When riding out alone, you can feel quite intimidated by cars and other vehicles passing by. The bonus to riding in a group, however, is the greater visibility and road presence that a larger groups gives. There is, in addition, the added benefit that it helps to promote and maintain a standing as road users in our own right - and evidence points to more cyclists actually equals less accidents.
However, as a large group we can also pose quite a barrier to car drivers. It is hard to decide which is best - to single out and become a very long chain (even a reasonable group of 8 can be quite long), with the added risk that cars will try to squeeze past where there may not be adequate space; or to stay two-by-two, and single out if a few cars are struggling to get past. In addition we should also strive to stay no more than two abreast.
The majority of our miles are on back lanes and country roads, for which there is usually a main road alternative for cars, vans, trucks etc. Tractors, fair enough! However, there are often times when cars are wanting to pass us, and even singling out isn't enough for them. On these occasions it is worth creating a gap in the middle of the group - let the first half move forward whilst the second half drop back slightly - giving a space for a car to pull in to, so that they can pass some of us, and wait for another suitable gap or view to pass the rest of us. The next turn will be obvious, or we will wait, so you will not lose us!
It can also be tempting to wave a car through, if we as cyclists can see further ahead. I try not to do this, but it should only be the leader who makes this decision.
There may also be occasions when the group gets split at a junction or traffic lights. Despite being part of a group, everyone has to be responsible for their own safety. If the group gets split, I (or the leader) will be aware of this possibility, and will be checking to see if we all got through/ across/ over. If not, I will stop in a safe place - or more likely carry on but slowly, in order for the rest to cross safely/ wait for the lights to change, and then catch us up.
The ladies now split into two to three riding groups, with up to 8 in a group (plus up to two leaders) for safety.
For more tips on safe cycling in a group, please see CTC Guide to Cycling with a Group.
We are, above all, still following the rules of the road, as in the Highway Code http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/TravelAndTransport/Highwaycode/DG_069837