The safety of a group of riders depends on the actions of each rider. All riders must take it upon themselves to ride smoothly, predictably observing proper etiquette to avoid contact with others. Know your surroundings. Someone is always close behind. Below are keys to a safe pace line and group riding:
We are all connected by the reactions and actions of those that come before us. The dynamics of the pack move like a unit. It takes only one rider to disrupt the flow. Riding smoothly saves energy. As you move forward to lead the pack your efforts should be focused on maintaining the pace consistently. Cadence is a key element to focus on. If you're taking a pull, go easy and maintain a consistent pace. Don't try to "break legs"; you'll only end up making enemies before the ride ends. The lead rider should glance over his shoulder to ensure traffic is clear for the safety of the pack before making turns for the pack or before he lets the next rider pull out to lead the group.
Slowing down and speeding up (even a little) disrupts the flow of the group, which amplifies through the pace line until the back-end riders start to feel like yo-yo's. So keep the speed even and consistent.
Never cross your wheel with the wheel ahead. Keep the front of your wheel a safe distance from the wheel of the rider ahead of you, unless you are well to one side of the rider. Make sure the other rider knows where you are relative to their position. Chances are they're focused on the road ahead and not on your position or movement. Riding in a pace line is serious business. A serious crash can happen when wheels cross and brush or touch, even lightly. The result could be you going down on the cruel pavement fast and hard with absolutely no time to react. If this happens you are likely to take out a few other riders behind you. Be cautious and alert.
If your fit enough to ride with the group, but unsure of your riding discipline then try shadowing another experienced rider. Most serious riders prefer to sit on a very good, experienced, upper level riders wheel and learn from it to improve the quality of their riding. Don't be afraid to ask an occasional question, but don't spend 100 miles beating his/her ear!
When riding in a group, always stay to the right unless your passing or riding in a double pace line. Staying to the right allows others to safely pass without going into oncoming traffic. This is especially important on hills where the pack often breaks up. Too often, riders focusing on a strenuous effort drift into the center of the traffic lane. This ultimately forces a faster rider to overtake a slower rider in the oncoming lane of traffic. If your getting passed on a hill move to the right and give them room to pass safely. If you're a faster rider on the hills, NEVER pass on the right. This may startle the rider on the left and force him/her into oncoming traffic. When practical, CALL OUT your movement so that the riders and group ahead of you know your position and intention. Key Interruptions & Avoidances
Let's face it. We ride in traffic and there are these things called stoplights and stop signs. Remember,they usually occur at intersections. Sometimes the group will split at these intersections becaus e of cars or some other occurrence. When this happens, the first wave of riders should not stop or congregate near the intersection. Drivers have enough to cope with at intersections without having to worry about a throng of cyclists. The first wave should move through the intersection and slow down or "soft-pedal" until the second wave can make it through to re-join the group. Often riders take unnecessary risks for fear of being dropped by the group. Do not promote this fear at the risk of another rider's safety. Slow down and wait. "Chill-out", it's safer for everyone.
During your ride you will often encounter people walking, running, or crossing the street. Don't surprise them. Call out your intentions. Take control. Be firm, not obnoxious. Many times they will be walking or running towards the pack. It is the lead riders responsibility to Call out "WALKER (RUNNER) UP" and signal riders to move slightly left to offer the pedestrian room to maintain their intended path, but allow the group to pass safely.
Don't brake hard unless you must, and then call out to the other riders. For varying reasons, there will be times that the group must stop. Don't stop in the middle of traffic. Move to the side of the road and completely out of the lane of traffic. There is no reason to cause congestion of traffic if your not riding. This does not promote courteous or safe riding, and makes enemies of motorists. If you're approaching an intersection, stop sign, or stop light, join the line of cars. Don't pass cars on the right and make your way up to the intersection. The cars will just have to pass you after the intersection and this really makes some drivers mad.
Safety & Positioning
If you need to fix your position on the saddle, wipe your face, open a wrapper to your favorite snack, or do anything that might interrupt a smooth cadence, glance over you shoulder, signal that your moving out and move back. Once you're out of the line or in the rear you can do anything you like.