A group ride by its very nature does not make the leader liable

And just because I lawyer writing in a bicycle magazine says it does, does not change the law.

The article Be a Fearless Leader gives the impression that being a group leader in a ride and offering advice or sprinting at the end is enough to create liability for the leader. IT’S NOT!

To be liable, you must be negligent. Negligence has four components. All four components must be proven for someone to be negligent. Those components or steps are:

  1. Duty
  2. Breach of the Duty
  3. Injury proximately caused by the breach of duty
  4. Damages

Step one is the major stumbling block in a situation like this. What duty does a group ride leader owe to anyone else in the group ride? If everyone is riding voluntarily, then there is no duty unless you create a duty.

To create a duty you must create reliance or a need in someone that you then must fulfill or not ignore. By that I mean in a group ride situation you must say to the other riders either something that makes them think that you are responsible for them. You must say that the ride is safe or something that takes away their ability to be responsible for their own safety.

An example of the first situation would be having someone in the group say something like:

I’ve checked this route out, and I know it is absolutely safe. You can rely on me; this is a safe route. You will not get hurt on this ride.


There will be no cars on the course today.

First of all, who would say something that dumb and secondly, who would rely on that statement.

An example of the second situation would be:

You can only ride behind the group, and you must follow the group. You can’t leave until we get to the finish.


Run that red light.

In the first situation, you are saying to the people I am the leader, and you can rely upon me for your safety. In the second scenario, you are just being an idiot or a jerk.

The article goes even further. It mentions control and implies that if you pick the route or offer advice, you are in control. What ride doesn’t involve giving advice? What group of cyclists can get together and not start making comments and giving advice (a really boring group that’s who). For that matter what time would you have to get up to start getting a consensus form a group of cyclist on the route?  How would you prepare for a route unless someone picked it in advance?

Why would you go on a group ride if you did not think you could learn something and become a better rider? I would get better if I learned a new route, picked by somebody. If someone does not want to do that route today, say fine, ride whatever you want.

The article suggests to not make the ride competitive and to avoid pushing anyone’s limits. Yeah, I want to go out on a group ride and meander in at the end. The end is where it is at. The sprint. Why join a group ride if the ride is not going to push you? Besides why go if you are not going to push me?

The last statement is the icing on the cake. Have the rider’s sign a release written by an attorney. That’s not a group ride that is a competitive ride, a grand fondo or something that everyone pays to enter where they get a shirt. Not many Saturday morning rides hand out t-shirts at the end. Besides who can afford to hire an attorney to write a release just for a non-competitive get together with no leader?

Do Something

The author does not follow his own advice see 11 Ways To Get the Most Out of Your Group Ride where he states that putting the hammer down on a group ride is OK. The author writes great articles on how to sue people. That is how he makes a living, by suing people, drivers and bicycle manufactures. If you don’t want to be sued, get advice from someone who works in that area of the law, preventing lawsuits, not starting them.

The problem is the suggestions in the article on how to run a group ride either make it a “no ride” because no one is going to show up or because you did everything (like getting a release) which makes you a leader and POSSIBLY liable.

Lawsuits get started because you are stupid, mean or nasty 99% of the time. Be nice and you won’t have to worry about the lawsuits. For the other 1% of the time make sure your homeowner’s insurance and/or automobile policy will cover these situations.

Let everyone know that a group ride is fun, hard, people will get dropped, and you are on your own. You can ride or not ride and you dare anyone to try to kick your butt at the end.

Races and big rides where you pay money get sued because they make promises which they fail to keep. Don’t make any promises you can’t keep or that you don’t want to have the world know about. Don’t run your group ride like a race or tell everyone how the ride is going to be done to get a jersey at the end and you’ll be OK.

I have a better idea. Have everyone in your group ride read that article. Anyone who says they like it, agree with it or think it’s right, tell them to go ride with the author because they can’t ride with you. Have everyone else read this article and make sure they understand it.

To read more articles on cycling litigation see:

Connecticut court works hard to void a release for a cycling event

New York Decision explains the doctrine of Primary Assumption of the Risk for cycling.

Release for training ride at Triathlon training camp stops lawsuit

How to fight a Bicycle Product Liability case in New York. One step at a time.

Good Release stops lawsuit against Michigan bicycle renter based on marginal acts of bicycle renter

PA court upholds release in bicycle race.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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Copyright 2012 Recreation Law (720) Edit Law


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2 Comments on “A group ride by its very nature does not make the leader liable”

  1. Way cool! Some extremely valid points! I appreciate you penning
    this article and also the rest of the website is extremely good.


  2. rsolosky says:

    Great advice Jim, I imagine your advice would apply to just about anything you do with others from a hike or backcountry ski, to a night on the town.


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