Cycling is not only an economic and healthy way to get from A-to-B, it’s also great fun for all ages, fitness levels and abilities. Cycling does have its risks though and even Tour de France hero Bradley Wiggins has had a run in on the road in 2012. Winter in particular is a dangerous time for cyclists as the cold weather and increased darkness can put cyclists at a higher risk.
There are a few simple precautions you can take to ensure you stay safe on the roads.
Your most important piece of safety kit is a good fitting, high quality helmet. Quality bike helmets are made of expanded polystyrene foam which is moulded together with a tough plastic shell. Helmets which have been moulded rather than stuck together during manufacturing are lightweight and feature vents designed to keep you cool. Although some helmets are available in one-size and can be adjusted with straps, if you’re looking for the best fit (and therefore improved safety) then go measure up and choose a helmet size right for your head. You can do this by wrapping a tape measure around your head or ask for help at your local cycle shop.
In 2011 a survey revealed that although 80% of cycling accidents happen during the day (due to there being more cyclists on the road), cycling accidents in the dark are more likely to be fatal. Cycling in winter weather can leave you vulnerable on the road, especially if you don’t prepare to be seen. Even if you’re not planning to ride at night, you never know when bad weather may cause light levels to plummet so be prepared with a front and rear light on your bike. The Highway Code states that “At night your cycle MUST have white front and red rear lights lit. It MUST also be fitted with a red rear reflector…” The Highway Code also recommends wearing “light-coloured or fluorescent clothing which helps other road users to see you in daylight and poor light”.
Out and About
You’re more at risk from being in a cycling accident if you’re on the road as opposed to off-roading as around 75% of fatal accidents occur in urban areas and around half of cyclist fatalities occur on rural roads. Junctions are the most dangerous areas of road with 75% of accidents happening at, or near, a road junction.
We spoke to cycling expert Russell Cutts who runs the Sheffield-based bike maintenance service Russell’s Bicycle Shed for his top 5 tips on cycling in winter:
1. Keep your feet warm and dry, use tin foil wrapped around your toes to keep them warm on long rides and wrap your feet in plastic bags if it’s wet, your shoes may get soaked but your feet won’t.
2. Be seen and avoid potholes, always position yourself in the middle of the lane at difficult road locations and at junctions. You have the right to that space.
3. Grit and salt on the road eat chains and brake pads. Give your bicycle a rinse down at least weekly and oil the chain after as this will prolong the life of your bicycle through the winter.
4. Invest in mudguards to protect your clothes and your bike from splashes.
5. Cycling in snow isn’t as hard as you might think, just avoid deep drifts and the compacted tracks of cars as they can be slippy. A mountain bike is best for these conditions.
What If You Are in an Accident?
From 2011 to 2012, the number of cyclists reported to the police as being seriously injured in an accident on the road rose by 4%. Although the above measures can help reduce the risk of an accident, if you are injured on the road the following are useful to remember:
– Ask to see the driver’s proof of insurance and driver’s licence and note the colour, make and model of the car, along with the number plate and any physical damage to the car which might have been caused by the accident.
– If there are any witnesses to the incident then ask them for their names and addresses. If you are seriously injured then ask any witnesses to stay on the scene with you until help arrives.
– Note if the driver apologises or takes responsibility for the crash. In some cases even if the driver has admitted they were wrong they might change their mind and deny all knowledge at a later date.
– Even if you feel OK, it’s best to get checked out by your GP as some injuries aren’t always felt instantly, especially if you are in shock and your adrenalin is flowing.
– Speak to your insurers as soon as possible and also consult a specialist personal injury solicitor to see if you are entitled to make a compensation claim for any injuries you may have sustained.
With a little preparation, there’s no reason why you can’t enjoy cycling safely throughout the winter months.