Great Lakes Ultra Cycling


The Safest Route Policy

Rider safety is always paramount at Great Lakes Ultra Cycling.  Safety comes through route design, rider awareness, and the club rules and procedures that promote it.  It is everyone’s business and route design plays a huge role.  We can’t guarantee anything will be 100% safe, cycling has inherent risk.  The rider must always follow all traffic laws, etc - but we can strive to put you on low traffic, high scenery roads.

Route design for safety is very challenging, especially in urban areas like Chicagoland.  It can also be difficult in the countryside as well based on time and conditions.  A safe route in the morning may be unsafe in the evening.

In 2021, COVID-19 continues to be a global pandemic and, despite the hope of vaccines, dramatically impacts the definition of a “safe” route.  For example, bike trails are usually considered to be safer than roads.  Restrictions on travel and guidelines for safety continue to increase traffic on trails.  This significantly impacts the assessment of what is “safe” from both a traffic and social distancing perspective.

Last year was in many ways a "safer" year.  People were concerned and avoided being outside.  This year, traffic on the road and in stores is much greater.  No one wants to be in an accident, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.  It's a time to be extra careful and perhaps have a more laid back ride.

A route designed for GLUC Ultra Cycling will conform to the following:

  1. Roads with pavement issues should be avoided, if none is possible, marking the pavement with paint is an option
  2. Roads with significant traffic at the time riders will be passing through should be avoided
  3. (COVID-19 specific) Routes should have the MOST service options as possible so that riders do not all stop at the same place
  4. (COVID-19) Route design should include business that are open and have a commitment to maintaining cleanliness including restrooms and a no-signature policy for credit cards
  5. (COVID-19 specific) Popular bike trails should be avoided OR placed on the route so that riders are not using them at peak pedestrian times
  6. The route should avoid complex intersections or ones without good options for a rider to legally and safely pass through (e.g. crossings where lights do not change and do not have a manual trigger)
  7. The overall distance of the ride is based on the published track, not on any calculation of the shortest distance between controls

GLUC and Randonneuring Routes 2021

While we would like to have it be so, RUSA rules and procedures do not always allow for the safest route possible and keeping the sport intact is important.  

The sport of randonneuring is an old one.  It dates to the 19th Century and has already survived the 1918 Flu Pandemic.  It will survive COVID too!

The basics of a randonneuring route are founded on the idea of designated stopping points or Controls.  At a control, a randonneur collects a proof of passage, normally a signature on a special card called a brevet card and/or a receipt.  The cards are carried, signed and the end and turned in.  Riders must arrive and validate passage within a specific time frame.  The route between 2 controls should be the shortest distance passable by bicycle to ensure that the route is followed.  Randonneuring routes are timed with the time it takes to stop at controls being a factor in the overall efficiency of the rider.   Great randonneurs don't just ride consistently and fast, they excel at time managment and the ability to effectively manage time at controls is vital part of the sport.  One of the biggest challenges of Paris Brest Paris is attempting to manage the time spent at controls (which lines and a lot of walking can be involved).  If you never use the cards, your experience at PBP will be a shocker.

All randonneuring routes must be approved by the RUSA Routing Committee.  This is a long process (up to 2 months) and requires a lot of effort.  While some flexibility does exist, major changes to the route require re-approval.

The COVID Pandemic and its impact on Routing at GLUC

One of the side effects of the traditional controlsl is that they can eliminate the best roads, particularly in areas where larger, busier county roads are the shortest distance.  Quiet roads with far less traffic would require the introduction of additional controls, stopping riders and becoming burdensome.  Controls are ideally spaced so that they coincide with needed services but get annoying when there are too many.

Many have argued for years that proof of passage should be made electronic and not require stopping.  While this seems a simple solution, it also changes the sport significantly.  Randonneuring is a sport based on camaraderie and controls and cards are also a place for otherwise solitary riders to meet up and moving through a control and collecting proof of passage are key parts of the sport.  The added challenges on route design also create a consistency in randonneuring that GLUC feels is really vital.

The ACP and RUSA have made a number of allowances for this temporarily.  However, the fact remains that once we remove all the pomp and circumstance, we aren't are not randonneuring anymore, we are doing a timed ultra cycling ride.  We are no longer preparing you for PBP, the pinnacle of the sport.

Many small clubs have no choice but to function through RUSA for insurance purposes.  GLUC is extremely fortunate to have flexibility.  Instead of diluting down the sport of randonneuring, we want to preserve it and keep it as a part of our club that we can all enjoy the traditions that make it so distinctive.

For this reason, GLUC will prefer its Safest Route Policy and the other, more flexibly types of ultra cycling events available to us in 2021.  Hopefully, in 2022 or beyond, herd immunity will take hold and the pandemic will subside.  We will be a stronger club as a result!

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