Seasonal Tips for Cycling
Today's Street Smarts blog about cycling safety in all types of weather was written by Piet Canin of Ecology Action and Theresia Rogerson, county Health Service Agency staffer to the Community Traffic safety Coalition.
In Santa Cruz we are lucky to have temperate weather, an ever-expanding bicycle infrastructure, and a rich bicycle culture. But no matter how we fare on our trusty bicycles the rest of the year, when the daylight begins to wane and the rain arrives, we need to be prepared to stay safe on the roadways. Here are some tips and reminders about riding through the colder seasons.
The California Vehicle Code, Section 21201, requires that a bicycle operated during darkness be equipped with the following:
- A lamp emitting a white light, attached to the bicycle or the operator, which illuminates from a distance of 300 feet in front and from the sides of the bicycle.
- A red reflector on the rear visible from a distance of 500 feet to the rear when in front of the headlights of a motor vehicle.
- A white or yellow reflector on each pedal, shoe, or ankle visible from the front and rear of the bicycle from a distance of 200 feet.
- A white or yellow reflector on each side forward of the center of the bicycle and a white or red reflector on each side to the rear of the center of the bicycle, or reflectorized tires on the front and the rear of the bicycle.
Keep in mind that non-rechargeable LED lights are less expensive and use less battery power, but rechargeable lights are a better long-tern investment. Flashing red lights for rear visibility are very inexpensive.
Keeping Dry When It Rains
Keeping Warm in the Cold
- Invest in a waterproof jacket that is breathable, lightweight and not too bulky. One with a hood worn underneath your helmet is ideal or a waterproof helmet cover over the helmet. Consider getting a jacket in a bright/fluorescent/neon color to make you more visible.
- Buy a pair of rain pants that are strong, not too heavy, and waterproof. They can simply be a pair of ski pants if you cinch them at the ankles, so they won’t get caught in the chain.
- Use plastic bags for your feet, like a strong used bread bag. Simply slip them over your shoes and use a rubber band to seal off the top. For those wanting to make more of an investment, neoprene shoe covers are available at bike shops.
- Keep a pair of clean, dry socks at work in case your socks get wet on your bike ride. Riding in old shoes and leaving nicer ones at work is also a great strategy.
The cold days, especially the mornings, can make biking less appealing, but winter clothing takes the bite out of the chill. Remember, once you start pedaling, you’ll get warmer!
Equip Your Bike for Winter Riding
- Remember to layer. When you layer, you can stop and take a layer off as you warm up. A couple layers of quick drying synthetics can be covered with a windproof or waterproof outer shell.
- Keep your hands warm with a pair of thin gloves that will still allow you to brake and shift.
- Slip a thin synthetic hat on underneath your helmet to keep warmth from escaping or just use a thin headband that covers your ears.
- Eyes and nose tend to run in cooler temperatures, so be equipped with a handkerchief and sunglasses. If you wear makeup, wait to get to your destination to apply it to avoid getting it in your eyes or ruining it.
Tune Your Riding Skills
- Fenders for your tires are a good investment to keep the wet road grime off of your back. Most fenders are easy to install and can be taken off in the late spring.
- A plastic bag for your saddle/seat is an inexpensive way to keep it from getting wet if you need to park it outside in the rain. If you can, keep your bike parked in a dry area since long periods of rain will damage your bike.
- Although they can be pricey, waterproof bike bags or bike bags (also called panniers) with a waterproof cover keep your belongings dry and can attach to a standard rear bike rack.
Biking in the rain means using appropriate gear and preparing in advance. When you are prepared, it can be fun – and remember, rain is just water! Once you’re out there riding, be sure to slow your pace and adjust your riding to avoid crashes due to wet, slippery roads and reduced driver visibility.
- Reducing your speed gives you more time to react and stop your bike. Bike breaks aren’t as effective in wet weather, so you’ll need to factor in increased stopping time.
- Assume that car drivers might not see you. Be extra aware of cars turning and parked car doors opening.
- Water or debris could create a hazard for you as a cyclist. Pavement markings, utility covers, gutters/drainage areas, and particularly railroad tracks are very slippery when wet. Slow down and ride upright through these areas.
For more information on bicycle safety and cycling resources, please visit the Community Traffic Safety Coalition
and Ecology Action
websites and remember to keep riding and be safe!