Safe cycling in the Winter
26th October, 2021
Around this time of year when the clocks go back and the days get shorter, there is an increase in fatal road accidents. As the mornings and afternoons are getting darker, children, pedestrians and cyclists become even more vulnerable.
The authorities are therefore urging motorists to take extra care as visibility is compromised in these darker, winter months. Between October and November, police departments are also encouraged to put more time into road side checks to ensure cars are road worthy. This involves making sure car lights are all working, tyres are up to standard, windscreens aren’t cracked and cars have enough screen wash to maximise visibility. IAM RoadSmart, the world’s leading road safety charity, even campaigned to remove the October clock change as they found this could reduce the number of people killed on the roads by 4.5%.
It can be easy for cyclists to overestimate their visibility by only perceiving the road from their perspective. Motorists are taking in a lot more information then we realise, which often means it’s easy for cyclists in plain clothing to blend into their surroundings. Here are some ways you can avoid this happening.
Ways to keep yourself safer as the mornings and afternoons get darker
• Lights: It is a legal requirement when out cycling in the dark to have a red light on the back and a white light on the front of your bike. This not only helps other road users see you, but also makes your cycle path clearer so you can see where you’re going, making it easier to avoid any obstacles. It is also recommended to keep a spare set of lights on you when cycling in case your lights break and you’re caught out in the dark.
• Reflectors: It is also a legal requirement to have reflectors on your trike or bike. You must have at least one reflector on the front and rear wheel, as well as four pedal reflectors (on both the front and back of pedals). They are designed to reflect the light of cars headlights to increase the visibility of bikes while cycling in the dark.
• Reflective clothing: Reflective material on clothing works to increase the visibility of those wearing it when it gets darker outside. Reflective materials are most commonly used on vests, knee and ankle bands and on gloves because of the poor breathability of the material. Knee and ankle bands are especially good because your legs are constantly moving and also drivers headlight point slightly downwards in the direction of cyclists legs and feet. Gloves work well too as they help other road users see cyclists hand gestures e.g. when indicating to turn.
Cycling in the cold weather
As we head into the winter months, it isn't just the darker mornings and evenings you’ll need to worry about. In these coming months, cyclists usually have to battle some pretty treacherous weather conditions. The looming colder and rainier weather shouldn’t stop you cycling, it might just mean you have to prepare a little more for a cycle to accommodate for the poor weather and riding conditions.
• To keep dry: Good waterproof clothing means that you don’t need to let a little bit of rain stop you from going out on your bike. It can even make it enjoyable to be out in the rain! As well as a proper rain jacket to keep your dry, a base layer is also essential. Wearing an appropriate base layer under your waterproof helps you stay warm as well as dry.
• Puncture repair kit: You are more likely to get a puncture in the winter as a result of the bad weather. The wet roads create some kind of lubrication which makes it easier for sharp objects to puncture bike tyres. Packing a puncture repair kit will keep you from being stuck in the middle of nowhere with a flat tyre and no way to fix it!
• Helmet: Winter weather means greater hazards for cyclists. So, while it’s always important to wear a helmet, it is especially important in the Winter to reduce your chances of a potentially fatal accident. A cycling hat can also be layered under a helmet to keep your head warm and dry as well as protected. Good quality cycling hats should be thick to provide warmth but also breathable. Cyclists usually only need this extra layer of warmth on extremely cold days!
• Mud guards: As the weather worsens mudguards are a must to avoid water, dirt and mud being sprayed up your legs, back and even face. Unsurprisingly, avoiding being sprayed with mud makes for a much more comfortable ride!