07 February 2010

Not all signs are created equal...

In the not so distant past a group of riders encountered a big obstacle on a small road and a incident turned into an accident. Since that time I have wondered what could have happened and what did happen. At the end of it all I realized there was one thing missing in the equation, what should have happened. So I have been researching this and came up with a fairly good list of the "Rules of the Peloton" of which I think there will be many additions to and hopefully a lot of discussion. As a team this discussion is a long time coming and may have happened and I missed it, I have been out for some time.

Please have a look...

Whilst riding in a bunch, it is imperative that a rider warns the other cyclists about road and traffic hazards, anticipated moves, or position changing. Although the lead person is at the disadvantage of having to break the wind in front of the bunch, he also holds the distinct advantage of seeing things way ahead. The riders behind depend on him to give them the necessary signals that will avoid mishaps such as crashes, punctures, damaged shoulders and even possibly fractured necks.

These are some of the more common hand signals:
  1. Pointing down at the ground (left or right) would indicate danger on the appropriate side. Move in the opposite direction to avoid hazards. Hazards would include potholes, cateyes (NB), painted lines (very slippery in wet weather), stones etc. Remember, it doesn't have to be a large stone or boulder for you to indicate danger. Rather be safe than sorry - indicate any potential dangers. Make sure you also call out loud any obstacles in the road so people can hear you and take note of the problem.
  2. Patting the bum. Patting YOUR left 'cheek' with left hand would indicate to all riders following your wheel that there is something hazardous on the left and to move over to the right. This could be due to a parked car up ahead, slow riders which are going to be passed, a big patch of gravel or dangerous road ahead. Patting the right bum cheek with right hand indicates that the cyclist has riders must move over to the left.
  3. Finger or hand up in the air - indicates that a rider has punctured or incurred some or other mechanical trouble that will result in him/her having to stop. When riding in a bunch, you can't just pull your brakes and come to a screeching halt. Keep rolling and hold your line until everyone behind has passed, then pull off to the side for assistance.
  4. Arm out with forearm at 90degrees towards the sky, hand up with all finger extended/or with a fist. Indicates that the group must slow down to stop - traffic lights or stop street or anything else that would bring the group to a stop. If it is traffic lights call out "LIGHTS" loudly to get everyone's attention.
  5. Hand left or right with fingers normally extended shaking back and forth - indicates loose gravel or small stones in the path. Very common at intersection. Slow down and try and avoid 'infected' area. Cornering should be done at slower speeds.
  6. A 2-fingered downward point moving laterally, would indicate railway tracks ahead. The direction of the hand should indicate the angle at which the railway tracks cross the path. Be extremely cautious when crossing them and also go over the tracks at a 90degree angle, even if this means going wide and then cutting across to achieve this angle.

These are the main hands signals used whilst riding in a bunch.

Practice SAFE Riding
Never assume the rider behind you has seen the danger ahead. Use loud VOCAL warnings for anything you can not signal or needs special attention.
Never over lap tires for any reason!
If the entire group can't make it through an intersection, NOBODY goes.
It only takes one silly person for a tragedy.


Manfred von Holstein said...

Thanks for posting. The rules may be a bit sophisticated for me, but better some than none.

My own rules are something like the following:

1) Avoid riding with people who are not safe riders

2) Avoid riding in larger groups unless these are truly good riders (like yesterday's TCC team)

3) Never ride just directly behind someone. Ride slightly left or ride, depending on what gives the better view

4) Be obsessed with the fact that riding in pace line is a lot more dangerous than riding on my own. That means (even) more concentration than usual, not less

5) Use hand and voice signals as appropriate. But I don't overdo it unless in a large group. When riding with people I know well, I trust them looking ahead and not following me blindly

David L. said...

Ludwig -- I agree with you, safer to stick to smaller groups and to people whose riding styles you know well. But still good to know hand signals, and invaluable for when we field our full Itoigawa team and ride in rotation.

I laughed at the mention of painted lines being slippery in the wet. I had forgotten that problem, as riding in Japan we are spoiled with excellent "non slip" traffic line paint. And we don't have much gravel at corners either. Nor many potholes, by comparison with the U.S. or U.K.

The biggest issue I think is cross-cultural communication. I say "car up" to mean that a car is up ahead on the road, and "car back" to mean watch for the car approaching from behind us, and someone (David J.?) interprets these as meaning the opposite.

Of course, watching the Cervelo Test Team, it is a miracle that they can communicate amongst each other.