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Accident avoidance

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Road Cycling “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.” -- Ernest Hemingway

Accident avoidance

Old 09-06-15, 06:27 PM
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Shuffleman
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Accident avoidance

We had a group ride this weekend. It was a small group of 7. Rider 3 struck the back wheel of rider 2 and went down hard. Rider 4 struck the downed rider and went down. Rider 5 veered left and rider 6, me, veered right. Rider 7 hit the brakes hard but avoided the wreckage. My question is really to those who have been in these type of accidents. Have you found that those who slam on the breaks caused themselves and others to go down as well? I know I was very glad the rider in front of me veered left because if he had hit the brakes it would have taken me and him down. I also was very aware of not veering left as that would have been into the road without looking.Both riders were concussed and carted to the hospital by way of ambulance. Rider 3 was pretty messed up beyond the concussion. Anyway, the incident had me wondering about the instinct to brake hard.
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Old 09-06-15, 06:55 PM
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NealH
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Difficult decision. In the heat of the moment, I usually look to veer - even if it means going left. But I've also found it unacceptable therefore went on in and crashed. Looking back, I wish I had braked more. There is only a split second to make the decision. But I am the type that will typically lightly brake and veer - and just take my chances. Heavy braking also carries risks especially to the following riders. Whether its right or wrong, who knows. Every situation is different.
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Old 09-06-15, 07:28 PM
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I think because of many years on a motorcycle, my first instinct is to steer out of trouble rather than brake. But, in the moment it is so hard to predict what you will end up doing. This is a good reminder to go off into a vacant parking lot and practice "swerving" and braking.
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Old 09-06-15, 07:31 PM
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Old 09-06-15, 07:34 PM
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I consider myself responsible for everyone behind me and around me, but only until there's an emergency. If something happens directly in front of me, I avoid the accident at all costs, you can't afford to think about anything else. If that means brake, I brake.
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Old 09-06-15, 07:35 PM
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Were you on the road or on a designated bike path. That makes a big deal. I've veered when on a road and just lived to see the next day ...
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Old 09-06-15, 07:38 PM
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In my experience there are some riders who are 'anxious' to stop pedaling and/or brake at any type of disturbance. If it's a tight group you don't even have to brake to cause a problem, just stopping pedaling can result in a crash if the rider behind isn't paying attention. Over the years I've observed most crashes due to these types of riders. I give them a little extra space.

Clearly it's best to try and avoid downed riders in front of you but sometimes **** happens and you have no choice but to brake hard.
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Old 09-06-15, 08:10 PM
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One major benefit of using a helmet mirror is I always know what's behind me and where, so veering is not risky.
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Old 09-06-15, 08:45 PM
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Forgive my naïvete (I ride alone) but why is a group so closely spaced that chain reaction accidents occur? Is it for drafting?
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Old 09-06-15, 08:56 PM
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To the best of my knowledge... the correctness of any accident avoidance is solely dependent on the outcome. If you don't get hurt... you did good. But that should not imply that you'll have the same results from the same actions... next time.

Often times life is just the luck of the draw.

Bummer about the guys in your group. Sorry it happened.

Last edited by Dave Cutter; 09-06-15 at 09:03 PM.
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Old 09-06-15, 09:06 PM
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Originally Posted by MadKaw View Post
Forgive my naïvete (I ride alone) but why is a group so closely spaced that chain reaction accidents occur? Is it for drafting?
Yes it's for the draft.
As for the question of instinct, it's hard to say how to react in a panic situation. All I can say is I had two instances where someone in front of me either crashed or jammed on the brakes to come to a complete stop. In both instances, I veered off the side and missed the bike in front. I've had some instances where the bike in front suddenly slowed and I hit the brakes hoping the rider behind me is riding off to the side and doesn't hit. It's not a good feeling. I'd rather veer off to the side and not cause the bike behind me a problem.
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Old 09-06-15, 09:58 PM
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Originally Posted by Inpd View Post
Were you on the road or on a designated bike path. That makes a big deal. I've veered when on a road and just lived to see the next day ...
We were on a road, not a bike path. Luckily the traffic was not close enough to have any part in this.
I too consider myself responsible for those behind me but all you can do is react. Hopefully that reaction does not cause any further issues.
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Old 09-06-15, 10:07 PM
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Same rules apply as ever when riding close: try to keep going straight and not do anything drastic. Don't veer wildly trying to 'go around,' rather try to just slip by. Slow down, of course, but no more than necessary - brake too hard and you become a hazard yourself, even if you don't lose control.
I think slipping by is often more instinctive, but in the case above, I imagine braking hard would have been more instinctive for rider 7. He probably sensed he was faced with three obstacles and hemmed in - riders 3 and 4 at some distance ahead, but riders 5 and 6 to each side, closer and likely to slow down or do something more unpredictable, especially since it was not a race, where everyone can be expected to keep going. That's how I imagine it, anyhow, based on what I've seen of crashes and similar mishaps in groups - guys crashing right in front of or next to me in a peloton, and some minor mishaps and chaos in casual pacelines.
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Old 09-07-15, 04:31 AM
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Jim from Boston
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Originally Posted by f4rrest View Post
One major benefit of using a helmet mirror is I always know what's behind me and where, so veering is not risky.

Originally Posted by Shuffleman View Post
We were on a road, not a bike path. Luckily the traffic was not close enough to have any part in this.

I too consider myself responsible for those behind me but all you can do is react. Hopefully that reaction does not cause any further issues.
+1 to a mirror, especially helmet and eyeglass mounted, as I wear. Jim's Law of the Road is ”No matter how well-paved or lightly-travele dis th Road, a vehicle is likely to pass you on the left, as an obstacle occurs on the right (or in front).” The OP describes a most spontaneous and unanticipated hazard, and I think a head mounted mirror offers the quickest and least head/eye movement to assess the rearward traffic situation, compared to handlebar mirrors.

Also, a mirror allows easy periodic rearward checks, so in a quickly hazardous situation, one may already know the coast behind is clear, to take avoidance maneuvers.
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Old 09-07-15, 09:32 AM
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In a tight paceline I always plan for which side to bail and avoid the curb side in a double paceline.
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Old 09-07-15, 09:43 AM
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Originally Posted by popeye View Post
In a tight paceline I always plan for which side to bail and avoid the curb side in a double paceline.
? Do you mean you won't veer to the curb side or you won't ride near the curb?
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Old 09-07-15, 11:48 AM
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Originally Posted by gregf83 View Post
? Do you mean you won't veer to the curb side or you won't ride near the curb?
What I mean is I prefer not to get trapped on the curb side as it limits my options, I would rather ride on the traffic side but you do what is necessary. In a single pace line I will bail either side but if it is an echelon there is a bias. Yes I will bail to the curb if that is the best option.
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Old 09-07-15, 11:52 AM
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Originally Posted by popeye View Post
What I mean is I prefer not to get trapped on the curb side as it limits my options, I would rather ride on the traffic side but you do what is necessary. In a single pace line I will bail either side but if it is an echelon there is a bias. Yes I will bail to the curb if that is the best option.
I was thinking of a rotating paceline where you wouldn't have much choice.
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Old 09-07-15, 01:19 PM
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Braking isn't ideal, but again you react as best is possible, given circumstances. The advantage to braking is that you scrub speed. Even if the riders behind you go into you, hopefully they've also scrubbed some speed. Going down at 5 mph is vastly preferable to 18 mph. The only situation where having extra speed helps is if you're going to pull a Lance and take the overland avoidance route.

I recently had the rider in front of me go down when he hit a rock. As soon as I saw him waver, I braked quickly but let off instantly when I saw a clear line. Look at it this way, if you're going to crash you want to be going as slowly as possible. If the rider behind you plows into you as you crash, he was going to plow into you regardless since you have a fixed stopping point.
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Old 09-07-15, 01:26 PM
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Sometimes braking can allow to create enough space to allow for options. On the velodrome, slamming on brakes is not an option, but turning the wheel up track can sometimes help slow you down enough that it allows to avoid the pileup.
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Old 09-07-15, 04:31 PM
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Even pro cyclists, who ride 10's of thousands of miles over many years, crash. Evidently, lots of experience cycling is not that much help. This year's Vuelta is the prime example. Our club has about 1300 members of which 10% or so will show up on any Sunday. We do a staggered start with faster riders beginning sooner than the next slower group but starts can still find you riding in close proximity to a good many other people - too many other people for my taste. My solution is to always leave enough space in front, and if possible, to the sides, to provide maneuvering room. Riding very close to other cyclists may have consequences that you tacitly accept by allowing that situation to develop. Think way ahead.

Last edited by berner; 09-07-15 at 04:32 PM. Reason: spelling
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Old 09-07-15, 05:52 PM
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Part of the reason pro cyclists crash so much is they are racing. I haven't crashed in 15 years. I don't ride in big groups that much and I am not racing.
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Old 09-07-15, 06:30 PM
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Situational awareness is important. Sometimes you can see a bad scenario developing and be prepared to dodge it. Watching a few guys up the line instead of focusing on the guy in front can help also. Sometimes **** happens and you gotta do what you gotta do. Protect yourself first then worry about saving others. That's a lot of thinking in a split second though.
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