Cycling Coach Robert Wilhite recently blogged about the dangers that rogue riders present in group rides. He gave several examples of a small band of riders who took it upon themselves to ignore basic rules of the road regarding right of way at intersections and barrel through stops, endangering not just themselves but also the many other riders in the pack behind them.
Bike Law has written about problems with group rides. Check out the “Lost Art of the Group Ride” and comment.
While these riders at the front barreled through stop signs onto main roads with vehicles approaching, the riders in the middle of the pack were left in the precarious position of having to choose between blowing through the stop sign themselves and into a dangerous intersection or attempting to slow down or stop in the middle of a group, exposing themselves and the riders behind them to danger. Either way, an awful choice to have to make.
On Facebook, this blog post was met with many comments from riders who were familiar with similar situations. Various complaints were lodged about group rides based on similar experiences. Calls for stronger leadership and guidelines, as well as to ostracize dangerous riders from the group. I made this comment, that was met with widespread approval (in the form of 9 Thumbs Up): As someone who represents injured cyclists I can tell you that these same drivers that we piss off will one day be the jurors from whom we are seeking justice. If we want the protection of the law we have to abide by the law”
I was pleased to see that my comments were regarded favorably, as I’m always afraid that my position on following the rules of the road is not a popular one in a lot of circles. However, the part about angry motorists making bad jurors is one that I stand behind because I’ve seen it repeatedly. I try a lot of cases for bicyclists and can tell you that we’re all painted with a broad brush as scofflaws who selfishly clog up traffic and endanger drivers with no regard for traffic laws or rules. Whether it’s the actions of reckless cyclists that anger motorists or if it’s some deeper underlying resentment of our freedom, the fact is our conduct on the road has a negative impact on juror’s perceptions and make it difficult to get a fair result in Court. Yet I believe that we can turn those perceptions around by being more conscientious riders.
Think about that the next time you’re in a position to influence a motorist’s attitude towards cyclists. If following the rules of the road helps you not only stay safe, but gives you and our fellow cycling brethren a better chance of being treated fairly when we’re negligence of victims, why not take the opportunity to do things the right way. Even little things, like a friendly wave to a motorist who stops for you at a stop sign, can go a long way.