So, I think we can all agree we’re finally in the grips of proper winter. It took its time, but we’re now being greeted by frost in the mornings, biting winds on the way home and a decent amount of icy, unpleasant rain. I, for one, am not particularly excited by this when I wake up at 7AM to a pitch black sky and no warmth. NONE.
It’s horrible enough for those that only have to walk to the nearest station, but spare a thought for the poor cyclists battling torrential downpours, sub-zero temperatures, horrible headwinds and slippery roads. Not to mention the added obstacle of heavily-wrapped humans hurrying across the street, weaving through the traffic jams.
So here are a few winter cycling safety tips for cyclists and pedestrians alike. There’s also an awesome infographic from LV= showing you all the things/equipment you should be considering before pedalling away in winter.
Get your winter kit sorted
There are lots of things you should be doing to keep your bike running well at any time of year, but some of these things are especially important in the winter:
Non-optional. Lights are a legal requirement on your bike, and you may as well make sure that they’re good and bright – some of the cheapest lights you can buy are merely tiny twinkles in the eye of a motorist. Spend a little more and make sure you can be seen properly. Exposure do a brilliant range of super bright front and back lights, which you can buy at Evans Cycles.
Ensure your brakes are in good working order and nice and grippy, check your tyre pressure, give your bike a clean (and do it as often as you can), check your chain and wheels are running smoothly and get your mudguards out. All simple things that don’t take very long but could save your life in the long run! Mudguards are very important. Even if you don’t mind getting splashed by mud yourself, not having mudguards means the person behind you is going to be splattered by your mud.
Carry a spare inner tube, tyre levers and a mini pump, just in case. When it’s wintery and blustery, you’re not going to want to waste time patching up your inner tube – so just check your tyre for whatever caused the puncture, replace the inner tube completely and patch up the damaged tube in the comfort of your own home.
It’s probably best to make sure that you’re concentrating more on the traffic around you than on your frostbitten fingers, so treat yourself to some decent waterproof cycling gloves, a good winter cycling jacket, shoe covers and some waterproof trousers. Cycling specific clothing doesn’t have to be expensive (although the more expensive brands tend to use better technical fabrics that will keep you drier) but it is essential – simply wearing lots of jumpers won’t do you any good as you’ll be soaked in sweat as well as rain.
Extra tip: take extra socks to work so that you can put warm, fresh ones on when you arrive. Bonus points if you manage to put them on a radiator first.
If you lock your bike outside, a seat cover is an essential bit of kit to make sure that when you leave work your seat is nice and dry ready for your journey home – ain’t nobody got time for a wet, cold bum.
It’s not just your kit that’ll sort you out this winter – the colder weather means you need to take extra care when cycling, too.
Always be seen
Since you’ll basically always be riding in the dark at this time of year, visibility is key. Make sure people can see you. Light yourself up like a Christmas tree if you have to! Don’t hide in the gutter – make sure you’re far enough out into the lane that motorists can see you easily and will have to overtake you properly, rather than trying to squeeze past you while there’s oncoming traffic. Added bonus: it’ll keep you clear of the big puddles that gather on the over-stretched drains.
Watch out for obstacles
Speaking of puddles: if you can avoid them without swerving erratically, do. For all you know, that puddle is hiding a deep pothole. Winter ice plays havoc with the roads, so there’ll be plenty of holes and loose gravel about. If you’re at the head of a group of cyclists and can do so safely, try to point sudden obstacles out to them, too.
Allow more time
Let’s face it: it’s going to take more time to make your journey in the winter. There’ll probably be more traffic with people driving/using public transport instead of walking (or cycling, if they’re not as hardcore as you), the visibility will be worse so you’ll need to go a bit slower, and there might be a bit more time spent at the other end changing out of sopping wet clothes. Leave in enough time so that you’re not tempted to rush, and get into the habit of checking the weather before you go to bed so that you can grab your kit and clothes the night before. That way, you’re less likely to set off without something important in the morning.
And if you’re a pedestrian…
It’s not just the cyclists that need to be careful in winter. If you regularly commute in a busy ol’ city like London, you can make life easier for the cyclists out there in the cold (otherwise known as being a Nice Human Being.)
Stop. Look. Listen!
Admit it. We all do it. We walk around, phones plastered right in front of our faces, not paying attention to what’s going on around us. I’m guilty of it – I get an email on the way to work that just can’t wait the 5 mins it’ll take me to walk to the office. Really, it can’t. That bake sale is IMPORTANT. As a result, I get to the crossing outside Waterloo station and blindly follow the other pedestrians, only to find that they shouldn’t have been crossing in the first place. Cue all kinds of angry traffic.
So! Keep your eyes on your surroundings when you’re walking. Keep your headphone volume to a level where you can still hear what’s going on around you. Look properly before you cross the road – don’t take chances when there’s a cyclist coming towards you, as they might be going faster than they seem to be.
And definitely, definitely look properly in all directions before crossing a road with stationary traffic, even at a crossing. If there’s a bus between you and the cyclist whizzing up the inside, they won’t be able to see you either.
LV= have lots of advice on their website, and you can take a look at their infographic in full below!
**Full disclosure: LV= did not pay us to write this post, but they did send me a cycling safety kit in exchange for sharing their infographic. Which I agree with wholeheartedly anyway, so that’s just really very nice of them.**
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