How to Ride in a Group

by Franklin Prosser

Riding in a group is one of life's more enjoyable activities. Cycling with friends, traveling rapidly and safely with confidence in your companions, is a joy. However, there is a certain cycling etiquette, or rules of the road, of which you should be aware whenever cycling in a group.

Be Predictable - Group riding requires even more attention to predictability than riding alone. Other riders expect you to continue straight ahead at a constant speed unless you indicate differently.

Use Signals - Use hand and verbal signals to communicate with members of the group and with other traffic. Hand signals for turning and stopping are as follows: left arm straight out to signal a left turn; left arm out and down with your palm to the rear to signal slowing or stopping; and for a right turn, put your right arm straight out (in states where this is legal) or put your left arm out and up.

Give Warnings - Warn cyclists behind you of changes in your direction or speed. To notify the group of a change in path, the lead rider should call out "left turn" or "right turn," in addition to giving a hand signal. The lead rider should announce the turn well in advance of the intersection, so that members of the group have time to position themselves properly for the turn.

Change Positions Correctly - Generally, slower traffic stays right, so you should try to pass others on their left. Say "on your left" to warn the cyclist ahead that you are passing. If you need to pass someone on the right, say "on your right" clearly since this is an unusual maneuver.

Announce Hazards - When riding in a group, most of the cyclists do not have a good view of the road surface ahead, so it is important to announce holes, glass, gravel, grates, and other hazards. Indicate road hazards by pointing down to the left or right, and by shouting "hole," "bump," etc., where required for safety. Everyone in a group should be made aware of hazards, however, everyone does not need to announce them.

Watch For Traffic Coming From The Rear - Even when you are occupying the proper lane position, it often helps to know when a car is coming. Since those in front cannot see traffic approaching from the rear, it is the responsibility of the riders in back to inform the others by saying "car back." Around curves, on narrow roads, or when riding double, it is also helpful to warn of traffic approaching from the front with "car up."

Watch Out At Intersections - When approaching intersections requiring vehicles to yield or stop, the lead rider will say "slowing" or "stopping" to alert those behind to the change in speed. When passing through an intersection, some cyclists say "clear" if there is no cross traffic. This is a dangerous practice that should be abandoned. It encourages riders to follow the leader, letting others do their thinking for them. Each cyclist is responsible for verifying that the way is indeed clear.

Leave A Gap For Cars - When riding up hills or on narrow roads where you are impeding faster traffic, leave a gap for cars between every three or four bicycles. This way a motorist can take advantage of shorter passing intervals and eventually move piece meal around the entire group.

Move Off The Road when You Stop - Whether you are stopping because of mechanical problems or to regroup with your companions, move well off the road so you don't interfere with traffic. When you start up again, each cyclist should look for, and yield to, traffic.

Ride One Or Two Across - Ride single file or double file as appropriate to the roadway and traffic conditions and where allowed by law. Most state vehicle codes permit narrow vehicles such as bicycles and motorcycles to ride double file within the lane. Even where riding double is legal, courtesy dictates that you single up when cars are trying to pass you if the lane is wide enough for them to safely do so.

Reprinted from "Bicycle USA", magazine of the League of American Bicyclists.
For more information about the League of American Bicyclists, visit their web site,, or e-mail them at

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