Calling Out "All Clear"

By: 
Eli Post

There are many hot-button safety issues in cycling and this one is near the top of the list. “All Clear” likely had its origins in warfare when the danger had passed, and the expression has made its way into cycling as a courtesy to fellow riders. There is an unmistakable elegance when the lead rider can shout “all clear” so that those behind can continue through an intersection, not break their pace, and remain otherwise unperturbed. This all makes for a smoother ride, and can add to the sheer pleasure of moving swiftly without disruptive breaks, but it may carry serious risks.

While we encourage you to communicate with other cyclists, and especially to let other cyclists behind you know of approaching hazards, we do not recommend that you shout “All Clear” in the absence of a traffic hazard. Traffic conditions can change in an instant. Riders further down the line might hear the “all clear” when it no longer applies and place themselves in jeopardy. Cyclists must always take personal responsibility and obey traffic laws, riding in control and in a manner that they can stop safely no matter what another rider may report. In a word, call out the hazards but not the non-hazards. The risk to fellow riders far outweighs your good intentions.

Although it is often safer to have a group of cyclists clear an intersection together, this situation should not be confused with the “all clear” shout. Moving across a clear intersection as a group should always be the product of forethought and coordination. Even an organized paceline, where riders are riding inches off the wheel of the person in front, should open enough at an intersection to allow riders to slow or stop without endangering the one behind. Again, you should signal your intentions clearly, call out road hazards, and otherwise keep safety uppermost in your thoughts as you cycle.

 

Eli Post is Editor of WheelPeople, and previously served as CRW President.

 


Comments

I take your point, but would like to suggest that the flaw is not in the call, but rather, the understanding of the call. One, “Clear” applies to riders at most one to two riders behind the caller. As each rider gets to and can see the situation, they renew or change the call. Two, each rider is still on the hook for their own safety ... they aren’t to proceed blindly. Three, like pacelining, the understanding of a call comes with experience. “Clear” from a rider I know well is different from the same call from a rider I’ve never ridden with. Four, the call is location-dependent ... the nature of the intersection affects the interpretation of the call.

The operative segment of your comment is "from a rider I know". I agree that different rules may apply when riding with a small group of friends but on CRW weekend rides you will likely be riding with a changing cast of strangers, and it's best to err on the side of caution as some may blindly follow a call and not realize conditions have changed.

This is not at all clear.

and that of course, is Eli's point. What "All Clear" means to one person is not necessarily what was intended. If the intent was "I think there won't be a problem if 4 or 5 riders follow me through at speed", but someone ten back thinks it means "the lead rider doesn't see any traffic" then it could be a recipe for disaster. Unless there are barricades for cross-traffic and public safety officers waving you through.