Be Sure to Call Out Hazards When Riding in a Group

Cyclist riding on a pathMy good friend Paul Gagnon is well known throughout Southwest Florida as an extremely experienced and safety conscious rider. Recently, he was on an organized event ride involving the Legacy Trail. He was on a recumbent and initially took off with a group of nearly 30 riders in his speed group. As they spread out he courteously went to the rear as many recumbent riders will do. He eventually became separated from his friends and was on the Trail behind a fairly large group with whom he was not familiar. Suddenly without any shout out or warning the riders immediately in front of him parted slightly and Paul struck something on the trail which caused him to be thrown into the air, separating from his bike and landing in a heap on the path bleeding and in pain. He never saw it coming.

After piecing together what had happened, Paul determined he had struck a single steel bollard which had been erected to prevent vehicles from riding onto the trail. (The wisdom of having a non-breakaway bollard in that location is an entirely different conversation.) The gaggle of riders ahead of him made it impossible for him to have seen it in time to react and avoid it even at a moderate pace of 15 mph. It had apparently been seen by the group ahead as they parted and safely rode around it. In explicably, none of them called it out.

Paul's injuries were severe and it may be a year before he will be able to ride again. Even then the prospect of his full recovery isn't yet known. The entire situation would have been avoided if the cyclists in front of him had been aware he was following and had simply called out the obstruction.

Unfortunately, this is not an isolated occurrence. Sometime last year another rider was following a group along US 41 in Ft. Myers when she struck a board in her path which had not been called out by those ahead. Her crash resulted in a fractured hip requiring surgical hardware to repair and she was incapacitated and unable to ride for months, as well.

Calling out debris, potholes and obstructions was one of the first things most of us learned from more experienced riders when we began to experience road riding. Unfortunate situations like these are a reminder to all of us that even when an object or condition looks to be open and obvious, it may well not be to someone immediately behind us. Our sport has many other safety issues we have no control over. This simple courtesy is very different. Each of us is expected to be consciously aware of the need to call out safety concerns and those behind us need to be confident they can rely on us to do so even when we don’t know them. You may be the only person who can save someone following you a world of hurt.

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