You may be taking legal responsibility when you organize a group ride. Here’s what you need to know.
By Bob Mionske
In the eyes of the law, there’s a difference between participating in a sport and riding your bike to work, to school, or going on a solo ride. The act of joining a group ride as a sporting activity means that all participants have made an implied assumption of risk. They cannot be held liable to each other for ordinary negligence involving the inherent risks of the sport of cycling. In other words, if two cyclists accidentally collide on a group ride, for instance, it’s considered a risk they both assumed, even if it happened because one of them made a mistake.
But depending on the type of role you take on when you organize a ride, you may be putting yourself at risk for liability. Here are some things that you can do to limit that possibility.
DEFINE YOUR ROLE
If you simply say, “Let’s ride on Saturday at 9 a.m.,” then you may be considered a co-participant, with little or no risk of liability. But the more control you exercise (such as picking the route or offering advice), the more likely your role could be interpreted as that of a road captain or coach—which might mean that you are no longer shielded from responsibility.
KEEP IT MELLOW
Make the ride cooperative, not competitive, and avoid pushing the limits of the riders.
If you’re concerned that you might be considered an event organizer under the law, then do what race promoters do: Have riders sign a release drafted by an attorney with an express assumption of risk and waiver of liability. This means the riders agree that they will not hold you responsible for any injuries arising from the inherent risks of the sport.
If you’re running a large or reoccurring ride and have assets to protect, consider taking out liability insurance as an extra precaution. Your regular insurance agent can help, or you can look for a sports-insurance professional.
Research and assistance by Rick Bernardi, J.D.