Input sought: road safety, campground quiet

This was my first ride and overall it was a great experience. Memories of the few bad moments are crowded out by the many cool things that I experienced and the overall good vibes of what seems to me a unique social event. But I have not been able to dismiss a couple of concerns that developed during the week and that I think the RAGBRAI organizing team needs to take action on. First, and most importantly, there needs to be better education about safe riding. (A start would be to dump Ride Right as a slogan and replace it with Ride Safe. The former sounds like a directional aid; the latter is pretty clear.) Far too many riders ride aggressively in crowds, getting on the asses of people in the left lane (who, in crowded situations, may be there because there is nowhere else to go or in anticipation of passing when space opens up) and generally acting as if they are on one of their race club rides. A prime offender was the jerk wearing a Masi jersey on Monday, who nearly sideswiped me and then almost mowed down a woman a few minutes later. Too many also fail to alert riders of their intent to pass, either on the left or the right. And bell ringers, please be aware that a bell does nothing to indicate what side you are passing on. You need to speak up, not just ring your bell. The ride team should consider making and posting videos that clearly illustrate the road etiquette outlined in the participant guide and require viewing them as part of registration. Graphics in the guide would also help. Another idea would be appointing ride marshals with authority to pull offenders off the road. My other chief concern was campground behavior. In Denison, I had to walk up to some yahoos who were making noise at 1 am and tell them to be quiet. They were a-holes about it, but eventually quieted down. That same night/morning, a truck was left with its engine running all night at the edge of the campground. I called the sheriff’s office twice but they never came out. I do not know what they could have done anyway. I mentioned both of these things at the RAGBRAI info booth the next day and asked who on the team was available to handle such overnight issues. I was told that no one would be available and that calling local law enforcement was the only option. That seems to me a total abdication of responsibility. The police have no authority to enforce the campground behavior rules outlined in the participant guide and most departments have more pressing things to deal with in the overnight hours. It seems wrong for the RAGBRAI team to create a densely populated overnight community, promise certain conditions, ie quiet, and then wash their hands of any responsibility for enforcing their own rules. Overall, I think the team does a great job (and please tip the bag crew generously), but these areas need discussion and action. What do others think?

26 Replies

KenH, August 11, 2018 at 3:20 pm

I was walking my bike with the crowd through one town this year when a train came through town. In the Chicago metro area most towns have a no train horn except in an emergency law. In Iowa the rule seems to be blow that horn early, blow it often, and keep blowing it until you are well out of town! This train was certainly keeping up the tradition and the train noise itself was loud enough you’d swear it was about to run us down even though it was a couple blocks over.

After listening to the commotion for a while one man loudly exclaimed “how can this NOT be an overnight town?!”

Maybe next time….

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bmyoungberg, August 11, 2018 at 6:25 pm

In 3 years in main campground, I had first mouse issue in Onawa with a group of about ten guys a bit loud until 11 or so. Finally just nicely mentioned quiet time is ten. They agreed and were cool about it. I think they just weren’t thinking about the time. I am a light sleeper, but with earplugs, melatonin and patience, never had problem.

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LawnchairMan, August 11, 2018 at 6:38 pm

KenH,
The overnight town bit was very funny! Could have been other towns, but my money is on State Center. I stopped there for money and a postcard. Had to get help from a local, but the trains kept coming every five minutes (seemed anyway) And the track was only one building away. So I couldn’t hear the lady until there was a gap between trains.

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jwsknk, August 12, 2018 at 1:32 am

UP double track mainline up until yeah, State Center. Through Ames 75-80 trains a day. It’s a “quite zone ” for trains. Islands and gates at crossings. Should only blow in emergencies. For a crossing it’s long, long, short long. Other sequences have other meanings.

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bugs11, August 13, 2018 at 8:49 am

I forgot about the town with the train coming through it every two hours or so at night blaring it’s horn. I think it was Onawa. Reminded me of my college days when I lived near a train track. The sound of the train then was rather soothing, but then it wasn’t traveling at 90 mph.

I witnessed one admonishment, a racer type went by this middle aged lady straddling the center line and told her in no uncertain terms to move to the right. She seemed like a nice lady so I tried to soften the negative feedback and told her not to worry about that guy and that she might have a more enjoyable ride if she moved over to along the right shoulder. Easy come, easy go.

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KenH, August 13, 2018 at 10:34 am

The racer was wrong even though the lady should move to the right if she was not needing to pass anyone soon. And maybe she was, racers don’t often stop to consider that even we slower riders do pass people now and again and we may be where we are because that is where we will need to be shortly. If you wait too long to move left you can end up boxed in and sometimes it just makes sense to stay left for a while rather than moving right at every opportunity.

If you run narrow tires then straddling the centerline carries a far more serious risk. Narrow bike tires and the centerline cracks are often very similar in width and that can lead to disaster. I was a Ride Right Ambassador this year on the first day and for the first few hours, before the Air Force team broke camp and hit the road, I had all the business I could handle. Less than 10 miles from the start I came upon a group of people gathered around a woman who had gone down in the middle of the road. At least some of them were her riding companions. I stopped to make sure that 911 had been called if she needed medical attention. She did and they had so my work was done but they told me that she had gotten caught in the centerline crack and they were warning the passing riders about it. If you habitually ride the centerline and your attention wanders you can easily end up on a section of road with a crack wide enough to end your RAGBRAI before you remember to look down and check that out again.

Best to avoid the centerline as much as possible and keep an eye on it if you do ride there for a while.

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Niles, August 13, 2018 at 11:27 am

If you run narrow tires then straddling the centerline carries a far more serious risk.

I remember one accident in 2014. In one of the hot day (maybe the first or second), the tar filled in the center crack melted. A lady got stuck in. She crashed and the real wheel of her bike is covered with tar which will be very hard to be taken off. I didn’t know if she could clean off the tar and ride any more for the rest of the week.

Even if the tar is not melt but only be soften, when you hit it, the sudden shake of bike would have cause some incidents for a lot of people. I always tell that to the virgins in my group.

But this year, I forget which section. The pavement was rather tough. Only the centerline is smooth. I, as a lot of other riders, took advantage of that and stayed there along the whole section. I guess a lot of you might remember that, too.

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KenH, August 13, 2018 at 1:06 pm

I remember both that tar and the smooth centerline section of road this year. Every rule has its exceptions!

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jayteeme, August 20, 2018 at 12:07 am

I’ve ridden 3 years with hardly any close encounters on the road. I feel like i was more likely to get buzzed by jerks my first year but that’s probably because i was not experienced riding in such dense crowds (maybe i wasn’t holding my line, maybe i was moving left to pass when someone even faster was also trying to pass). If you’re getting in a lot of jerk encounters I would suggest that you might be the culprit.

How does the saying go? “If you run into a jerk in the morning, you ran into a jerk. If you run into jerks all day long, you’re the jerk”

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Bob Kidd, August 20, 2018 at 9:58 am

This was my second year riding RAGBRAI. I had a family member ride with me a couple of days and one of the first things I told him was it was on him to keep an eye on the other riders. Don’t assume they are keeping an eye on you.

One issue I see is venders along the route that set up a couple feet off the road. Most of my close calls came in these situations. I try to move to the left a little before I get to them then move back to the right after I get around them if I can.

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jeffreydennis, August 20, 2018 at 7:02 pm

I’ve done this 11 times now. I went through your stage after about 3. I now share some of the wisest words I’ve read, RAGBRAI don’t care and all that means is go with the flow. It may be that RAGBRAI is not for you. You’ve been given sound advice about riding. Noisy camps are luck of the draw.

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