Bike & Build is continually working to ensure the safety of our riders while they are on the road. We maintain active dialogue with cycling advocacy groups, touring companies, and the League of American Bicyclists; this helps us continually refine our safety policies and orientations for riders. We take safety extremely seriously; we employ multiple proactive measures to minimize risks to our riders. However, cycling is an inherently dangerous activity, and Bike & Build has experienced four fatalities in previous years. Learn more about Paige, Christina, Patrick, and Anne.
Safety Training at Leader Retreat and Rider Orientation
Bike & Build conducts an extensive training session with all leaders and riders prior to the trip. This includes both a classroom session and on-the-road demonstration. The orientation is developed from public materials by the League of American Bicyclists and BicycleSafe.com. Experienced Bike & Build staff lead this orientation at Leader Retreat, and support leaders giving it at Rider Orientation. View the presentation (ppt, 4mb).
Riders should feel comfortable with the following “ride safe” principles:
- Hand signals… Left turn, right turn, slowing/stopping
- Riding single file
- Calling out to other riders… passing, slowing, debris in road
- Taking the right side of the lane
- Mirrors/looking back
- Common accident scenarios (See BicycleSafe.com, “Ten Ways to Not Get Hit” for diagrams of common accidents on the road and how to avoid them)
After the safety orientation, all riders must complete a “Shakedown Ride,” where Bike & Build tests their awareness on the road, comfort-level with their bike, and riding in groups. Completion of the Shakedown Ride is mandatory to begin the trip.
Trip Leaders are trained in proper “cue sheeting,” and create routes to safely navigate their riders from host site to host site each day on less-traveled roads. Bike & Build maintains years of route evaluations on the safety of each route (traffic, road conditions, towns, etc.) for the use of future Bike & Build trips. We also stress using local knowledge from cyclists and community members who live in the host areas we visit.
Riders are encouraged to take Smart Cycling courses offered by League of American Bicyclists. These courses are available from certified instructors across the country.
500-Mile Training Requirement
All Bike & Build riders must complete 500 miles of training, including at least one 65-mile ride, before the trip. In addition to preparing riders for the tough physical challenge they face, it improves their awareness and instincts on a bike and increases their comfort level on the road. Miles in spin classes do not count towards the 500-mile total. Riders should spend the vast majority of their training miles on roads interacting with vehicles instead of bike paths.
When riders successfully fundraise $1,000, they are eligible to receive their bike. However, they must first pass our extensive online safety quiz. Riders, need to study? Read your Participant Manual – it’s all in there!
Bike & Build is constantly evaluating our routes and routing processes. Each summer, our leaders and riders evaluate the route on a nightly and weekly basis – feedback that will provide a foundation for the following year’s route. For some routes, there is over 12 years of data!
In 2016-17, Bike & Build is engaging external consultants to review our routes and processes to assure we are on the best roads possible.
Riding in an Increasingly Distracted Driver Environment
While the responsibility for distracted driving rests with those operating motor vehicles, Bike & Build strives to do all we can to proactively mitigate the inherent danger that impaired driving poses to cyclists. As discussed in our In Memory section, Bike & Build has experienced four fatalities on our rides; these risks confront any cyclist, regardless of the type of ride/trip/commute in which they participate.
Bike & Build is doing what we can to expand awareness of cyclists on the roads. Pre-summer, we reach out to media outlets and police departments to recruit community support and increase awareness that our cyclists will be on local roads. Additionally, every time Bike & Build crosses into a new state, our Trip Leaders review the state’s cycling laws with our riders.
In 2017, we began leaving behind socks with distracted driving awareness messaging at all of the hosts with which we stay. The socks come with literature explaining why this campaign is important, and how to be involved in spreading the message: #DontDriveDistracted
Obeying all Traffic Laws
One of the main tenants of our safety curriculum is ‘Act Like a Vehicle.’ Cyclists have every right to be on the road and share the lane with vehicles, which means we must act like vehicles and subscribe to the same rules of the road.
If we want the respect of vehicles on the road, riders need to follow the same rules.
Bike & Build has two support vehicles per trip: a lead van and trailer that carries the gear to the host, and a more direct support vehicle that carries the day’s necessities such as water, food, and an emergency medical kit. In the morning, the lead vehicle drives the entire route ahead of the cyclists, scanning for road hazards, construction, or any other potential obstacle along the day’s route, which they then relay back to the team on the road. Once that vehicle finishes the route and reaches the destination, it is then accessible for additional on-the-road support.
Additionally, the support vehicles are always available to riders who are ill, injured, or feel uncomfortable on a road. Riders should feel no hesitation calling or using the van.
Reflective Safety Triangles
All Bike & Build riders are not only required to wear their helmet at all times but also their safety triangle on their back to maximize visibility to approaching traffic. Bike & Build provides the triangle to each rider upon acceptance to the program. The triangle must be visible on the outermost garment on the back of the rider.
In 2017, we are requiring that all riders train with and have a mirror on their bikes at all times throughout the duration of their Bike & Build trip. We instruct our riders to make a habit of turning around constantly to observe what is behind them; mirrors will allow additional vigilance to monitor any approaching vehicles or cyclists.
Flashing Front and Rear Lights Required
Bike & Build provides all riders with high-powered, daytime-visible flashing front and rear lights. These are rechargeable and are to be turned on at all times while the cyclist is straddling his/her bike.
Every day, two riders are designated as “Sweep.” It is their responsibility to ensure that all riders make it to the host site in front of them. They stay in contact with the Trip Leader driving the support van to alert them of any bike troubles or incidents on the road. Sweep carries a portable medical kit and cell phone.
6 Feet, 180 Degrees
When riders stop, they are required to pull at least six feet off the shoulder and turn 180 degrees and face traffic so they can see oncoming vehicles.
Bike & Build riders know from the moment they sign up to be prepared to ride in all types of weather situations, including but not limited to heat, humidity, wind, and rain. Riders are required to train in a variety of weather conditions prior to the trip to prepare for the different types of conditions they will face. Riders are required to pack layers for cold days, bright colors or reflective clothing for low-visibility days, and a flashing tail light.
During the summer, Trip Leaders are required check the weather report each morning and share that info with riders. Bike & Build will not ride if rider safety is in question. Bike & Build prohibits riders from riding if lightning is in the immediate vicinity or visibility is limited to the point where cars are not easily visible to riders, or vice versa.
Trip Leaders have the authority to remove cyclists from the road to avoid unsafe riding conditions. Riders also have the discretion to call the support van and request a shuttle if they are concerned about incoming weather. Riders are trained to take refuge from dangerous conditions if a shuttle is not immediately available, like in a local town, a nearby house, or if nothing else is available, in a ditch (such as in the case of lightning).
Over the course of the trip, every rider will be required to spend 2+ days in the van serving as the “Safety Navigator”. The Navigator will support their leaders and fellow teammates in the following ways:
- Note riding habits and safety practices as the van approaches and passes riders.
- Assist with directions in addition to taking general notes about the cue sheet for future record.
- Assist with lunch set up/ clean up, answer phone calls, and other potential responsibilities relative to that day (grocery store runs, rider pick ups, etc)
Bike & Build is a team expedition and this role is an important part of the group’s safety and success. We recognize you want to be on your bike as much as you can (and so do we), but similar to other B&B rules and practices this position will facilitate the execution of your trip and it is an essential component of your journey.