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Are centuries bad for cycling??(21 posts)

Are centuries bad for cycling??sharkey
Aug 26, 2002 7:53 AM
There has been much discussion on this post (as well as others) in reference to so-called "bike haters". The obvious position is that aggressive motorists have no place on the road -- period, and particularly when cyclists are present (as cyclists make an easy target for these emotionally out of control drivers). However, recent events have caused me to modify this position – clearly cyclists have an obligation to obey the rules and act courteously, and not act recklessly themselves. This was clearly illustrated to me during my participation in a local century ride this weekend (as many of you probably did). I was shocked and disgusted at the dangerous and rude behavior exhibited by some of the riders during this event. I simply couldn't believe my eyes!! Some examples:

There were several short, but very steep climbs on the ride. There was a tendency for riders to jam up on these hills, but riders were spreading across the entire roadway – all the way to the opposite shoulder!! A car crested the hill, and simply had no choice but to come to a full stop because there were at least a dozen cyclists coming up the wrong side of the road!! I heard "car up!!" several times but only about half of the cyclists actually moved out of the lane. The cyclists waved at the driver as they rode around her - - !!!!! Did these people actually think that waving to the driver after you've just finished coming up the wrong side of the road – bringing vehicular traffic to a stop makes them a COURTIOUS RIDER????!!!

On one straight section of road where the visibility was particularly good, I could see one poor motorist pick his way patiently through nearly a mile of riders wobbling around in the middle of the road (some were riding on or near the yellow line). Some of the riders failed to move out of the way even as the car approached - - - forcing the car to go into oncoming traffic to pass the bikes, who where defiantly controlling the entire lane (presumably because there were a number of them together).

I saw a line of five cyclists make a fast descent to a "T" intersection without braking, making what I would describe as a last minute and totally useless glace to see if anyone was coming as they blew through the stop sign and made a right hand turn onto the road – If there had been a car on the main road, the whole lot of them would either have been creamed by the car, or if the first guy and braked the whole bunch would have stacked up at the intersection! A "no-win" situation for sure!!!

Lastly, at the intersection of the bike path and a major roadway, was one brilliant fellow who simply rode out into oncoming traffic, causing three cars to screech to a stop (the number three car coming less than a foot from hitting the number two car)!!! As he pedaled into the roadway, he had his arm outstretched (as if to stiffarm the traffic) and was yelling back to his riding companions: "It's a CROSSWALK!! They HAVE TO STOP!!!"

Century rides bring out the best and the worst of riders, and I don't think it's an overstatement to say that this sort of behavior tarnishes the perception of cyclists everywhere. Further, I do not think that it is too much to ask that these "weekend warriors" and hybrid riding housewives know the basic fundamentals of safe riding: Staying to the right, using hand signals, riding smoothly and predictably, etc. If we saw motorists operating their vehicles with this kind of total disregard, the law and public opinion would require that they be punished, and/or loose their license.

I intend to ride in many more centuries this fall -- but I also intend to be vocal when I see activity like this . . . I see it as a threat to my ability to cycle. I would encourage all of you to do the same in your travels this "century season".

I would be interested to hear your opionions on this subject. I am also curious to see if this sort of thing happens everywhere, or if I was j
the real question, "Are cyclists bad for cycling?"DougSloan
Aug 26, 2002 8:02 AM
Yes, I've seen egregious riding and great riding. It does seem that riding by the rules diminishes as groups grow larger. All you can do is set a good example. Organizers of events should emphasize obeying the law, courtesies, and safety, and should not hesitate to yank people and ban them in the future for flagrant violations.

To say that centuries are bad for cycling is really to say that cycling is bad for cycling. Centuries *are* cycling, in many respects.

I agee...trimble
Aug 26, 2002 9:43 AM
I usually like riding in large groups. There's a buzz or something that occurs when you're wheel to wheel speeding away at 25mph and your HR is 130-ish.

However, the larger the group, the less likely there is going to be adequate cooperation with traffic. That happened with me recently while riding in a group containing at least 40 cyclists (weekend training ride, not an organized century). Someone in the back 'Car back!'. This call echoed through the pack, but invariably some guys up front riding four abreast didn't move an inch while others tried to ride single file.

I think cyclists as a whole are considerate of others who share the asphalt, as are most motorists. But all it takes is some hot-head behind a steering wheel and you're courting disaster. Imagine this guy coming up behind a group of cyclists who won't move out of his way.
Even in small groups..Brooks
Aug 26, 2002 12:09 PM
the riding can be questioned. Last week I came up to a stop light at a four lane (with center turn lane) highway. An older couple were waiting at the light and then decided to cross against the red. Traffic was waiting to cross and no one was coming down the highway. This couple didn't even get to the other side when the light turned green. I caught up to them (nice bikes, gear, good skills, obviously experienced) and asked why they crossed on the red because it just pisses off drivers. His response, "How long have you lived here?" Me: "What difference does that make? How long is long enough?" Him:"25 years" Me:"Gee, I don't recall the Vehicle Code changing that allows people who have lived in an area 25 years special dispensation to cross on red lights. If you have only lived here 10 years, do you get to blow through stop signs?"

The Logan to Jackson race (200 miles) is well marshalled for light, stop sign, center line, and side by side (illegal in Wyoming except to pass) violations. You will be cited and pulled from the race. This is made very clear in all pre-race correspondence and forms.
The distance isn't the issue...MXL02
Aug 26, 2002 8:07 AM
there are bad cyclists and bad motorists, and they knock heads no matter what the distance.
A possible solution...Ahimsa
Aug 26, 2002 8:07 AM
...for those that intend to ride organized centuries and wish to see some change:

Print up a simple but direct flyer. It should include basic courtesy in traffic information, safety guidelines, proper cycling ettiquete, safe group riding info, and helpful tips for new cyclists regarding hydration, etc.

Package it all into a friendly and useful format, and distribute it pre-ride "for the safety of all cyclists".

You can thus educate and protect at the same time, and you come across as a concerned cyclist advocate type. If we all did this at organized rides, I think we would be far better off in the long run.

Contact the event organizers and see if they have any problem with it. If they don't, great. If they do, ask what they intend to do to educate cyclists and promote safety at the event. Maybe see if your LBS will place a % off coupon on it to encourage riders to have a look at it.

...if you want something done right.....


These flyers are sometimes in the ride packet...Tig
Aug 26, 2002 8:22 AM
...and are summarily dismissed with the other items and advertisements until after the ride, unless the packets are picked up in advance. The excitement and rush to get going just before the ride prevents most riders from even looking at such a flyer. I doubt many even read these if they have the packet a week in advance, nor after the ride either! The idea is sound, but in practice, not enough people will educate themselves. I've worked enough centuries to see this type of attitude often enough.

Experienced riders who don't follow the rules of the road probably won't read something like this because they think they already know everything. I think they choose to break the laws because they feel safe and protected in a large group and believe nothing bad will happen to them.
Yes, people assume safety in numbers...biknben
Aug 26, 2002 8:41 AM
I haven't riden an organized century in quite a while. The attitudes of the riders are one of the biggest reasons. I don't think it's the distance that is bad, just the number of people involved.

These people believe they own the road because they paid a fee to ride or something. They feel safe with so many other riders around so they stretch the rules. Next thing you know people are spread out all over the road like idiots.
Aug 26, 2002 8:26 AM
It would just get thrown away with whatever other stuff you get that no one wants to carry along. Wasted paper.

There are two things you simply can't help anyone with:

1. Common sense. Just because the cars HAVE to stop, doesn't mean they CAN stop in time, or WILL.

2. Courtesy. If you haven't been taught courtesy and kindness by the age of 10, you will probably never learn it.

There is only one way you can come close to idiot-proofing a century. You have to put out big, bright signs along the route that even people with short attention spans cannot ignore. "Single file, please." "Traffic does not stop." And whatever else seems appropriate. "Blind curve." "Keep right." You should also have signs for cars saying "Bikes on road."
Courage Classic did this..dotkaye
Aug 26, 2002 8:41 AM
a 3day charity ride here in CO, they required all first-time riders to watch a 15 minute video on safe and courteous riding (couldn't get through registration without it). At least it made everyone think about behaving for a bit. But there were still people descending at 25mph riding right on the yellow line, and madmen crossing double yellow lines in blind corners at 45mph+
A possible solution...Scot_Gore
Aug 26, 2002 9:11 AM
I rode an MS150 in June. They put together a nice "rules of the ride" packet, laying out laws, courtesy, saftey, and other concerns. IMHO - The packet wasn't effective.

They did a few other things that I thought were very effective.
1) The first day of the ride is on a 70 mile rail to trail. At nearly every road crossing, except for a few driveways and lonely dirt roads, they a had a crossing monitor that stopped traffic. Sometimes the bike traffic, sometimes car traffic.

2) On the second day, which is 80 miles of county roads. They swept the route with motorcycle volunteers. So, if the mob spread out across the lane(s), one of the motorcycles would come along gently nudge the mob back into single file by "claiming the lane".

3) They had several "ride leaders" with marked bikes and jerseys. I assume one of their responsibilities was to play sherriff. I never saw it but the only big safety gaff I saw was the 4-5 abreast groups and the motorcycles were taking care of that.

Aug 26, 2002 8:31 AM
I don't know what it is, but one can not deny the phenomenon that you've described. I too have witnessed the the startling increase. It's almost as if people have the attitude along the lines of "Hey, I paid my entry fee, the rules of the road no longer apply to me." It's along the lines of mob mentality and it's ugly. It was really amazing to see a cop ticket a guy for blowing a stop sign during the Solvang Century last year and then see how indignant he was about being ticketed.

And we wonder why a certain segment of the non-cycling driving public hates us.

It's all about respect. Respect for the laws and respect for each other. If any component of this is missing then we have a disfunctional system and people get hurt and killed. True accidents are bad enough and they do happen, but the preventable ones are a crime. The problem is that bicyclists come up short every single time even if they're 100% in the right.

I really question the value of being associated with *any* unrestricted organized ride on open roads for this reason. Who want's to be lumped into this general category of jerks, idiots, and yahoos with blatant disregard for the driving laws, general courtesy and common sense. It's not like your entry fee is a great deal in the food department and you could be more efficient by donating the money directly to the charity for which the ride is set up for. So you might miss out on getting to ride with a couple thousand of your "closest cycling friends" - big deal. At least they won't be able to take you down. The events like the California Triple Crown Series (double centuries), particularly the more difficult ones, attract a whole different caliber of rider and I find them a lot more enjoyable. The yahoos never seem to sign up for these events. This isn't meant as an elitist comment.
Aug 26, 2002 9:10 AM
I can identify with what you have seen. That is why I no longer go on CLUB rides because even experienced people who should know what they are doing ride like idiots. Organized "Century" rides bring out a lot of people who for them might be the only time they ride a bike all year and it's a big deal. I did a ride once where the entrants were "limited" to 10,000 people. That's just irresponsible of the organizers and asks for trouble. I never did that ride again. (Apple Cider Century in Lower Michigan). In fact, a few years later I heard that a motorist intentionally hit some people during that ride because they go so frustrated. I honestly believe that police should start ticketing riders that can't seem to follow the rules of the road.
The problem, though, is not really the newbies. They're kept inbill
Aug 26, 2002 9:40 AM
check by fear. The far worse problem are experienced (as in, lots of miles but not necessarily wizened) cyclists who have an us vs. them mentality and a sense of entitlement because of their experience to boot. Numbers certainly seem to worsen the problem. People just need to mellow out and look around a little. Those cars are big.
Heck, I like to think of myself as a more level head, and just yesterday I blew through a "pink" light (just turned red), only to see a cop car sitting at the stop line. I suppose that he may have seen the way my cheeks reddened from embarrassment and figured he didn't need to smack me any harder, because he didn't say anything. I won't be doing that again -- I got away with it once, legally and with my bones intact, and I won't be testing fate again.
well, maybe organized ones (nm)ET
Aug 26, 2002 10:05 AM
re: Are centuries bad for cycling??vitusdude
Aug 26, 2002 10:36 AM
It isn't centuries, specifically, but group rides in general. Large groupings tend to bring out the most reckless and arrogant behavior in humans and other animals. Add to that mix the leavening of inexperienced and inept cyclists that every century and multi-day tour seems to bring out and you get the kind of behavior you just described. This is the main reason I enjoy 'group' rides less all the time. Either solo or a select small group is the way to go. If you do an organized century and you have a bit a speed in you legs, best to go out early and fast and leave the riff-raff behind.
re: Are centuries bad for cycling??CFBlue
Aug 26, 2002 11:40 AM
interesting comments.

just two weeks ago I was riding a century and saw many of the situations. one particularly bad one was a too young of a girl, maybe 7 or 8 who ran into oncoming traffic at the bottom of a steep decent, ending in a T intersection. What saved her was the number of cyclists around stopped at the intersection. The approaching car saw the bikes, must have expected someone to do something dumb and was ready for it. This cautious driver just missed the little girl. My guess is the hill was too steep for her to control her bike and lacking the handstrength, was not able to work the brakes. When I saw them struggling up the hill, I thought her dad should have her with him on a tandem, not her own cutsey little pink bikey.

My particular pet peeve is slow riders who bunch up, chatting or whatever, making it necessary to go into the other lane to pass them. this is a particular pain when I am captaining the tandem. Down a hill we try to get as much speed as possible... seems reasonable, i do that on my single bike too... then use that momentum to get up the following hill. it never fails that people slow at the bottom of the hill, then when their speed matches the cadence/gearing, up they go. All very good, and maybe even safer than my method, but can't they not take up the whole lane white doing it?

So far, in three and a half years of riding, my only close calls have been in group ride situations.
re: Are centuries bad for cycling??Chainstay
Aug 26, 2002 8:12 PM
Those riders are not slowing down deliberately. Large groups always slow at the bottom of a valley because the lead riders are climbing the other side. A lot of inexperienced riders towards the back pull out across the road so they can maintain their momentum. This peeves motorists and creates havoc in the pace line when these outriders attempt to get back in to catch the draft on the rest of the hill. Disciplined groups keep the pace line in tact through the low spots. If you want to keep your momentum ride at the front.
re: Are centuries bad for cycling??CFBlue
Aug 27, 2002 6:43 AM
Thanks, I hadn't thought of the paceline/leader slowing. i suppose because its never been a paceline I've caught up with. Any half way decent paceline would stay that way, in a line, and not fall out of formation for too long. Speed is their goal too. My beef is with indivudual riders, or sometime pairs, who take up the whole lane unnecessarily. I make a point of riding to the right as far as is safely possible so I am not in the way of faster riders. I wish other would too. It seems like it is as simple as being considerate of other riders and being aware that you are not the only one using the road, two or four wheels.
FWIW, since you seem to imply that my three and a half years leaves me as a less experienced rider, I've ridden more than 5000 miles in that time.
re: Are centuries bad for cycling??willin
Aug 28, 2002 10:10 AM
One of the earlier posters said right when he mentioned that for many people a century is the only "group ride" of the year.

Couple that with a group mentality, certain percentage of schmucks in every group,exictment about being on the road, and your will have stupid moves.

here in Miami we bikers are pretty defensive--the drivers are pretty here in latin america, and if riders pulled some of the stunts I read in earlier postings they'd get shot or run over. (really)
re: Are centuries bad for cycling??willin
Aug 28, 2002 10:10 AM
One of the earlier posters said right when he mentioned that for many people a century is the only "group ride" of the year.

Couple that with a group mentality, certain percentage of schmucks in every group,exictment about being on the road, and your will have stupid moves.

here in Miami we bikers are pretty defensive--the drivers are pretty agressive here in our own latin america, and if riders pulled some of the stunts I read in earlier postings they'd get shot or run over. (really)