This article was previously published on ZiffLaw Attorney’s newest blog, NY Biker Law Blog. The original article can be found here. We are re-printing the article here in the hopes that reading this will keep people safer on the highways whether you are a biker or not.
Riding with your friends is a fantastic way to get out and enjoy your motorcycle. Heading for the same destination, enjoying the same road and sights – like all kinds of activities, it’s better when you get to share it with others who have the same appreciation.
Group rides depend on good communication between cyclists, however. The Motorcycle Safety Foundation has a video about safe riding in groups, and the American Motorcyclist Association has a list of oft-quoted, but very important 17 tips to make a group ride safe and fun.
Before we get into the 17 tips, I’d like to add just one more piece of advice: Know your hand signals!The correct hand signals are how you will be able to communicate turns, stops, hazards and other information to your fellow riders. They are indispensible knowledge for every motorcyclist. Here is a breakdown of the important signals from the AMA:
17 Strategies for a Safe Ride from the American Motorcyclist Association
1) The first thing you want to do is organize the ride. This can be as informal as standing around in a parking lot, or as complicated as a special meeting to hand out maps and cellphone numbers.
2) Remember that riding in a group does not mean you surrender any decision making when it comes to your safety. Ride your own ride, and don’t go any faster than you feel comfortable going.
3) When picking your route and the stops you’ll make along it, consider the stamina of the group, the experience of all the riders, and the limits of the motorcycles in the group. Remember, these are your friends. If it’s going to be a long ride, be sure to have a few break stops along the way.
4) You’ll need to communicate while on the ride, so make sure everyone knows the signals you’ll use (posted above).
5) When creating your formation, it’s wise to have your experienced riders at the lead and running sweep. Consider positioning the less experienced riders immediately behind the leader. This allows the front rider to adjust the pace if necessary.
6) Ideally, the sweep rider will have a cellphone to call for help if a motorcycle is disabled, or if there has been an accident.
7) If the goal of the ride is to keep the group together, the leader should only go at the pace of the least experienced rider.
8 ) While riding, don’t fixate on the motorcycle in front of you. Instead, remember your basic training. Look well through the turn to where you want to go.
9) If the group is riding faster than you are comfortable with, let the sweep rider know you’re dropping out and ride at your own pace. So you may reach your destination a few seconds behind the others, but you will get there, and that’s what’s important. Keep in mind, it’s all about fun.
10) All riders are also responsible for making sure their motorcycles are mechanically up to the task. Before you even meet up with the group, make sure you’ve got plenty of fuel in the tank, and you’ve taken care of all those maintenance issues. Not sure what to check? Use the T-CLOCS inspection checklist. You really don’t want to be the reason for stopping the group for something mechanical you could have prevented.
11) If it’s going to be a large group, consider establishing a buddy system among the riders, or divide the group into smaller five- or seven-rider packs. That way, if something goes wrong, you don’t have 25 motorcycles sitting on the side of a busy highway. Also, smaller groups can more easily navigate through city streets.
12) On the road, motorcyclists should have at least a 2-second cushion in front and behind them. If you want to keep the group tight, consider a staggered formation. Leave enough room per lane so each rider can maneuver side-to-side if need be. Avoid side-by-side formations as they shrink your space cushion.
13) Trikes and sidecars should stay in the center of the lane, and should be given the same amount of cushion as if they were a car.
14) As turns get sharper, or as visibility decreases, move back to a single file formation. You’ll also want to use single file when entering or exiting a highway, at toll booths, or when roads have a rough or questionable surface.
15) At intersections where you’ve come to a stop, tighten the formation to side-by-side to take up less space. As the light turns green, or when traffic opens up, the bike on the left proceeds through first.
16) Remember we share the road with many other vehicles, and it’s against the law to block an intersection.
17) When parking, try to get the group off the roadway as quickly as possible. If you can, arrange in advance to have pull-through parking at your destination, or at the very least, make sure there is ample parking for your size group.
Remember these rules when planning a motorcycle outing with friends, and the outcome should be safe and fun for everyone.
Thanks for reading and ride safe.
ZiffLaw Attorney, Esq.
NY and PA Personal Injury and Malpractice Attorney
The Ziff Law Firm, LLP
303 William Street
Elmira, NY 14901