Winter Bicycle Tips for Cycling Safely Year-Round
November 29, 2016 | Bicycle Safety
Colorado is known for its cyclist culture. The League of American Bicyclists ranks it 7th in bicycle friendly states, with 96 businesses and seven universities in Colorado earning bicycle friendly status.
According to the 2011 American Community Survey, several cities in Colorado have some of the largest percentages of commuters who cycle. Boulder and Fort Collins both ranked above Santa Barbara, Miami Beach, and Portland, which are all known as bicycle-friendly cities. In the survey, Greeley and Denver also had large populations of bicycle commuters.
With so many bikes on the road, bicycle accidents in Colorado are inevitable, especially in the winter when ice becomes a factor. But the right education and precautions can prevent bicycle accidents or minimize their damage.
In late November, a cyclist in Boulder was struck and killed by a semitrailer during rush hour. Preliminary eyewitness reports said the rider was going against the flow of traffic. This accident is the fifth fatal cyclist crash in Boulder County since May 2016. Nationwide, bicycle accidents account for 2 percent of all traffic fatalities, even though they are only 1 percent of all trips taken in the US.
Preventing winter bicycle accidents in Colorado needs to be a joint effort between drivers and cyclists. As both take extra precautions to look out for one another, it significantly reduces the likelihood of an accident. Here are a few additional safety measures:
- Decrease tire pressure. Bicycling.com recommends experimenting with the tire pressure as temperatures begin dropping. It’s a careful balance to ensure you don’t get a flat, but lower tire pressure gives your ride more stability.
- Slow down on the ice. Ice makes it easy to slide on a bicycle. Brake only the rear wheel to prevent spinouts; make sure you keep an even, slow pace through any patches of ice. As always, keep an eye out for black ice.
- Layer clothing. Bicycling creates a cold wind on your body. Without the proper gear, you will quickly find yourself shivering and miserable. Warm layers allow you to slowly take off accessories like hats, gloves, scarves, and extra jackets as your body temperature rises. Bring extra supplies like gloves and socks in case your first pairs get wet, and tubes for if your tires get punctured.
- Maintain your bicycle. Cleaning and drying your bike will keep its parts running smoothly and will also help avoid rusting. Many bicycle crashes are due to falling or rider error, but keeping your bicycle pristine reduces the likelihood of a breakdown.
- Install a bike light. Shorter days, snow storms, and fog are all good reasons to have a light on your bike in the wintertime. Low visibility during the daytime can increase the likelihood of an accident, but installing a light may help vehicles see you easier.
- Protect your bicycle from ice. Specific gear, such as studded tires for ice, fenders for protecting tires, and skins for keeping your bike’s bearings dry, are all designed to protect your bicycle from harsh winter conditions. Snow and ice melt quickly, leaving the insides of your bike wet and susceptible to damage. Protecting or drying your bike will help its parts last longer.
- Choose the safest path. REI reports that in winter, this is usually not at the immediate curb, where snow and ice accumulates. Ride in a lane or wherever the snow was already cleared.
Don’t lock away your bicycle just because the temperatures are dropping. Commuting by bike promotes physical health, reduces emissions in the environment, takes up less space for parking and storage, costs the rider less money, and can help your brain relax after a long day of work. While it has its hazards, some statistics show the number of bicycle crashes is slowly going down—probably due to more cities adding bicycle lanes and increasing other bike-friendly amenities.
Accidents happen, even when you follow every safety tip out there. If you or someone you know was injured in a bicycle accident in Colorado, reach out to the experts at Bachus & Schanker, LLC, Colorado’s law firm dedicated to serving those who are injured.