Published on January 10th, 2013 | by growwny0
Winter Biking 101
BY ELISE STEVENS, GROW SOCIAL MEDIA ASSISTANT
Winter roads can be hazardous to those who commute on their bikes and to those who choose cycling for their continued fitness year round. Be wise and keep yourself safe this winter by following a few safety guidelines. To all those who are on the roads please remain vigilant to surrounding cyclists and other modes of transportation.
Know Your Routes
Roads tend to get narrower in the winter with snow and ice build up on the roadside, leaving you with little to no shoulder/bike lane. Research the safest possible route to your destination and choose one with the fewest possible cars. Avoid traffic, especially when dark! GoBikeBuffalo is a wonderful resource for all cyclists.
Make Yourself Visible
Winter months are dark and merciless, giving you fewer hours of daylight to ride safely in. Limited lighting restricts not only your vision, but also your visibility to other cyclists and drivers. Incorporate flashing lights, headlights and reflectors into your bike gear. Make sure to have at least two good lights for your bike, one for the front and one for the back. Wear reflective clothing to make your presence known.
In addition to wearing reflective clothing, wear a helmet; care more about your noggin than your hair. Reduce your chances of head trauma, brain damage and death, in the event of an accident. It is also the law for anyone under the age of 14. Go Bike Buffalo advises you to dress like it’s 15-20 degrees warmer than it actually is. As your body heats up as you ride, you will be less inclined to overheat.
Be Aware of Your Surroundings
Try to avoid wearing headphones (it is illegal in many places) while cycling so you can hear traffic around you and anticipate motor vehicles’ movement. Do not talk on the phone and do not text. Even the most conscientious rider can experience an accident; don’t put yourself or others at a greater risk. Visibility should be a determining factor in whether or not to take a ride.
Be Conscious of Road Chemicals
With heavy snow and rain, the roads are treated with chemicals. These chemicals can corrode the metal surfaces of your bike, compromising your safety unsuspectingly. Be sure to thoroughly clean your bike after each use, including the chain. You can wash your bike with a sponge and dish soap. Finish by lubing the chain after your ride. Wiping down your bike’s frame and checking for signs of distress at the joints and bearings can save you from costly repairs and accidents in the future.
Weatherize Your Gear/Maintain Your Tires
Anybody who bikes in heavy rain or snow also needs good snow tires.Check your tires frequently for reduced traction or aging rubber. Just like with cars, your tires are a large component of your safety while on a bike. Be sure they are inflated to the proper psi to avoid a tire mishap. Learn how to change a tire and always carry tools and spare tubes in the event of a flat.
Abide By the Rules of the Road and Be a Defensive Cyclist
If you are cycling on the road, you are expected to follow the same traffic laws of motor vehicles.
- Ride on the right. Riding against traffic is a major cause of bicycle accidents.
- Be predictable. Avoid sudden swerves and stops.
- Follow and obey signs, signals, and pavement markings.
- Signal when you are turning or stopping. Look over your left shoulder for traffic before you make a move. This also signals motorists.
- Yield to pedestrians.
- Watch for road hazards such as broken glass, gravel, and potholes.
- Position yourself appropriately. On wide roads, ride 3-4 feet to the right of cars in the traffic lane; on narrow roads, stay just inside the traffic lane so vehicles must partly cross the middle line to pass.
- For turns, work your way into the proper lane 150 feet early; if you can’t get in by 40 to 50 feet before the turn, go straight and double back. Stay at least a foot away from the curbs, where debris accumulates. Always allow enough room for a car door to open when passing parked vehicles, and never weave in and out of traffic between parked cars
- Ride defensively and respectfully. Watch for people who may not be looking for you, and be courteous to other users of the road.
A complete list of New York State Vehicle and Traffic Laws as it pertains to bicyclists can be found by visiting the Governor Traffic Safety Committee’s website.
If you need a place to lock up your bike and are unable to take it inside, look for one of the many blue bike racks around town. Flying Bison Brewery Company created a Vienna Lager, Rusty Chain with the purpose of helping to raise resources for bicycle parking throughout the city of Buffalo. FBBC collaborated with Green Options Buffalo, Go Bike Buffalo, Buffalo Rising, Buffalo Microparks and the city to install—free of charge—signature blue bike racks that are made here in Buffalo. There are currently nearly 400 bike racks and counting installed in Buffalo and the surrounding suburbs. Support local and buy Rusty Chain to help out our fellow cyclists. Would you like to have a bicycle rack installed in front of your business? All you have to do is fill out a simple form that the City of Buffalo has created. You can either download the Bicycle Parking Request Form and mail it into the city or complete it online.
If you have any additional winter riding tips, feel free to share them below in our comment section or on our Facebook page. Go Bike Buffalo has a great Winter Biking Cheat Sheet that breaks down in detail the proper attire to accompany your winter riding. Also check out Buffalo Complete Streets to stay up to date with the progress our city is making to make transportation friendly to all.