Bicyclists who participate in organized races or group rides may benefit from the camaraderie of cycling with fellow enthusiasts. But it may be misguided for cyclists to assume that because the ride is organized, that riders are therefore safe from the risk of an accident.
A White House staffer was recently killed as a result of an accident during a charity ride. In that particular race, the roads were not closed to traffic. But even when traffic has been blocked or re-routed, accidents can still occur, and some may prove life-threatening. Riders can be hurt by cars that may try to bypass temporary detours. Poor road conditions could lead to a pile-up where several bikers are injured. Or cyclists could end up colliding with each other. When such accidents happen, an event that is supposed to be fun and enlivening can quickly turn tragic.
This is not to say that bikers should avoid participating in such rides. Organized ride participants are often active and motivated people who would be unlikely to be dissuaded from participating anyway. Rather, it may help for riders to go into these events maintaining a sense of caution, staying alert for other riders and vehicles who may not be paying proper attention.
In the unfortunate circumstance wherein a cyclist gets injured in an organized race, obviously the first priority for that person is to receive the proper medical attention. Some races may have medical staff on hand to deal with these exact circumstances. But what they are unlikely to have on hand is a cadre of emergency lawyers who can quickly evaluate the accident scene and help the injured person get compensation to help pay for his or her impending medical bills.
Wearing a helmet, as always, can help prevent catastrophic injuries resulting from a bike accident during an organized race, or during any other ride. For people who participate in group races and rides, dropping the assumption that there is safety in numbers may prove to be similarly protective.