A Group of Cyclists in Heavy Traffic

This video is from our first real road ride, Tuesday, Feb 9. Late morning, we headed to lunch a round-about way. The instructors plan routes to use major roads like John Young and US 441 to initiate the officers in operating around large, fast, noisy motor vehicles. It also embeds the principle that bicycles are vehicles and their drivers have an equal right to the road.

Like I said in the HWY 535 post, for each motorist passing us it was a single event lasting a few seconds, for the cyclists it’s a constant procession of passing cars. That is why a cyclist must be given the right to choose the lane position that makes him/her feel safest and most comfortable.

Taking the lane at rush hour

Thursday we rode north for several miles on John Young at rush hour, then turned and headed south on 441. The traffic was pretty much endless, but the motorists delay each other pretty well at that time of day. Notice, you’ll see some vehicles more than once. There is the remains of a car crash in the median at 2:10. No doubt, that impeded some traffic.

Because we controlled the right lane, passing cars and trucks used the left lane and were 6-8 feet from the left line of riders. If we had been in the little shoulder, they would have been 2-4 ft away. Passing tractor-trailers would have been uncomfortably close (they fill a 12 foot lane). A more significant issue: the group would have had nowhere to go if there was an obstruction, glass or other hazard in the shoulder.

An important note about group dynamics

If a solo cyclist encounters an obstruction on the shoulder, he can merge into the lane if it’s safe, or stop (the safety/difficulty of that depends on the cyclist’s speed). If the front rider in a group encounters an obstruction, he can’t stop suddenly, he can’t merge (because merging is done by the rear rider), if he chooses to slide around the obstruction, it’s possible someone behind him won’t get the call and will hit it. It’s far less safe for a group to ride in a shoulder than for an individual. This scenario has been the culprit in numerous pace line crashes, and it’s why we have made an effort to educate various local police departments about the hazards of shoulder riding (why shoulder use is legally optional).

Being able to demonstrate safe and legal cycling with a group of officers on bikes is priceless. I just wish motorists were always this courteous toward cyclists that don’t have POLICE written on the back of their T-shirts.

14 replies
  1. Grayson Peddie
    Grayson Peddie says:

    I, as an individual, love to take the entire lane rather than riding in the shoulder. Not to be in the left or the right; I like to keep myself centered in the right lane until I need to turn left or head straight through the intersection.

  2. Kevin Love
    Kevin Love says:

    So where in the video does the heavy car traffic take place?

    The bicycle group always seemed to be able to keep going at a good clip without being impeded by car traffic congestion. Maybe I missed something.

  3. Serge Issakov
    Serge Issakov says:

    That long delay of no traffic in the first video is very typical, but I think this is not realized by many bicyclists. Even when riding solo on 2-lane roads with wide lanes or bike lanes, I control the full lane by default, largely because of the long gaps of no traffic. Riding alone in a situation like that is when you are most vulnerable to being overlooked by cross traffic ahead as well as those approaching from behind – that why I control the lane to make myself as conspicuous as possible.

  4. Kevin Love
    Kevin Love says:

    OK, I watched the second half of the linked video. I still didn’t see any delay due to car traffic congestion.

    Nice ride; they seemed to be able to keep going at a good steady pace without being impeded by cars.

  5. JohnB
    JohnB says:

    When I saw your group dynamics picture, I thought you were going to raise the point that a peloton of riders is shorter than the same number of single-file riders, making for easier passing.

    • Keri
      Keri says:

      If it was a 2-lane road, I’d definitely make that point. On a 2-lane road, passing drivers must minimize time spent in the opposing lane, so shortening the line reduces the gap needed to pass. The length doesn’t really matter on a multi-lane road.

    • Keri
      Keri says:

      Thank you!

      The diagrams are drawn in Adobe Illustrator. I have drawn a dozen or so vehicles, they are grouped objects. When I want to diagram a scene, I draw the road and then place the vehicles in it. Likewise, I use those same objects in Flash animations.

  6. danc
    danc says:

    @ Mr. Love sez:
    “So where in the video does the heavy car traffic take place?”

    In the first video I counted 66 passes (53 +/ 13-) and 5 trucks (excluding vans or 4×4 trucks). For 5+ minutes of video that seems like “heavy traffic”.

    “The bicycle group always seemed to be able to keep going at a good clip without being impeded by car traffic congestion”

    What is the significance of this point? If other vehicles are delayed then bikes can pass vehicles which passed them. So what? The video’s main point is NOT showing how the group of cyclists “keep going at a good clip” or keeping up with other vehicles. The video shows riding as a group (two abreast) on the road is safer than single file on the shoulder. Good job Keri!

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  1. […] then take it back to their shop for repairs before reinstalling it. Orlando cyclists demonstrate how to ride as a group in heavy traffic, including how to take and hold the lane at rush hour. A driver gets her license […]

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