Making Lane Changes with a Group

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When changing lanes or merging, the rear riders in a group should clear the new lane and lead the move. The rest of the group then sweeps into the cleared lane. This ensures no cars are trapped or cut off by the group.  It is increasingly critical that merges and lane changes be done this way with larger groups. The front riders can’t judge the speed of an overtaking vehicle or its distance from the riders at the back of the group. Likewise, only the rear riders can negotiate with drivers for permission to move into the lane.

Bike lanes are especially problematic for groups

This is not just a problem for sport cyclists riding in pace lines, it is also a problem for the social groups we are leading to promote and encourage bicycling. While speed exacerbates the problem, being trapped in a narrow lane is problematic for a group of cyclists at any speed.

As noted in the above animation, the cyclist in the front of a group can’t effectively lead a lane change. But a cyclist in the back of the group can’t see the hazards in the bike lane. There is not enough time between seeing and hitting an obstruction for the riders to communicate between the front and rear of the group and negotiate a move into the general travel lane. To make matters worse, bike lanes, by their very nature, collect hazardous debris such as sand, broken glass and sticks.

This is the result of a driver right-hooking a group of cyclists riding in a bike lane. Two cyclists hit the back of the car and others veered into the street. One rider went under the SUV and broke a collarbone.

Every intersection and driveway creates a point of conflict and confusion for motorists turning right. Since motorists have a clear path to the point of their turn, they will initially pass the group. But, upon reaching the turn may find their ability to turn obstructed by the front of the group. As a result, they will have to stop and block the thru lane, or they may make a bad judgment call and turn too close in front of the front riders, causing a domino effect of braking and swerving (and a potential crash). See animation below.

FLORIDA: Prior to Sept 1, 2010, it was legal for cyclists to ride double in the right lane of a multi-lane road, regardless of the presence of a shoulder or bike lane. Now, when a designated bike lane is present, cyclists are required to ride single-file in that lane, regardless of traffic flow or any other consideration aside from an obvious, continuous hazard.

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The exclusion zone concept shown above was developed by Dan Gutierrez. Learn more.