Be Predictable -- Group riding requires even more attention to predictability than riding alone. Other riders expect you to continue straight ahead at a constant speed unless you indicate differently. Motorists look for vehicles in the road; operating as a vehicle increases safety.
Bicyclists are subject to the same rules of the road as motorists. Pass others on their left. Say "on your left" to warn others that you are passing. If you need to pass someone on the right, say "on you right" clearly since this is an unusual maneuver. If you need to take the lane, signal and communicate to the motorists too. It is safer to take the lane briefly rather than squeeze along on the edge or curb, inviting motorists to split a narrow lane with you.
Use Signals -- Use hand and verbal signals to communicate with others in the group and with motorists. It is legally required when turning & merging lanes.
Give Warnings -- Warn cyclists behind you of changes in direction or speed. The lead rider should call out "left" or "right," in addition to a hand signal. The lead rider should announce the turn well in advance of the intersection, so members of the group have time to position themselves properly for the turn. The last rider has the best view of overtaking traffic and should call out “clear” to start the move to merge over to a left turn lane.
Most of the cyclists will not have a good view of the road surface ahead, so it is important to announce hazards. Indicate hazards by pointing down to the left or right and shouting, "hole left," "bump right," etc. Everyone should be made aware of hazards, so every rider should call them out to the rider behind them...
Ride Single or Double File -- Cyclists commonly ride single or double file as appropriate to the roadway, traffic conditions and where allowed by law. Most state vehicle codes permit narrow vehicles such as motorcycles to ride double file or ‘split’ a lane. Cyclists can do it too. Even where riding double is legal, courtesy dictates that you single up when cars are trying to pass you if the lane is wide enough for you to safely allow them to do so.
The California motor vehicle law says “any person operating a bicycle upon a roadway at a speed less than the normal speed of traffic shall ride as close as practicable to the right hand curb or edge of the roadway, except: "when passing or making a left turn" among other situations. City of Irvine Municipal Code adds “or when reasonably necessary to avoid hazardous conditions that make it unsafe to continue along the right hand curb or edge” Since some police officers see the California vehicle code as saying bicycles must stay as far to the right as possible, riding side by side even, in a Class 2 on-street bike lane, has been prosecuted as a violation of this law. The Irvine Municipal Code clarifies that IN IRVINE, “Persons riding bicycles upon a roadway or bike lane shall not ride more than two abreast.”
Maintain Your Place In Line -- When a group gets to a signal, do not take this as an opportunity to cut to the front of the others in the group; If you get there first, push the pedestrian button to help more of the group to get through a longer light. If you are the 12th to get there, stay in order.
Slower riders who cut into the front force everyone they cut in front of to pass them again and cause a bunch up at the limit line. Instead, maintain your position in the single or double line and work on your own pace when safely rolling along. Clustering up at intersections clogs traffic and causes unnecessary chaos when the light turns green. Experienced riders line up and stay in order.
Watch Out At Intersections -- When approaching intersections requiring vehicles to yield or stop, the lead rider should say "slowing" or "stopping" to alert those behind them. When passing through an intersection, some bicyclists say, "clear" if there is no cross traffic. This is a dangerous practice. It encourages riders to let others do their thinking for them. Each bicyclist is responsible for his or her own safety.
Activate Signals -- Most signals in Irvine will respond to one bicycle wheel over the trigger loop in the pavement. When a group gets to a signal, the first rider on the right should move over to the white pedestrian cross walk button and push it. This button will hold the cross walk signal longer than the green bicycle button which may only allow a few bicyclists to cross before cycling back to red.
Watch For Traffic Coming From The Rear -- Even when you are occupying the proper lane position, it often helps to know when a car is coming. Since those in front cannot see traffic approaching from the rear, it is the responsibility of the riders in back to inform the others by saying "car back." Around curves, on narrow roads, or when riding double, it is also helpful to warn of traffic approaching from ahead with "car up."
Leave a Gap for Cars -- When riding up hills or on narrow roads, leave a gap for cars between every three or six bicycles. This way a motorist can use shorter passing intervals and won’t have to race to move around the entire group.
Move Off the Road When You Stop -- Move well off the road so you do not interfere with traffic. When you start again, each bicyclist should look for, and yield to, traffic.
Bike Path and Multi-use Trail Riding
Recreational ‘multi user’ trails and bike paths have become quite popular. As a result, multi use trails have become very congested and safety is a major issue. Whether bicycling, skating, walking, or jogging, following the same rules as everyone else will help you have a safer, more enjoyable time.
Trails have engineering and design limitations that require you to ride differently than you would on the road. If your preferred speed or style of cycling is inappropriate for trails, look for better-suited alternative street routes. Trails in Orange County are all posted 10 MPH.
Be Alert -- All trail users should remain alert to traffic; mirrors help see faster users coming from behind. Head sets eliminate important passing signals and are illegal to use in both ears for cyclists.
Be Predictable -- Walk and ride straight. Indicate when you are turning. Warn other trail users of your intentions.
Be Courteous -- All trail users, including bicyclists, joggers and wheelchair users, should be respectful and cautious of other users, regardless of their mode of travel, speed, or skill level.
Do Not Block the Trail -- When riding in a group, use no more than half the trail. On many heavy use or narrow trails, this means that all users will need to stay single file. And if you stop to regroup, fix a flat, or bird watch, always do it off the trail.
Keep Right -- You should stay as close to the right side of the trail as is safe, except when passing another user. Many pedestrians walk facing traffic. This allows direct eye contact and reduces the surprise of a cyclist passing on their left, and allows them to step to their left and clear the trail. Others follow the keep-right rule and walk with traffic. Walkers should not walk right down the middle. Riders should take it slow when passing pedestrians, they can be unpredictable.
Pass on Left -- Pass others, going your direction, on their left. Look ahead and behind to make sure the lane is clear before pulling out. Pass with ample separation. Do not move back to the right until safely passed. Fast moving users are responsible for yielding to slower moving users.
Give an Audible Signal Before Passing -- Give a clear signal before when passing. This signal may be a bell, horn or voice. Warn well in advance so that the slower user has time to react and you have time to maneuver if necessary.
"Passing on your left" is the most common signal used to alert other users of your approach. “Good morning” also does the trick. If you're with a group of riders it is courteous to mention that there are more riders right behind you as you pass.
Watch for head sets. Users with headsets on may not hear your warning so pass carefully.
Use Caution When Entering and Crossing Other Trails -- When entering or crossing a trail at trail intersections, be prepared to yield to traffic on the cross trail or road. This is often the most dangerous point on a trail.
Use Lights at Night -- If the trail is open and you are using it between dusk and dawn you must be equipped with lights. Bikes need a white front light and a red rear light or reflector. Reflectors and reflective clothing are no help if there is no source of light.
Clean up Litter -- Do not leave any debris along the trail. If you drop something, please pick it up and carry it until you find a litter receptacle. Go the extra mile - pack out more trash than you bring in.
Equestrians -- Some trails may occasionally have horses or other live stock. Horses can spook unpredictably, and if coming the other way, people should stop, allowing the horses to safely go by. If overtaking horses, follow for a time at a distance. The horses ears will swivel back when they hear you, and they will not be as surprised. The horse riders should let you know when it is safe to pass, or will pull off the trail allowing extra room to pass.
Sources: Most of these tips are reproduced from "Bicycle USA", magazine of the League of American Bicyclists. The information has been slightly modified and added to for the education of riders with the Bicycle Club of Irvine.