We've all had the PFW Ride Practices read to us by ride leaders just prior to a ride, but many of us have wondered what exactly do they mean? How exactly do they apply to us during the ride? Our PFW Practices is a list of very good safety rules for group bicycle riding, so it is vital that all riders in the club know and understand what they mean. You are ultimately responsible for your own safety. However, on a group ride, what you do or do not do impacts the safety of the other riders.
BE ALERT: Enjoy the company and scenery but ALWAYS maintain an awareness of the riders around you, traffic and anything else in or along the road which might be a cause for concern. Be prepared to stop, slow or avoid hazards at any time.
CALL OUT HAZARDS: SUVs, cars and trucks pose the greatest danger to cyclists out on the road. Therefore, a call of "CAR BACK"! means: (1) The approach of a 3,000+ lbs. vehicle. (2) All riders must stay to the right and ride in SINGLE FILE (this is required by NJ law!). "CAR UP!," "CAR LEFT!" or "CAR RIGHT!" caution riders of oncoming vehicular traffic and warns them to move to the right or stop if necessary. See a pot hole in the road? Don't just ride around it! CALL IT OUT AND POINT IT OUT to riders behind you so that they too can avoid it. The same goes for gravel, rocks, road kill, parked cars, branches, rough pavement, grates, dogs, bumps or anything else that could potentially cause a problem for a bicycle rider.
SIGNAL MY INTENTIONS: There are certain words and signals that need to be a part of every rider's (not just the ride leader's!) vocabulary. "SLOWING!" (which should be accompanied by the universal signal of arm straight down, palm facing rear) announces a change in speed and allows the other riders to do likewise. "STOPPING!" warns of an imminent total stop and enables all riders to come to a stop safely. "RIGHT!" and "LEFT!" should be hand signaled by all (not just by the leader). If the group is large, calling out the turn as well as using hand signals may be the safest means of communicating a turn to everyone on the ride.
WILL NOT RIDE TOO CLOSE: Biking at a moderate pace of only 12 MPH, you and your bicycle are moving at an amazing 17.6 feet per second! So for safety's sake, you should keep at least 3 feet or more (depending on your speed -- higher speed, more space) between your bicycle and the bike in front of you. (This does not apply if you're riding in a "pace line" -- something only very experienced riders attempt.) Remember, it is a rider's responsibility to avoid the rider in front of him or her. Be careful not to overlap your front wheel with another rider's rear wheel. This is very dangerous. If the rider in front swerves across your path, and hits your front wheel, you are almost certain to take a spill.
KNOW MY LIMITS: Be honest with yourself about your biking abilities. Check the guidelines in the Freewheel for the standards for each ride class; if in doubt call the ride leader or Ride Captain to see if a ride is right for you. "Biking off" more than you are ready for can be an unpleasant experience.
IF I RIDE AHEAD, I'M ON MY OWN: This is self explanatory. If you zoom ahead of the group, you may very well miss a turn. The ride leader is under no obligation to send out a search party for you, and you are then truly ON YOUR OWN. Are you really prepared to try to find your way back to the start location? Stay with the group and enjoy your ride.
FUN AND SAFE BIKING EVERYONE!!!! LET'S GET OUT AND RIDE!