This is the fourth in a series of blogs regarding annoying or dangerous cycling behaviors. In Alabama, it is unlawful for cyclists to ride more than two abreast see Alabama Code Section 32-5A-263(b) and cyclists "shall ride as near to the right side of the road as practicable." See Alabama Code Section 32-5A-263(c).
Sometimes cyclists ride 3 abreast, thereby taking up the whole lane of travel; sometimes cyclists even ride 4 or 5 abreast, which generally means spilling out into another lane. While these instances are rare, and many times justified (as will be discussed a bit more below), – cyclists are violating the law when they are riding more than two abreast. Of course, riding 3, 4 or 5 wide will aggravate motorists as it makes the cyclists much more difficult to pass. This is particularly true given that motorists who often (wrongly) believe that cyclists have no right to the road, perceive themselves (the motorist) as not only being inconvenienced by the cyclists, but also, placed in danger by having to cross a yellow line. Sometimes, these motorists refuse to cross a yellow line, or even if they cross, they go so close to the cyclist that the slightest mistake by driver or rider results in the motorist striking the cyclist.
Most cyclists, even though legally entitled to ride two abreast, pretty quickly move into a single file line to allow a car to pass. Sometimes, however, the cyclist who has been "pulling" (this is the cyclist at the front of the group who has to work harder while the other cyclists are in the draft) moves to the left in order to drift back to the back of the pack. Depending on many people are in the group, this may take a second or two or could take 20- 30 seconds. Although perfectly legal, this rider is vulnerable if a car decides to pass the group and doesn’t give the cyclist room.
At the beginning of many large group rides, police support the same and riders for the first few miles ride more than two abreast. Given that there usually are hundreds of riders all bunched together and given that the roads are being controlled by supporting police officers, and given that this situation ceases to exists after a few miles, this is not particularly dangerous. However, if a group rides several abreast, taking up a whole lane or worse yet, crossing a yellow line, not only is it annoying, it also is dangerous.