This past Sunday I rode 5o plus miles on the fire roads of Topanga State Park. En route, I was swallowed whole by Velo Club La Grange. This happens to me more often then I care to mention as we always seem to be on the same roads on Sunday mornings. Once I’m caught by the pack, I try to stay on the wheel of one of the riders for a few minutes just to feel what it’s like to ride in a group. The advantages are clear. When riding with others, you are pushed to ride outside your comfort zone which in turn can make you a stronger rider. I appreciate this, and marvel at their weekly commitment. Unfortunately, as I always get spit out the back of the peloton after some time, I also am witness to the behavior of the pack, and I have to say it ain’t pretty. On this very Sunday, I observed several riders bombing through lights on Mulholland, risking their own lives, and scaring the daylights out of the motorists. I may lean heavily to the side of being overly polite to motorists, but I see no gains in the stupid behavior I witnessed. First and foremost, the Nichols ride that Velo Club La Grange hosts each Sunday is not a race. No prize money or bicycle art trophy to be had. This is a group ride, and trying to follow basic rules of the road should not be all that difficult. The specific incident I saw involved three riders barreling through a light at the corner of Mulholland and Stone Canyon. A motorist had already started to make a left onto Mulholland when three riders blew past the light, forcing the driver to slam on her brakes – obviously dangerous to the cyclists, and harrowing for the driver. These are exactly the kinds of incidents we need to avoid. Unfortunately, when riding in a large group, I think a pack mentality can take over, and the cyclists tend to think they own the road. The three cyclists in question may ride responsibly when on their own, but in a group, the rules are sometimes thrown out the window. As a complete contrast, I ran into another cyclist on dirt Mulholland with whom I struck up a conversation. He was riding an odd bike with a coaster brake, and of course this piqued my curiosity. I asked him questions and within minutes I discovered he was riding a race called the Coaster Brake Challenge. Despite being in the midst of a race, he was courteous and respectful of the hikers and cyclists he encountered, a sharp contrast to the La Grange cyclists. I asked the cyclist how many were involved in the race, and he responded that he believed 20 riders had signed up – a smaller group than La Grange to be sure. I, of course, am making huge generalizations, but I think I’ll stick to solo rides or small group rides. They seem friendlier somehow. The view on my Sunday solo ride, as seen above, was spectacular. And, when I see a red light in the future, I’ll be sure to stop. I may not like it, but at least it gives me a small respite.
I hear you. I’m so fed-up with that same behavior here in San Diego County and especially on the PCH thru North County. Too many laws broken and lives risked. This attitude of doing “whatever” with regard to stoplights and stop signs makes me realize why motorist yell, spit, or “buzz” too closely to those of us that don’t even disregard the law. I asked a fellow cyclist, while riding next to him, why he never stopped at the signs and he asked me why I cared. I explained he made the rest of the cycling community that does observe the laws look like shit.
I whole-heartedly agree, and would love to come up with a solution. Unfortunately, solutions to bad behavior are not easy to come by.
Just did a little digging on the La Grange website and found this interesting list. Note item 4.
Helmet use at all times
Front light and rear flashers when dark
Courtesy to motorists, pedestrians and fellow cyclists
Observation of all traffic signals and applicable laws
Respect of the intended pace of the ride
Respect of the guidance of the ride leader and/or senior club member
Aero position is not allowed while riding in the group – just stay off the aero bars
Huh! I am not surprised. Many group rides, most notably the Montrose Ride, do the same. There is a constant and enduring belief that its “okay” to run stop signs/lights and the car traffic will magically stop. With Cyclists exhibiting this type of behavior its no wonder that drivers get annoyed with cyclists.