Thoughtful communication with TNT

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This exchange between John Whitehead, DBC board member, and the TNT Spring Cycle Team, illustrate a thoughtful way in which an potentially unpleasant situation can become both a learning experience and an opportunity for communication and good will.

Date: Tue, 21 Feb 2012

Subject: Re: TNT Bicycling Suggestions

From: KSue

To: John Whitehead


Hi John

I am the Head Coach for the SF Bay Area Spring Cycle Team and we were up in Vacaville on a training ride the day you happened to be riding out there as well.

Thank you so very much for the bicycling suggestions you made in your email.  We work hard to train our cyclists to be competent road riders and sometimes there is a steep learning curve.  I have shared your feedback with the assistant coaches for our Spring Team and have talked directly with the coach whose team you described.   Your feedback gave us an opportunity to talk about how we teach certain skills and how that translates to training on the road.

I appreciate your taking the time to share your observations.

Yours truly,


Head Coach Spring Team 

Team in Training

SF Bay Area 




Date: Sun, 19 Feb 2012

To: Team In Training (TNT)

From: John Whitehead

Subject: RE: TNT Bicycling Suggestions


Hi again to TNT folks,

Thanks for your kind and speedy replies last week, to help me connect with the appropriate people in your organization.  From decades of bicycle riding experience including many group rides with the Davis Bike Club, here are my suggestions for teaching new bicyclists.

When passing someone else on the road, it is best to move to the left to leave a safe clearance, because the person being passed might unexpectedly need to move over a little, e.g. to avoid debris in the road or a hole in the pavement.  This rule applies to both bicyles and cars, whether they are passing a bicycle or a car.  The actual law is California Vehicle Code Division 11 Rules of the Road, Article 3 Overtaking and Passing, section 21750.


Many bicyclists are taught to say "on your left," which is a good thing for narrow trails.  A road lane is wider than 5 bicyclists, so if it is really necessary to say "on your left" on the road, it must mean that safety is being compromised.  It is better to move over, and it's more friendly to simply say "hello."  No one should ever be taught that passing safely is prohibited by the "ride to the right" rule for bicycles.  Of course, it is first appropriate to check for faster traffic coming from behind.

If a paceline (a line of bicycles riding together) is passing someone, the lead rider and the whole paceline should stay to the left until they have all passed.  This is especially required when the wind is strong or partly from the left.

On Saturday Jan28, when a paceline of 5 or 6 TNT riders passed me on Silveyville Road north of Vacaville, they did exactly the opposite of all the above.  They passed me elbow-to-elbow in a strong wind, then each rider moved back over to the right edge of the pavement in front of me.  In doing so, they broke up their own group aerodynamics, and had me completely surrounded.  The person to my immediate left and the remaining 2 or 3 riders could not pass me, because they no longer had the aerodynamic advantage of their own teammates in front of them. Being so close together, we took the opportunity to enjoy some conversation, then a funny thing happened.  The person who had first passed me as the lead rider came alongside (3 abreast) and politely asked me to not be mixed up in their group!  :)

Please feel free to share this story and my suggestions as widely as possible with Team In Training people and anyone else who uses public roads.  Even some experienced people have never thought about these things, so there is no need for embarassment.  Part of the misunderstanding may be that racing bicyclists ride elbow-to-elbow in packs, while the marketing world tends to make new people think that bicycling is all about being race-minded.

Cars are built to go over bumps or holes in the road, so it is understandable that many people would never consider that someone being passed might need maneuvering room.  Thanks for reading my long message, and I hope it helps more people learn to ride or drive safely.


Best wishes,


John Whitehead

Davis Bike Club

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