracted. I assume that the ones that are likely to hit me are people texting. They're probably looking at the road once every 5 seconds, maybe 10 seconds at worst. They're going 60 MPH. That means you need to be visible/bright enough to GRAB the attention of someone who is GLANCING at the road for a half a second 10 seconds before they get to you at 60 MPH. That means you need to be OBVIOUS from 880 feet away (a bit over 1/8 mile). Curves will make things worse for visibility, but nobody's navigating curves without looking for 10 seconds.

The best thing you can do is to do everything you can to be visible. Bright clothing and a daytime-visible flashing light. I use an Axiom Pulse 60 in the back (if you're really nervous you could look at Dinotte but I think it's overkill) and some sort of flashing white up front - I just use a little Ignita on my helmet in daylight/summer. in the winter I have more serious lights up front.
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Old 07-24-14, 08:41 AM   #3
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I think riding in a small group may add visibility... but when the group gets larger... at only say 10 people or more, then group think settles in and stuff happens.

I used to go out with 3-4 others at noon rides... just enough folks to increase visibility, but not enough to cause grief to others or get into group think mode.
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Old 07-24-14, 09:11 AM   #4
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I feel safer when there's no bike within 50 feet of me. Granted a large group would be more visible.
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Old 07-24-14, 09:28 AM   #5
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With a group, there's a better chance of at least one person who can call or go for help.
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Old 07-24-14, 09:30 AM   #6
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I feel safer when there's no bike within 50 feet of me. Granted a large group would be more visible.
I agree, it may just be a 'feeling' but that's my instinct as well.
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Old 07-24-14, 09:33 AM   #7
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Very bad crashes happen all the time in group rides. Windy day or hilly terrain with a rubber band effect where wheels touch and down someone goes. Some people will not ride in a group mostly because of not knowing what the new guy is going to do, nothing to do with automobile traffic at all.
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Old 07-24-14, 09:46 AM   #8
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I suspect (just a hunch or feeling) that riding in small groups or 2 or 3 riders might be safer, but IME large groups are anything but. Unless there's excellent discipline, groups do things that increase dangers. The most common, is groupthink at intersections. The first rider may gauge the speed and distance of cross traffic and decide it's fine, but after him, most riders don't check, or break the string. There's also the problem of passing a long unbroken string of bicycles on a narrow road, which can make drivers impatient or cause risky decisions. Groups also tend to have poor discipline and spread out across the road. Lastly, consider that a fair number of bike crashes within groups is bike/bike and has nothing to do with autos.

The above applies to groups on open roads, riding organized rides on closed roads is very different, and these rides tend to be very safe as long as you use sense and judgement.

BTW- if you have halfway decent riding skills, can hold a line, and have some common or street sense in traffic, riding most roads is very safe. most drivers do a very good job passing safely with good separation, the rest pass with less separation and might make you nervous, but the reality is that getting hit by passing cars is an unlikely event.

It's important to choose roads intelligently, and ride smart, but millions of us have miles upon miles of safe accident free riding behind us.
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Old 07-24-14, 10:55 AM   #9
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I suspect (just a hunch or feeling) that riding in small groups or 2 or 3 riders might be safer, but IME large groups are anything but. Unless there's excellent discipline, groups do things that increase dangers. The most common, is groupthink at intersections. The first rider may gauge the speed and distance of cross traffic and decide it's fine, but after him, most riders don't check, or break the string. There's also the problem of passing a long unbroken string of bicycles on a narrow road, which can make drivers impatient or cause risky decisions. Groups also tend to have poor discipline and spread out across the road. Lastly, consider that a fair number of bike crashes within groups is bike/bike and has nothing to do with autos.

The above applies to groups on open roads, riding organized rides on closed roads is very different, and these rides tend to be very safe as long as you use sense and judgement.

BTW- if you have halfway decent riding skills, can hold a line, and have some common or street sense in traffic, riding most roads is very safe. most drivers do a very good job passing safely with good separation, the rest pass with less separation and might make you nervous, but the reality is that getting hit by passing cars is an unlikely event.

It's important to choose roads intelligently, and ride smart, but millions of us have miles upon miles of safe accident free riding behind us.
This is somewhat beside the whole conversation... the open variables (items in bold) are what can make cycling "much more difficult." You stated "most drivers..." so we also know that there are a few that are not paying attention... and a few that are just downright aholes...

And as far as choosing routes intelligently.... what if there is only one route? (in the west, often there is only one road from A to B)

Just wanted to throw those sticks into your spokes...

Your first paragraph is very right on.
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Old 07-24-14, 11:05 AM   #10
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This is somewhat beside the whole conversation... the open variables (items in bold) are what can make cycling "much more difficult." You stated "most drivers..." so we also know that there are a few that are not paying attention... and a few that are just downright aholes...

And as far as choosing routes intelligently.... what if there is only one route? (in the west, often there is only one road from A to B)

Just wanted to throw those sticks into your spokes...


Your first paragraph is very right on.
Please only throw sticks in to my rear wheel.

My first paragraph was about the comparative risks of group vs. solo riding. The second was added to give some perspective to the OP who expressed fear about riding in traffic. I don't claim it's risk free, nor that one can control ALL the risks. But one can use judgement and control some of the risks, and smart riders do that every day. As for the risks one can't control, those are a fact of life, and we face and accept risk daily.

I'm not saying bicycling in traffic is perfectly safe, only that it's reasonably safe compared to the "white noise" level risk we face daily. Keep in mind that 6 times more pedestrians, and 50 times more people in cars die in traffic accidents than bicyclists. Of course this is no comfort if you're one of them regardless of cause, but as a lottery the odds aren't that bad.
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Old 07-24-14, 12:05 PM   #11
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I think riding in a small group may add visibility... but when the group gets larger... at only say 10 people or more, then group think settles in and stuff happens.

I used to go out with 3-4 others at noon rides... just enough folks to increase visibility, but not enough to cause grief to others or get into group think mode.
Depends on the group think in question.

The local club I rode with had a pretty good group think and culture. Little of 'must stay together' so little light running (some stop sign running by those later in a pod of riders).

General a group think of be courteous (a few jerks who were exceptions).

After 5-10 miles this led to pods of 3-10 riders spaced 100 yards to several miles apart.

Since I wasn't the slowest that often meant someone behind me would serve to remind drivers that bicyclists ride that road.

EDIT: However even in the best group it is not fun to be very close to a light as it turns yellow only to hear one rider yell out Rolling and another stopping. (That is reduced now with the countdown numbers on many signals).

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Old 07-24-14, 12:21 PM   #12
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Very bad crashes happen all the time in group rides. Windy day or hilly terrain with a rubber band effect where wheels touch and down someone goes. Some people will not ride in a group mostly because of not knowing what the new guy is going to do, nothing to do with automobile traffic at all.
The only issue I ever had with a group ride was the lady next to me failing to clip out and falling into me. Net result, we both stayed up, I'm not that easy to knock over.

But then I don't ride with people who think they are riding the group TT in the TDF or act like they are in a race in other ways.

I have ridden with racers but the ones I do ride with do not consider a social ride a race.

I did once get training on how to ride a paceline from a rider who was a pro and had rode the tour. That because a rider in the club was training for P-B-P. It was more than enough to realize a group trying to ride a rotating paceline with one person who is not schooled can be a very dangerous thing.
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Old 07-24-14, 01:28 PM   #13
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When you're in a group, your odds of a collision with a car go down as the size of the group goes up -- after all, one cyclist can be missed but it's hard to miss a large group -- but the odds of a collision with another cyclist goes way, way up. And such collisions can be deadly as well.

But yes, having a large group can make you feel comfortable riding on a road that you wouldn't otherwise ever want to ride on.

The extreme example of this is Critical Mass -- with a large one, the group can probably ride anywhere in the city, even the freeway, and can do so with relative safety from cars. (I'm not talking about the ethics of this, just the safety.) But on the other hand, Critical Mass tends to be full of newbies who barely know how to ride their bikes, who are likely to be drunk, etc. and the odds of a collision with another rider go way, way up. Did your overall safety go up? Probably not.

With a shop ride, that may be the best middle ground ... your group is quite visible, but the riders are hopefully experienced enough to keep the collisions between riders to a minimum.
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Old 07-24-14, 02:16 PM   #14
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I used to ride with a group on Mondays evenings. The amount of cyclist ranged from 2-20. When we got over 6 riders, we rode double breasted and took up one lane. This was recommended by local police. It always felt weird but cars knew they have to change lanes to pass and never got aggressive. The smaller groups rode single file and there was little room to maneuver.
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Old 07-25-14, 06:21 AM   #15
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See if you can find a map of crime rates in the neighborhoods you are travelling through. Cities often have such statistics available and you may find there are some very significant differences in this or that route. Combine that with some very good flat proof (not literally) tires like Marathon Plus tires and you should be able to at least reduce the risk of being accosted and the risk of a flat. Beyond that it's just a matter of bad luck to get a flat with a few nasty people their so I'd back it up with some pepper spray, an easily reached cell phone and I'd have a vid cam going, chest mounted so it doesn't draw attention on my helmet and would not be lost in the event of a bike theft. I'd also ride a flat bar bike if I wanted to maintain a low profile unless drop bar bikes are commonly seen. Best of luck.
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Old 07-25-14, 07:08 AM   #16
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i started riding in a group instead of alone recently, because i know people who wan to hit me.
riding in a group is good because you get more exercise. i just had i find a good group. i also had to learn good behavior for relationships in these situations. particularly, not riding the same group ride consecutive weeks, and talking in a more disciplined way, as well as riding as a group instead of at my own pace.
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Old 08-07-14, 07:47 AM   #17
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I prefer with a small group of aware and experienced riders.

Last week I saved a fellow rider, we were going downhill at a fast pace, and a pickup ahead of us started making a left turn through our lane of travel. It would have been fine, but the pickup slowed down to align with the parking space, and was still in our lane. My partner was "in the zone" and heading right towards the back of the pickup. I screamed heads up and he slowed and took evasive action and avoiding ending up in the bed of the pickup.

We also call out glass and potholes etc. So yes, another set of eyes is helpful.
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Old 08-07-14, 08:15 AM   #18
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And as far as choosing routes intelligently.... what if there is only one route? (in the west, often there is only one road from A to B)
If there's only one route you either ride it or you don't. A short section isn't too bad (<1 mi), because you can just pedal really hard planning to blow up when you hit the end. If you're biking recreationally and there's a 5mi section of "bad" road, I would just drive to a better starting point.
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Old 08-07-14, 08:17 AM   #19
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If there's only one route you either ride it or you don't. A short section isn't too bad (<1 mi), because you can just pedal really hard planning to blow up when you hit the end. If you're biking recreationally and there's a 5mi section of "bad" road, I would just drive to a better starting point.
Gee, that works... if you own a car.
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Old 08-07-14, 10:04 AM   #20
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I've never ridden in a group and felt safer......The bigger the group,the more out of control they get.
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Old 08-07-14, 10:51 AM   #21
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A lot of the anecdotes here highlight why I don't like riding in larger groups, the fact that one is often pressed into riding at the groups pace rather than to actual road and traffic conditions.
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Old 08-07-14, 11:52 AM   #22
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Gee, that works... if you own a car.
Same can be said for many activities. Living without a car narrows choices to places and activities the car free person can get to by available alternative means, who wudda thunk it?
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Old 08-07-14, 12:02 PM   #23
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I prefer with a small group of aware and experienced riders.

Last week I saved a fellow rider, we were going downhill at a fast pace, and a pickup ahead of us started making a left turn through our lane of travel. It would have been fine, but the pickup slowed down to align with the parking space, and was still in our lane. My partner was "in the zone" and heading right towards the back of the pickup. I screamed heads up and he slowed and took evasive action and avoiding ending up in the bed of the pickup.

We also call out glass and potholes etc. So yes, another set of eyes is helpful.
I was on one group ride in a group of about 8 riders. We were heading down a very short downhill under a freeway about 100 yards from the beach. The driver of a parked pickup opened the door. I called it out. Did I mention I can be LOUD? Just one loud call of "DOOR" and he dove back in and closed the door behind him!
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Old 08-07-14, 12:17 PM   #24
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Same can be said for many activities. Living without a car narrows choices to places and activities the car free person can get to by available alternative means, who wudda thunk it?
Well of course... but then it is a bit ironic when someone on a BIKE forum recommends taking a car to a bike ride.
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Old 08-07-14, 12:41 PM   #25
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Well of course... but then it is a bit ironic when someone on a BIKE forum recommends taking a car to a bike ride.
Hardly; since that is probably how many if not most of them get to the starting point, especially if it is an organized long distance or over night group ride.

Maybe such a post would be ironic if posted in the Car Free List; I have read few posts from the Carfree folks on that list about participation in group riding. Perhaps due to the difficulty with the logistics of getting to/from distant starting/ending points.

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