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Analysis of a Crash: Improper Group Ride Behavior

by on March 26, 2014

On Sunday, March 23, 2014, Severna Park Peloton riders were involved in a crash due to improper group ride behavior.  This post examines what happened and how it might have been prevented through proper group ride behavior.  A link to a video of this accident can be found below.  The images below are screen grabs from that video.

Video Still

Image 1

In Image 1, you see 7 riders riding into a headwind.  This is on a two-lane unmarked rural highway.  The two riders closest to the camera (and the camera operator) will crash and so this image occurs before the improper group ride behavior.  I’m going to label the riders in this way.  Rider 1 is directly in front of the camera wearing a red & black jacket.  Rider 2 is wearing the bright yellow/orange jacket and has a backpack.  Rider 3, wearing a yellow jacket (and also a backpack) is directly ahead of Rider 2 on the left.  Rider 4 is in the center of the frame wearing an SPP kit with an offset circular logo on the back of his jersey.  Rider 5 is wearing a yellow jacket and is slightly ahead and to the left of Rider 4.  Rider 6 is on the far right front with a white and grey jacket.  Rider 7 is barely visible on the left front just ahead of Rider 5.

Rider 4 is the rider who is the most erratic, and where most of my attention and analysis is focused.

Image 2

Image 2

Image 2 occurs within just a couple of seconds after Image 1.  A rather disorganized group seems to be organizing into a single paceline.  Rider 4 has drifted closer to Rider 6 on the right side of the road.  Rider 3 has drifted behind Rider 4.  Most rider’s heads are low, due in part to the headwind.

Image 3

Image 3

Suddenly, Rider 4 moves left.  It appears as though he is attempting to go around Rider 6.  You will note in the video version that his move to the left is very quick and there appears to be no signal or glance to see if this is a safe move.

Image 4

Image 4

Within the briefest of moments, several things have happened.  Rider 4, who had veered left quickly is now either parallel to or slightly ahead of Rider 6 and is in front of Rider 7.  Rider 3 touched his brakes at the sudden move of Rider 4, causing Rider 2 to touch Rider 3‘s rear wheel and begin to fall.  You can see the bike on its way down.  Rider 1 has nowhere to go except the ditch, cutting off the camera biker who also has only the ditch.  Rider 4 has now crossed the center line of the road and is in the oncoming traffic lane.

Image 5

Image 5

Camera operator is into the ditch.  That is not Rider 4 at the front of the pack.  Rider 4 has pulled off the left side of the roadway after hearing the crash.


Image 6

Image 6

Rider 1 and the camera rider have hit the deck in the ditch.  Rider 2 landed hard on the pavement and fractured his pelvis.

When riding in a group of cyclists, one must assume every action one rider takes affects the other riders.  Some adjustment is made by other riders with every move an individual rider makes.  If those moves are unpredictable, then chaos ensues.  If those moves are predictable, announced, and done considering what impact they might have on others, then there is greater safety.  Several mistakes were made here.

1.  Rider 4 made a sudden and unpredictable move.  There was room to slow down behind Rider 6.  There was not sufficient room to move left.

2.  Rider 4 did not signal a move to alert the riders behind him.

3.  Rider 3 was suddenly caught with the option to brake to avoid a crash OR to move left.  For whatever reasons, Rider 3 chose to brake unexpectedly and without signaling.

4.  Rider 1 and the Camera rider (no, not me) had a clear exit to the right into the most forgiving ditch I’ve seen.  Although they went down, there were no significant injuries to them.

All other riders behind the camera were able to avoid a crash.

Here is a link to the video … all 11 seconds of it!

Learn from other’s mistakes.



From → Cycling

  1. Thanks for sharing. Good lessons, to be sure. You mentioned the challenging weather conditions, which no doubt caused some distraction. Was this well into the ride? In other words, was fatigue a factor? I know that after a certain distance, I must continually remind myself to focus and remember the little things so I don’t make a mistake that will seriously hurt myself or someone else. This quick move to the left was a good example of such a small mistake.

    • ponderingpastor permalink

      Yes, fatigue could also be a factor. This was early in day 2 of the ride. Day 1 was 110 miles. This was within the first 30 miles of day 2. Of greater issue is that this is typical behavior of the rider who swerved left. I took the time to dissect this crash in part because that rider believed he “did nothing wrong”.

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