Best Practices

Safe Cycling Best Practices

  1. Ride in bike lanes when available
    • If clear, move into the road when the bike lane contains hazards
    • If clear, move into the road to pass another bike
    • Ride two abreast if desired when bike lane width permits
  2. Ride as far to the right on roads as practicable
    • Ride on a road's shoulder when adequately wide and safe
    • Ride two abreast if desired when the shoulder width permits
    • If clear, move left as required to avoid hazards
    • If clear, move left to pass another vehicle/bicycle
    • Control the lane when it would be dangerous to be passed
    • Control the lane to make a left turn
    • Move left to avoid a right turn conflict—create a diverging not crossing condition
    • Control the lane as desired if you are moving at the normal speed of traffic
    • Use next available turnout or area to let backed-up traffic of five or more vehicles to pass
    • Ride two abreast if desired on roads with light or intermittent traffic
  3. Obey traffic laws—Bicycles are legal vehicles
    • Always ride on the right side of the road—ride with traffic
    • Always stop at red lights
    • Always honor all right-of-ways at intersections—vehicles, bicycles and people
  4. Call out approaching vehicles: "Car Up;" "Car Back"
    • Move right as practicable to permit vehicles to pass
    • If riding two abreast, move into single file to permit vehicles to pass: left/inside rider accelerates and right/outside rider slows slightly to create gap for left rider
  5. Use hand signals and reinforce verbally
    • Hand down and call out "Slowing" or "Stopping"
    • Point left or right and call out "Turning"
    • Point to obstacles in the road and call out "Glass," "Hole," "Bump," etc.
    • Repeat signals you receive for riders behind you
  6. Pass other bicycles and pedestrians on the left and call out "On Your Left"
  7. Be Predictable—no sudden moves
    • Hold your line and speed
    • Look and hand signal before making changes
  8. Be Alert and Aware—Continuously scan your surroundings
    • Look through/beyond the riders ahead of you
    • Use a rear view mirror to see riders and vehicles behind you
    • Maintain enough space around yourself so you can respond to the unexpected
    • Never overlap your front wheel with the back wheel of the rider ahead
    • Anticipate potential problems
  9. Be Visible—Assume you are invisible
    • Use bike lights
    • Wear bright or light colors
    • Make eye contact with drivers
  10. Leave the road or bike lane completely when stopping—don't hinder the progress of other cyclists or vehicles
  11. No one lost or left behind during group rides—take care of each other
    • Keep the rider behind you in sight—the next-to-last rider is the last rider's buddy
    • Wait or return for riders lost from sight
    • Communicate problems to other riders: e.g., call out "Flat"
    • Stay with a rider that has to stop
  12. Be Prepared: Go to the Be Prepared web page for a listing of items that every rider should carry with them at all times.
  13. Be courteous at all times and acknowledge courteous behavior
  14. Encourage others to follow "Safe Cycling Best Practices"

Group Riding Best Practices

Group riding best practices are based on the preceding "Safe Cycling Best Practices" with additions and elaborations unique to riding in groups.

  1. Never do anything suddenly or without warning
    • Ride in a straight line at a consistent and predictable pace
    • Always give plenty of warning if you are going to move sideways, slow or stop
    • Make sure you are clear of other riders before you stop
  2. Give yourself space and a path relative to the rider ahead
    • Ride far enough behind to provide appropriate reaction time
    • Ride off center of the rider in front to provide an escape route and sightline
  3. Keep your head up, watch the rider in front of you and check down the road, constantly
    • Look over the shoulder, under the arm or through the legs of the riders in front of you—ride proactively instead of reactively
    • If you talk—skip the eye contact—keep your eyes ahead
    • Back off from the rider ahead when approaching a climb, climbing or descending
    • Give erratic riders more space—protect yourself now—talk with them later
  4. Call out "On Your Left" or ring your bell when passing other group members
    • Move right to let group members pass
    • Weaker riders should stay right so stronger riders can pass or accelerate ahead when moving into single file (left/inside rider accelerates and right/outside rider slows slightly to create gap for left rider)
    • Move right and signal (elbow flick) if you want group members to pass you
    • Move to the back of the group to drink water, spit or blow your nose
    • Don't struggle to hold you place in the group—it will cause you to ride erratically
  5. When in the front, you are responsible for the safety and cohesion of the group behind you
    • Keep your head up at all times
    • Do not talk with others while in the front
    • Point out road hazards in time for those behind to avoid them and pass on the signal
    • If the group needs to slow down, signal and shout out a warning, “light up”, “car up”, etc., in time for those behind to respond and pass on the signal
    • Anticipate stoplight changes to get the entire group through the intersection safely
    • Startup, round corners and hold or change pace to maintain group cohesion

Paceline Riding & Drafting

Paceline riding is a type of group riding that requires particular knowledge, cycling skills and practice. If you are interested in paceline riding, use the following links as resources: Paceline Guide, How to ride a paceline, and not fall down and 15 Tips for Riding in a Paceline.

During SLOBC group rides, there are times when a few participants decide to draft each other—ride 6" to 36" behind the wheel of the rider ahead. Participate in drafting only if:

  • It does not endanger group riders who are not participating
  • You understand and are willing to assume the added risk
  • All riders involved know and agree to what is occurring
  • You trust the other riders and know they are knowledgeable, smooth and consistent
  • You never let your wheels overlap
  • You will stop drafting when you feel the situation is unsafe

No One Left Behind Best Practices

Nothing feels worst than having a problem or not knowing the route and realizing that no one is in sight. Nothing feels better than seeing riders return to find you or waiting for you when you round a bend. The following techniques are an elaboration on item 11 under "Safe Riding Best Practices" and can be used separately or in combination to insure that no one on a group ride is lost or left behind.


Establish locations or distances to points where the group will stop and wait for everyone to arrive. Consider the following in establishing regroup points:

  • Regroup at places with room to gather completely off the road
  • Regroup after conditions that might cause group separation—after a climb or series of intersections
  • Regroup at time intervals—every half hour
  • Regroup at distance intervals—every ten miles

Proceed once everyone has arrived and allowed time to recover.

When appropriate, send two riders back to find those missing so one can stay and the other can report back to the group.


A rider providing sweep should know the route and always keep the slowest rider in sight.

One approach is for the ride leader to be the sweep—to lead from behind.


Buddies stay together—within sight—throughout a ride. There are three approaches to implementing buddies:

  • All riders buddy with another rider
  • An experienced rider buddies with each new rider
  • The next-to-last rider automatically becomes the last rider's buddy.