Cycling Safety in Winter
The risks associated with cycling are worsened during the winter months. The visibility of cyclists can be considerably poorer, and bad weather conditions can introduce new dangers. An investigation into the cause of non-collision cycling incidents in the UK for example, showed that slipping on ice was the most common cause at 26%, and that 8% were due to wet roads, the second most common[i]. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents report that proportional to total miles travelled, there are more cycling casualties during the winter months[ii]. There are several key aspects of safety to consider therefore, when choosing to cycle during the winter.
Make sure you are familiar with your route in advance, as new areas and junctions may be harder to navigate in dark conditions.
Ensure that your bike is in good condition, and check the brakes and tyres regularly. Carrying a puncture kit is particularly important during bad weather, as there may be more debris on the road following heavy rain or snowfall.
During wet and icy conditions, you should adjust your speed, and ride slower than usual to avoid slipping on ice. Braking earlier than you would normally do so is important if the road surface is slippy, and tyres with more tread will make your journey easier if there is snow on the ground.
Warm clothing is essential during cold and icy conditions; cycling gloves and warm neck guards are particularly important additions. Mudguards on your bike will help to deflect any spray from the wet or muddy roads away from your clothes.
Visibility is much poorer during the winter due to fewer hours of daylight, and falling snow or rain may obstruct the vision of both cyclists and motorists. Reflective and fluorescent clothing is crucial to ensure that you are visible to motorists therefore. Bikes should be equipped with reflectors on the spokes and pedals, which should be added if not already there.
Lights must be attached to your bike to ensure that you are visible; a white light on the front and a red light on the back. By law, these must be worn when visibility is poor or restricted, not just when it is completely dark. Carrying some spare batteries for your bike lights is also a good idea.
It is important to adapt to the visibility conditions and be extra cautious at junctions and dangerous stretches of road; motorists will be less likely to see you during poor weather or whilst it is dark.