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Two abreast is best

By Morgan Ian Adams, Enterprise-Bulletin

Members of the Collingwood Cycling Club demonstrate how to properly ride two abreast — or a 'double paceline'. Contributed photo.

Members of the Collingwood Cycling Club demonstrate how to properly ride two abreast — or a 'double paceline'. Contributed photo.

COLLINGWOOD — Stay tight and to the right.

That’s the message the Collingwood Cycling Club is getting out to its members — and the general cycling community — as the summer season gets underway.

Specifically, the club is encouraging its members to ride in packs of 10-to-12 cyclists, riding two abreast — or a ‘double paceline’ — rather than single file.

Club board member Steve Varga says it’s safer for both cyclists and motorists — and completely OK under the Highway Traffic Act.

Riding two abreast allows the cyclists to legitimately ‘claim’ the lane they’re riding in, encouraging motorists to give them a wider berth, and it also makes for a shorter, quicker pass for the motorist.

Collingwood OPP Constable Piet Huyssen, who will be part of the OPP’s bike patrol in the community this summer, says the rules of the road in Ontario do not dictate that cyclists ride in single file — though that’s a commonly-held misconception among motorists.

The Highway Traffic Act specifies that cyclists must move as far to the right without compromising their safety, and that the overtaking motorist give cyclists sufficient room while passing.

“If (the double paceline) is done properly, and everyone leaves lots of space for each other, it should never be an issue,” he said.

The double paceline has also been proven to be safer, a point emphasized in recent legislative changes to bylaws in both Toronto and Ottawa.

The cycling club was launched last year in response to the increase in cyclists, especially those new to the sport of road cycling.

“The idea early on was that we needed to teach new members the rules of the road from a cycling perspective,” said Varga.

When the club goes out on rides, while there may be as many as 120 cyclists, they’ll ride out in groups of 10-to-12 cyclists, spaced out about five minutes apart.

“We’re riding in tight groups — tight and to the right, and occupying the space that we’re entitled to, and leaving enough space for overtaking motorists to see ahead and passed us, and pass safely.”

The club’s members tend to cycle on quieter, less-travelled roads in the area; Varga noted one wouldn’t find cycling club members travelling along Hwy. 26, or County Road 124.

They’re also riding during non-peak traffic times.

“Cyclists do not want to be around traffic,” noted Varga.

This year the club had put added emphasis on riding etiquette and showing respect on the road — by both cyclists and drivers. Varga said there have been a few instances when cyclists have been ‘buzzed’ by passing motorists — drivers coming a little too close for comfort.

“It’s really uncomfortable — and unsettling,” he said.

Club member Noelle Wansbrough — who also runs Pedal Pushers, a business that holds clinics for cyclists on skills to learn how to ride in a tight pack, along with how to do basic bike repairs and on equipment — says it’s about educating newer cyclists how to ride safely and efficiently.

Varga says the club is trying to instill respect on both sides, noting he’s run into drivers who feel inconvenienced that they’ve had to “lift their foot off the accelerator” for what is likely all of 10 seconds when approaching a group of cyclists.

He also recommends drivers give a ‘double tap’ of the horn about 20 seconds ahead of approaching a group of cyclists — a practice that’s common in Europe where the culture of cycling is more ingrained than it is in North America.

What sometimes happens, says Varga, is drivers will lay on the horn when they’re right behind a pack of cyclists — and even throw out a few choice words.

Varga’s favourite, he says wryly, is when drivers yell at the cyclists to get off the road because they “don’t pay taxes.”

He says some drivers need to take things in perspective.

“If you look at it from a big picture, you’re driving a ton of steel, and we’re wearing Lycra shorts,” said Varga. “We’re trying to do our bit to teach (club members), and protect our place on the road.”

"As cycling grows in the province, including commuter, recreational and elite cyclists, we all have a responsibility to ensure we keep our roads safe; both drivers and cyclists are equally responsible for ensuring a cyclists safety,” says Sasha Gollish, a Vulnerable User and Road Safety Expert. “Drivers must be aware that under the Highway Traffic Act a cyclist is legally entitled to be on the road. Cyclists also need to respect the law and move over to the right when they are the slower moving vehicle, but not so far over as to compromise their own safety.

Gollish says more education is needed both for drivers and cyclists regarding the laws of the road — reminding drivers that as they approach a cyclist on the road to pass at a safe distance, “only passing when it is safe to do so and giving a cyclist enough room that you do not compromise their safety."

“A healthy respect has to exist between both drivers and cyclists,” said Huyssen.

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