Before you start your training for RAGBRAI, please take the time to watch the RIDE RIGHT Safety Video. It is an educational tool for new riders as well as a great refresher for seasoned veterans.
This list of rules for safety and etiquette has been developed as part of an overall RIDE RIGHT bicycle safety campaign. When combined with the legal rules of the road and when adhered to by riders, these rules make this event safer and more enjoyable for everyone. This section outlines these rules and gives some suggestions for physical preparation.
Ride Safe – Ride Smart – RIDE RIGHT!
Here’s what you need….
1. The RIGHT stuff
Keep your bicycle in good repair. Have it readied for RAGBRAI, and then keep it safe to operate. It is especially important to make sure your brakes work well.
2. The RIGHT gear
Wear a protective helmet. It is estimated that 85% of bicycling accidents result in injury to the face or head.
Wear bright clothing to be noticed.
At night, wear light-colored clothing and have a bright headlight and taillight. Better yet, don’t ride at night on RAGBRAI.
3. The RIGHT communications
Signal turns and stops. The law says you must, but this point can’t be emphasized enough. Most accidents on RAGBRAI involve two or more bicycles and most are the result of riders not letting others know of their intentions.
Sound off when passing. Use phrases such as “on your left,” “on your right,” or “coming through the middle.”
4. The RIGHT riding
When stopping along the RAGBRAI routes, let those behind know of your plans. Make sure no bicycles or motor vehicles are immediately behind you when you stop. Stop at the right edge of the roadway and immediately move to the shoulder. Stay clear of the roadway, and park completely off of the roadway to make repairs, rest, visit, etc. Stopping is especially dangerous at the crest of a hill or on a curve, so be careful.
Don’t weave. Ride in a straight line to make it easier for those riding behind you.
Don’t draft. Drafting (similar to a pace-line) in a crowd is dangerous to yourself and others around you. There is no place for it on RAGBRAI. Likewise, drafting vehicles is also dangerous and will not be tolerated on RAGBRAI.
Ride to the right. Leave room for others to pass on your left. There have been many close calls and at least one serious accident because a passing rider was forced into the opposite lane.
When turning, turn left from the center of the roadway, turn right from along the curb or shoulder, and stay to the right
5. The legal RIGHT
Obey traffic laws. In Iowa, bicyclists enjoy the same rights as motorists. In accepting those rights, bicyclists also assume the responsibilities for riding in a safe and legal manner by:
- stopping completely at stop signs
- obeying yield signs
- not crossing yellow lines in your lane
- riding to the right
- signaling for turns
- not cutting corners
- riding in a respectable manner
6. The RIGHT frame of mind
Stay alert and use your brain when you ride. You must be constantly thinking and aware of what’s going on around you.
Pace yourself. RAGBRAI is not a race. It is a touring bicycle ride across the state of Iowa. Not all riders travel at the same speed, so don’t try to keep up with someone who rides too fast for you. Riding too fast or in too high a gear is tough on your knees, heart and lungs.
7. The RIGHT abilities
Do NOT drink alcohol and ride.
8. The RIGHT attitude
Be considerate. The bicycling skills of those participating in RAGBRAI cover the full range of the spectrum. Each rider must look out for someone else, as well as for himself.
Be a predictable rider. Don’t keep other bicyclists and motorists guessing about what your next move will be. A predictable rider is a safe rider.
Be courteous to passing vehicles and other bicyclists. Instead of riding several abreast, go single file and let those behind you pass.
Cooperate with RAGBRAI officials. State troopers and other law enforcement personnel will be present at busy intersections. Obey their signals.
Please stay on the marked route. The RAGBRAI route has been selected for your safety. Services are not available to you if you are off the route.
9. The RIGHT attention
Keep your head up and your ears open. Do not wear radio headphones while riding!
Give the right-of-way to emergency vehicles. Pull to the right and stop if you hear a siren.
Beware of loose gravel and watch for debris on the pavement. Trucks carrying sand, gravel and rock often spill some at intersections. It is sometimes necessary for RAGBRAI to take unpaved stretches of road in order to avoid busy highways. Take extra care on unpaved roads, watching for loose gravel, rocks, soft spots, holes and ruts.
Avoid wide cracks in the pavement. Narrow bicycle tires can easily get caught in wide cracks. Be especially careful on roadways paved with concrete. Center cracks on concrete roads are dangerous.
Look out for railroad tracks and cross them at right angles. There are fewer tracks these days, but there are still rough tracks and some at bad angles. Raise yourself off your seat and stand on your pedals to absorb the shock and lower the center of gravity. Unclip from your pedals as you prepare to cross railroad tracks. Watch out for other riders and let those behind know of your intentions. Angled tracks and low shoulders are major causes of accidents.
10. The RIGHT condition
Get yourself in good physical shape. RAGBRAI is a ride totaling about 500 miles over seven days. The longest day is about 100 miles. You should be in good shape and capable of riding those distances before you come on the ride. A good way to get ready is to join a local bicycling club. A sports health clinic can also provide you with suggestions for a good conditioning program.
Eat and drink frequently. Rather than loading up once in the middle of the day, stop frequently for fluids and food. Carry water with you.
Crossing Railroad Tracks
RAGBRAI will cross many railroad tracks during the course of the week. Here are some tips on safely crossing the tracks.
Operation Lifesaver offers bicyclists six tips for safety near train tracks:
CROSSING TRACKS ON A BICYCLE REQUIRES CAUTION AND EXTRA ATTENTION! Narrow wheels can get caught between the rails. If possible, walk – don’t ride – across. Always cross at a 90-degree angle.
USE ONLY DESIGNATED RAILROAD CROSSINGS. The only legal and safe place to cross railroad tracks is at a designated public crossing with a crossbuck, flashing red lights or a gate. Crossing at any other location is trespassing and illegal.
TURN OFF MUSIC AND REMOVE EARPHONES AT ALL RAIL CROSSINGS. Music can be a deadly distraction near the tracks – preventing you from hearing an approaching train.
WET TRAIN TRACKS CAN BE SLIPPERY. Dismount and walk your bike across the tracks. Step over the tracks – not on them – to avoid slipping.
WATCH OUT FOR THE SECOND TRAIN. Wait after the first train passes until you can see clearly in both directions.
IF YOU SEE A TRAIN COMING, WAIT! Flashing lights or a lowering gate means a train is approaching. Do not proceed until the gates go completely up and the lights go off. It is illegal to go around lowered gates, whether on a bike, on foot or in a vehicle.