Post #: 198
Edited by User 2,312,075 on Sep 23, 2012 12:41 AM
On February 27th, Rydel wrote:
"Reminder to the group, please slow it down in the front and close up any gaps. During this past ride, the group was going to fast while headed south on Biscayne Blvd...higher speeds result in open spaces between riders and put a heavy strain on those corking, it also encourages motorists to enter the mass. We're supposed to be a large group, not small pockets of riders."
While we haven't had any serious injuries involving contact with motor vehicles, to my knowledge, as one of those strained corkers to whom he refers, I see first hand the potential for serious mishaps posed by the gaps in the group.
Let me recount one incident from the February ride that illustrates my point.
After a very difficult and contentious corking at the beginning of the ride at N.W. 1 St. and 2 Ave., I headed north to what I expected would be another challenging intersection; N.W. 12 Ave. and 36 St.
I arrived well ahead of the group---time to observe traffic density and patterns.
Sure enough, by the time a significant portion of the group had gotten through, northbound motor traffic had backed up four to five blocks.
A Fire Rescue truck, sirens blaring, came up behind. Seeing there was no southbound traffic, the driver took to the southbound lanes, speeding towards our intersection.
I noted earlier several ambulances coming west and turning right, so I expected the truck would continue north through the intersection...
Meanwhile, the seemingly endless stream of cyclists continues on through eastward.
Ironically, at this point no gaps in the group were evident, leaving me no recourse, but to create a gap myself to prevent conflict with the emergency vehicle.
I stood in the middle of the eastbound lanes and loudly demanded that the mass of cyclists stop, which they did.
Of course, I was in no position to observe, but I strongly suspect that this artificial gap I created soon closed without any conscious effort on anyone's part.
Shortly thereafter, a gap did appear in the group. At that moment, I had moved to get a better look at the group. The motorist I was confronting was getting very impatient; I told him I'd take a look---it was late on, I was expecting to see some end in sight.
This was an error on my part, as he took advantage of my move and drove through the gap. Fortunately, there was no contact, but at least one cyclist came very close and was forced to brake hard.
This is an extremely dangerous situation. And while I made a mistake, the fact that the gap existed created an opportunity.
But even if I stand my ground, the gap serves to greatly undermine my case.
This sort of gap is more common and most dangerous---one or two cyclists will ride in the gap between the two separated masses.
What causes these gaps? What can be done to prevent them?
It must be appreciated that no one deliberately or consciously acts to create a gap.
One commonality I've observed in gaps is a small group of cyclists---two to five---leading the back of the gap. These people will be engaged in animated, engrossing conversation.
But in order to ride safely in a large, tight group a degree of focus on what is ahead is required.
As this focus is compromised by conversation, the riders unthinkingly expand the linear distance between themselves and those directly in front.
This is something I have even caught myself doing on occasion.
It's a myth that gaps are caused by excessive speed in the front of the group.
While we've had our problems with people exceeding the normal pace, this has a secondary, exacerbating effect.
AS I prepared to cork the intersection of N.W. 36 St. and Biscayne Blvd., I was dismayed at the speed with which the front of the group approached the intersection.
But by then, all of the gap-related problems I experienced were behind me. And I had not observed a case of excess speed earlier on.
These included a gap at N.Miami Ave. and 36 St. which was so long it actually fooled me. I thought the mass was through and I left. Looking back, I saw another wave of riders. Fortunately, they seemed to have brought their own corkers, so I can laugh at myself for this one!
While it's satisfying to watch hordes of people stream past an intersection on bikes, laughing, singing, having a good time, it must be reckoned that some responsibility must be borne.
So while riding with your friends, or making new friends this Friday night, please take an occasional glance ahead.
If you see more than a couple of bike-lengths between your little circle and the riders in front, please interject a comment in the conversation. A quick "Hey, lets close the gap!" accompanied by an up-off-the-seat acceleration might be just what's needed to keep these the safe, fun rides most participants have told me they are.
Great job guys....your effort is greatly appreciated! I, for one, will be more conscious about my riding. Thank you;)) Rosie