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Bunch ride Safety

by Carl Brewer last modified 2006-09-14 03:48

the aboc guide to safer bunch riding, when it's safe to ride in bunches, when is a bunch unsafe etc

This article is written in the aftermath of the killing of a pedestrian on Melbourne's 'Beach Rd' by a cyclist or cyclists who failed to stop at a red light at a pedestrian crossing in Mentone, and addresses the aboc position on how and when to use bunch rides for training, and what it is that makes large bunch rides an unacceptable risk to both rider and other people's safety.

On Saturday the 26th of August, 2006, a pedestrian, crossing Beach Rd in Mentone with the aid of a pedestrian crossing traffic light, was knocked down by at least one cyclist who went through a red light.  The man died from the injuries sustained.  The cyclist may have been a participant in a notorious Melbourne bunch ride called the 'Hell Ride'.  At aboc, we have long held the belief that the Hell Ride was an accident waiting to happen, and our worst fears were confirmed. We extend our condolances to Jim (James) Gould's family and friends.  This should never have happened.

With that in mind, aboc has a position on bunch rides which is strongly presented to the riders we work with, and that is that large bunch rides are to be treated with caution and used sparingly and only when appropriate to your training, and we specifically urge our clients to avoid the more badly behaved rides, in particular the Hell Ride.

The main problem with large bunch rides on open roads is that within the bunch the is enormous pressure to stay in the bunch and to prevent it splitting, as once a bunch reaches a certain size, it no longer waits for riders dropped by having to stop for lights or other traffic obstructions.  As such, it is increasingly difficult to be involved in some of the larger fast bunch rides around Melbourne without being involved in breaches of our road laws, and unacceptable levels of risk to both the riders involved in the ride and the general populace.

Additionally, and from a pure training benefit position, often bunch rides deteriorate into races, or are too fast or too slow to be of benefit to riders working on specific aspects of their cycling.

So what makes a bunch ride ok to use?

We believe that bunches are useful and safe when they're below a certain size (10-15 riders seems a reasonable number), and most (all) riders in the bunch know eachother and are aware of the goals of each rider during the ride.

There are benefits with bunch riding, the social aspect makes long rides more fun, the sharing of the work into the wind, the development of good bunch riding skills that are essential for racing and endurance rides, and the sheer pleasure of riding with your friends.  Once a bunch gets beyond a manageable size, we recommend that our riders drop out of the bunch and continue their ride on their own or in a smaller group.  We never want to experience someone we work with being involved in a collision, especially one brought about by participation in rides with histories of regular, systematic breaches of our road laws.

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