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  1. #1
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    Group Cycling and Safety

    My sensitivity to unsafe biking has been increased due to two bad cycling accidents in my immediate family. We normally go solo in part because of safety. This is what happened on our last group ride:

    On a recent group ride my wife and I were Tandem biking on a residential street in a busy town. The street is winding and sort of narrow. We were on the right side of the street, about 3 ft to the curb. There were some parked cars also.
    A very experienced Cyclist was talking to us and biking on our left. Near center and left of center of the street.
    We are approaching a blind left curve. I pointed out to the cyclist that what he is doing is dangerous. He replied: "Do not worry, I am nimble".
    I shut up because I did not want an argument but have been upset ever since. A car coming at us around that curve had only a moment to decide whom to hit. Well, there was no car but I and my wife were up in arms and again questioned the value of a group ride if that is what we must tolerate.
    IMHO this Cyclist endangered my wife and me who just recently recovered from an accident.
    Apparently this experienced Cyclist does not believe in VC biking.

    I have been deep trained by Mike Munk, http://bamacyclist.com/ on two CC tours that VC biking is mandatory, lawful and the safest way to go.
    Last edited by will dehne; 09-11-09 at 03:36 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by will dehne View Post
    . We were on the right side of the street as close to the curb as can be. There were some parked cars also.
    .
    You may actually have been helping create a dangerous situation by positioning your bike "as close to the curb as can be". That goes against what VAPOR suggests which is to be visible but also to position yourself so that you are part of traffic - or "Correct position in traffic lanes". By riding against the curb, you allow motorists the luxury of assuming that because you are not in or in close proximity to the lane of traffic, you are now out of sight, out of mind. The cyclist riding with you seemingly assumed this as well and had you been better positioned in the road, that cyclist might not have taken the luxury of riding alongside you. That's not to say he/she wasn't an idiot, but you need to think about how you use the lane.

    My $.02

    Steve B.

  3. #3
    Dharma Dog lhbernhardt's Avatar
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    There was a time, when cycling was far less popular, that a novice would learn the craft of cycling in a club environment. This still happens pretty much in racing, where it is absolutely critical that riders possess a minimal level of skill as well as knowledge of others' expectations in a group. But I think it happens far less in social cycling. This is a shame, because a significant amount of important learning (as well as some culture, customs, and tradition) do not get passed on.

    I started my cycling apprenticeship back in 1972 with the Berkeley Wheelmen, and the time I spent on those Sunday morning training rides was absolutely critical and extremely beneficial. Today I feel far more comfortable on a 200-meter velodrome at 50 kmh+ in a group of racers within inches of me, on a bike with a fixed gear and no brakes, than I would on the typical recreational ride. Granted, I know if anybody bumps me, I'm not going to be the one going down (unless he blindsides me from behind), but a competent cyclist should be able ride close enough to brush arms with the rider next to him, and the skill level of most social cyclists tends to make them overly concerned with avoiding such close riding to the point that you get situations like your "nimble" rider, who was definitely too far out in the road. If he couldn't compact himself right up against your tandem (tricky on a winding road), he should have temporarily moved into single-file, and in a competent group, the leader would likely have called for a single file in that situation.

    You need to find a club with good leadership. As an example, we often ride with the Evergreen Tandem Club in Seattle, WA. They provide courses to train ride leaders, and I don't think they'll let you lead a ride until you've taken the course and been certified by their experienced club leaders (I think that's their policy, as I've never had occasion to lead any of their rides!) If you can find a club like that in your area, you need to ride with them. It will greatly improve your proficiency in group situations.

    The last thing you want to do is ride with a Critical Mass group. Those guys are complete idiots!

    L.

  4. #4
    Me and the cat... Pamestique's Avatar
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    For many years I use to ride with a large Orange County bike club. But more and more I was becoming concerned about safety and I stopped enjoying my rides. I would watch large groups of riders blow through a red light only to see cars jam on brakes. Thank goodness I never personally witnessed people being hurt however, I was injured, not once but twice (one time seriously breaking my wrist) by the stupid antics of group riders.

    So I gave up club riding and now do it alone or with a small group of good friends whom I trust to ride safely. There are alot of good riders in clubs but there are just as many goobers who think they are good riders. It was a ****** that caused me to break my wrist. The only good thing afterwards, he felt guilty and switched clubs. I learned he caused some injuries there as well. He was like your "nimble" rider - clueless!
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    Senior Member NOS88's Avatar
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    Sorry to hear of your bad experiences. In my own personal experience I've come to understand that if I think someone is riding in an unsafe manner, I have a responsibility to protect myself (after all no one has more of a responsibility to do this than me). Hence, I probably would have slowed down and indicated that he should ride in front of me. If we wasn't willing to do this, I think I would have pulled over to the side of the road and had the "argument" you worked to avoid. (Although I suspect it wouldn't be much of an argument if I simply indicated that I was not going to continue to ride in the manner I deemed unsafe.) I don't think group riding in and of itself is bad. I think there are some bad riders out there.
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    Boy does this resonate! Did my first group ride last weekend, and ended up tumbling into a pond because the group was going WAY slow, I was riding between the group and the concrete curb around that body of water and I slowly got squeezed towards it. All of a sudden I had a choice of powering up and knocking someone else down or try and skim along that curb, and the skimming didn't work and I was too slow to stop and put a foot down and tumble I did. Got a few scraps and bumps, no serious rash as it WAS in water I tumbled.

    You can bet I will be much more situationally aware the next time! And maybe not pay as close attention to the very pretty fellow cyclist I was chatting with at the time... she probably would have eaten some pavement if I powered up to stay up!
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lightingguy View Post
    You may actually have been helping create a dangerous situation by positioning your bike "as close to the curb as can be". That goes against what VAPOR suggests which is to be visible but also to position yourself so that you are part of traffic - or "Correct position in traffic lanes". By riding against the curb, you allow motorists the luxury of assuming that because you are not in or in close proximity to the lane of traffic, you are now out of sight, out of mind. The cyclist riding with you seemingly assumed this as well and had you been better positioned in the road, that cyclist might not have taken the luxury of riding alongside you. That's not to say he/she wasn't an idiot, but you need to think about how you use the lane.

    My $.02

    Steve B.
    Well, I am posting to get your $.02
    It is difficult to precisely describe a situation. We have here sort of a rule for cyclist and cars to leave a distance of 3 ft between car and bike and 3 ft to the curb.
    I would not dare to go over toward center of the road because there have been numerous instances where a car passed from behind with another car coming from the front. I may be doing 15 MPH or less as were the cars are doing 30 MPH or more. The Idea to BLOCK the car from behind may be not sound advise given my experience. Definitely not on a country road. You will not live long.
    The cyclist in my post above knew he was going against traffic. I suspect he does that often and it bothers me because he leads other people.
    Please observe that I mentioned parked cars also plus the 3 ft rule (dooring!).

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    Quote Originally Posted by NOS88 View Post
    Sorry to hear of your bad experiences. In my own personal experience I've come to understand that if I think someone is riding in an unsafe manner, I have a responsibility to protect myself (after all no one has more of a responsibility to do this than me). Hence, I probably would have slowed down and indicated that he should ride in front of me. If we wasn't willing to do this, I think I would have pulled over to the side of the road and had the "argument" you worked to avoid. (Although I suspect it wouldn't be much of an argument if I simply indicated that I was not going to continue to ride in the manner I deemed unsafe.) I don't think group riding in and of itself is bad. I think there are some bad riders out there.
    Yes, you are right on.
    I did not have the guts to do that what you say because of that cyclists group status.
    Next time I will. It is not worth it.
    I suffered an painful accident being rear ended by a guy drafting me. I had to brake hard so as not to kill a cat. That cyclist blamed me because I braked hard. I will no longer allow him to bike behind me.
    Similar situation I think.
    Unsafe practice and not willing to admit it.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pamestique View Post
    For many years I use to ride with a large Orange County bike club. But more and more I was becoming concerned about safety and I stopped enjoying my rides. I would watch large groups of riders blow through a red light only to see cars jam on brakes. Thank goodness I never personally witnessed people being hurt however, I was injured, not once but twice (one time seriously breaking my wrist) by the stupid antics of group riders.

    So I gave up club riding and now do it alone or with a small group of good friends whom I trust to ride safely. There are alot of good riders in clubs but there are just as many goobers who think they are good riders. It was a ****** that caused me to break my wrist. The only good thing afterwards, he felt guilty and switched clubs. I learned he caused some injuries there as well. He was like your "nimble" rider - clueless!
    I biked 2 x 3,000 miles in pace lines most the time with groups as large as 30 bikers. This can not be totally safe. A moment of distraction, debris in the road, dogs, cats, all can and do cause collisions of a pace line. Two or three careful people can do it. I have done it. Very difficult.
    But drafting saves a lot of energy on such tours. So we will do it again.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by lhbernhardt View Post
    .................................................................................................... .......................................................................

    You need to find a club with good leadership. As an example, we often ride with the Evergreen Tandem Club in Seattle, WA. They provide courses to train ride leaders, and I don't think they'll let you lead a ride until you've taken the course and been certified by their experienced club leaders (I think that's their policy, as I've never had occasion to lead any of their rides!) If you can find a club like that in your area, you need to ride with them. It will greatly improve your proficiency in group situations.

    The last thing you want to do is ride with a Critical Mass group. Those guys are complete idiots!

    L.
    I agree that the group leader must insist on safe cycling and set an good example.
    My rant above was posted in part because that nimble cyclist IS a group leader. I am rebelling against his example of biking against traffic. To me a big no-no. I suspect that this VC rule is not so iron clad in many USA cyclists mind.

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    This here is my second thread on a dangerous situation caused by biking against traffic.
    I wonder what the other sub forums say about that subject?

  12. #12
    Senior Member Terex's Avatar
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    One of the reasons I pushed myself to get to an "A" group level is safety. The B group riders weren't, and still aren't, safe. I ride with two different clubs and usually in groups of about 7-12 riders. All of these A level riders are very strong, and all are (usually) very safe. Not a lot of chit chat, but certainly a lot of focus.

    The few times that I ride with B level groups, I ride off the back and keep people where I can see them. Although I really like some of the people on the B rides, I'm ending up riding very few B rides anymore.

    I've been on two B rides where people have been life-flighted to the regional trauma center, but I've never personally experienced an accident on an A ride. Just a few weeks ago, one of the B groups that I used to ride with experience another horrific accident.

    And just because you're a "ride leader" doesn't mean that you have good riding skills or the ability to manage a group safely.

    "So I gave up club riding and now do it alone or with a small group of good friends whom I trust to ride safely."

    That's one of the things that I do too. I can ride with really nice people that aren't necessarily the strongest riders - but we all try to look out for each other.
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  13. #13
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    IMHO - If you ride in a group you take risks. If you ride tight in a group you take greater risks. If you pace line and close draft at high speed you take tremendous risks. I don't care if your riding behind Lance, anyone who tells you otherwise has never watch a multi-bike pro rider pile up. These guys take risks all the time - it's their job to take risks and push the envelope.

    That does not mean you should not draft/ride in groups - it just means you must understand the risks and decide which to take. Make the simple corrections where you are managing your own personal risk level.

    Every now and then we get a post bashing group rides/riders. Don't place yourself in a situation you are uncomfortable with, if you know how to use your brakes and steer your bike you don't have to ride with riders who make you feel unsafe.

    We have had a few threads on how to act in a pace line, there is a lot of good advice in these that will help make the risks a little less - but don't ever think they go away.

    Sorry - but that's my $0.02
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    Quote Originally Posted by cyclinfool View Post
    IMHO - If you ride in a group you take risks. If you ride tight in a group you take greater risks. If you pace line and close draft at high speed you take tremendous risks. I don't care if your riding behind Lance, anyone who tells you otherwise has never watch a multi-bike pro rider pile up. These guys take risks all the time - it's their job to take risks and push the envelope.

    That does not mean you should not draft/ride in groups - it just means you must understand the risks and decide which to take. Make the simple corrections where you are managing your own personal risk level.

    Every now and then we get a post bashing group rides/riders. Don't place yourself in a situation you are uncomfortable with, if you know how to use your brakes and steer your bike you don't have to ride with riders who make you feel unsafe.

    We have had a few threads on how to act in a pace line, there is a lot of good advice in these that will help make the risks a little less - but don't ever think they go away.

    Sorry - but that's my $0.02
    Nothing to be sorry about. I understand you and agree with you.
    My original post was an attempt to fish for information in this sub forum which is:
    Is there consensus that VC biking is the Law? Specifically NOT biking against traffic?

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    I don't blame you for getting upset.

    Riding left of the centerline is asking to get hit, and riding left of center with others in the correct lane is putting them in danger, too.

    Please observe that I mentioned parked cars also plus the 3 ft rule (dooring!).
    Three feet is way too close to parked cars. A safer distance is 4 to 5 ft.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1TQ7aID1jHs

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    Quote Originally Posted by Terex View Post
    One of the reasons I pushed myself to get to an "A" group level is safety. The B group riders weren't, and still aren't, safe. I ride with two different clubs and usually in groups of about 7-12 riders. All of these A level riders are very strong, and all are (usually) very safe. Not a lot of chit chat, but certainly a lot of focus.

    The few times that I ride with B level groups, I ride off the back and keep people where I can see them. Although I really like some of the people on the B rides, I'm ending up riding very few B rides anymore.

    I've been on two B rides where people have been life-flighted to the regional trauma center, but I've never personally experienced an accident on an A ride. Just a few weeks ago, one of the B groups that I used to ride with experience another horrific accident.

    And just because you're a "ride leader" doesn't mean that you have good riding skills or the ability to manage a group safely.

    "So I gave up club riding and now do it alone or with a small group of good friends whom I trust to ride safely."

    That's one of the things that I do too. I can ride with really nice people that aren't necessarily the strongest riders - but we all try to look out for each other.
    Thanks for this information.
    I am afraid that all the potential cyclist I meet are B group cyclist.
    I have been with A group cyclist and yes they are more experienced and focused. However ALL the A group bikers I have known had bad accidents also resulting from high speed biking. This was in Michigan Detroit Metro Area. These were semi professional cyclist biking for money.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Recycle View Post
    I don't blame you for getting upset.

    Riding left of the centerline is asking to get hit, and riding left of center with others in the correct lane is putting them in danger, too.


    Three feet is way too close to parked cars. A safer distance is 4 to 5 ft.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1TQ7aID1jHs
    Thank you.
    Your reply makes me feel better.
    My wife tells me to back off and let this issue go but for heavens sake we must make progress.
    I am disgusted that experienced cyclist bike against traffic. I am also sensitive to helmets after a few accidents and hitting my head on the pavement.
    Someone must preach safety. May as well be us.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by will dehne View Post
    Nothing to be sorry about. I understand you and agree with you.
    My original post was an attempt to fish for information in this sub forum which is:
    Is there consensus that VC biking is the Law? Specifically NOT biking against traffic?
    VC is the law.

    The vehicle code in virtually every state specifies that bicycle riders have all the rights and responsibilities applicable to the driver of a vehicle . I.e. they are subject to the rules of the road with a few modifications.

    The entire Illinois vehicle code as it applies to bikes is here:
    http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs...ehicle+Code%2E

    Here are two sections from Illinois that apply to this thread.

    (625 ILCS 5/11‑1502) (from Ch. 95 1/2, par. 11‑1502)
    Sec. 11‑1502. Traffic laws apply to persons riding bicycles. Every person riding a bicycle upon a highway shall be granted all of the rights and shall be subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle by this Code, except as to special regulations in this Article XV and except as to those provisions of this Code which by their nature can have no application.
    (Source: P.A. 82‑132.)
    (625 ILCS 5/11‑1505) (from Ch. 95 1/2, par. 11‑1505)
    Sec. 11‑1505. Position of bicycles and motorized pedal cycles on roadways ‑ Riding on roadways and bicycle paths.
    (a) Any person operating a bicycle or motorized pedal cycle upon a roadway at less than the normal speed of traffic at the time and place and under the conditions then existing shall ride as close as practicable and safe to the right‑hand curb or edge of the roadway except under the following situations:
    1. When overtaking and passing another bicycle,
    motorized pedal cycle or vehicle proceeding in the same direction; or

    2. When preparing for a left turn at an intersection
    or into a private road or driveway; or

    3. When reasonably necessary to avoid conditions
    including, but not limited to, fixed or moving objects, parked or moving vehicles, bicycles, motorized pedal cycles, pedestrians, animals, surface hazards, or substandard width lanes that make it unsafe to continue along the right‑hand curb or edge. For purposes of this subsection, a "substandard width lane" means a lane that is too narrow for a bicycle or motorized pedal cycle and a vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane.

    4. When approaching a place where a right turn is
    authorized.

    (b) Any person operating a bicycle or motorized pedal cycle upon a one‑way highway with two or more marked traffic lanes may ride as near the left‑hand curb or edge of such roadway as practicable.
    (Source: P.A. 95‑231, eff. 1‑1‑08.)

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Recycle View Post
    VC is the law.

    The vehicle code in virtually every state specifies that bicycle riders have all the rights and responsibilities applicable to the driver of a vehicle . I.e. they are subject to the rules of the road with a few modifications.

    The entire Illinois vehicle code as it applies to bikes is here:
    http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs...ehicle+Code%2E

    Here are two sections from Illinois that apply to this thread.
    OK, Thank you. I did not know that either
    Now, why do adult and apparently sane cyclist flaunt that law which is there to protect them and us? Biking against traffic is rampant in this town. The police does not step in.
    I have seen college educated cyclist biking all over the street like some children unfortunately also do.
    There is a problem here somehow.
    I come from Germany. People drive fast. A cyclist on the wrong side of the street would not last long.
    I guess I am puzzled. Perhaps cyclist are not being taken serious? Like children? And must be indulged somehow?

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    Quote Originally Posted by will dehne View Post
    OK, Thank you. I did not know that either
    Now, why do adult and apparently sane cyclist flaunt that law which is there to protect them and us? Biking against traffic is rampant in this town. The police does not step in.
    I have seen college educated cyclist biking all over the street like some children unfortunately also do.
    There is a problem here somehow.
    I come from Germany. People drive fast. A cyclist on the wrong side of the street would not last long.
    I guess I am puzzled. Perhaps cyclist are not being taken serious? Like children? And must be indulged somehow?
    I don't think we do a good job of teaching them. Most North Americans learn to ride a bicycle in grade school, at an age where they are appropriately encouraged to stay off roads. Unfortunately, that's the last they hear about any kind of rules for riding bikes. They learn to drive cars in highschool. The courses don't cover driving cars around bikes very well, and say nothing about driving bikes in traffic. There is a 10 page pamphlet, Bicycle Rules of The Road, but it seems aiemd at grade schoolers.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Recycle View Post
    I don't think we do a good job of teaching them. Most North Americans learn to ride a bicycle in grade school, at an age where they are appropriately encouraged to stay off roads. Unfortunately, that's the last they hear about any kind of rules for riding bikes. They learn to drive cars in highschool. The courses don't cover driving cars around bikes very well, and say nothing about driving bikes in traffic. There is a 10 page pamphlet, Bicycle Rules of The Road, but it seems aiemd at grade schoolers.
    Great. I am getting an education. Just wonder if the Cycling groups are also aware of this?
    Again, this Mike Munk from Bamacyclist sure was preaching VC correct biking.
    He is a former Air Force something or other.
    We do care about the safety of cyclist here do we not?
    I think the BikeForum should push safety.

  22. #22
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    VC is the rule. Of course, to some it is a religion. I tend to avoid those people as much as I do unsafe riders.
    The more you ride your bike, the less your ass will hurt.

  23. #23
    Time for a change. stapfam's Avatar
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    Been trying to think of a good answer to this. I ride alone and there is only one person to worry about on the ride. All I then have to do is look out for the cars and keep out of their way.

    I sometimes ride with my Son-in-law and I find that we can get distracted on the back roads we ride on. Cars are so quiet that they just suddenly appear taking the whole width of the road and if we are riding in double file- even close double file- it can get dangerous.

    Mind you- on the "Main" roads in towns all I have to watch out for are cars not noticing me. My awareness of other road users is high in these situations so not many problems do occur but they do happen.
    How long was I in the army? Five foot seven.


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  24. #24
    gone ride'n cyclinfool's Avatar
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    So what's with cyclist not following the VC.
    Thats easy - a bicycle is not a car. IMHO - When it is being ridden on the main roads it should follow the VC, but what about on bike paths and side walks?

    I may be wrong but I bet the OP will do a rolling non-stop at a stop sign so as not to unclip and dab or ride up on stoped cars on their right side on the shoulder when they are stopped at a light, this is clearly against the VC - but cyclists get away with it becasue we are "special". As cyclist we only choose to follow the VC when we want to - taking liberties when it pleases us and I doubt there is not one of us that won't take a few liberties. What car would be able to go around road construction by taking the side walk for example. So what this does is give a sense of empowerment to some who already feel either invincible or self righteous.

    Me - I don't always follow the VC, but I only take risks appropriate for me.

    This thread really belongs in S&A. It is broader than a 50+ issue.
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  25. #25
    Senior Member Terex's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by will dehne View Post
    Thanks for this information.
    I am afraid that all the potential cyclist I meet are B group cyclist.
    I have been with A group cyclist and yes they are more experienced and focused. However ALL the A group bikers I have known had bad accidents also resulting from high speed biking. This was in Michigan Detroit Metro Area. These were semi professional cyclist biking for money.
    Most of the people I ride with don't race. And most of my rides are hilly, so a huge effort may be maintaining 10 mph going up hill. When I ride flatter routes in a pace line, people are REALLY focused on maintaining safe riding conditions. In both situations, the major effort is trying to keep pace with the fastest person - not passing anyone. Most of our efforts are no more dangerous than trying to out-do the person next to you on a treadmill in the gym. But they're a lot more fun!

    But, as safe as we try to be when riding in a group, there are always certain people who cross at red lights when it's just not appropriate, or pull out across oncoming traffic without enough room. Makes no sense to me. On EVERY ride, there will be several instances where I have to catch up with the group when I come to a dead stop at an intersection and wait until traffic is actually safe.
    "It could be anything. Scrap booking, high-stakes poker, or the Santa Fe lifestyle. Just pick a dead-end and chill out 'till you die."

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