Cycling in the dark needn’t be scary, but it does have more risks associated with it than cycling in daylight, which require a certain amount of care and attention. Safe cycling in winter is possible if you make yourself aware of the risks of the road in poor conditions, and make yourself visible to other road users.
As mentioned in parts 1 and 2 of this guide, being seen by other road users is one of the most important aspects of cycling in poor visibility. Stay safe by using good quality head and tail lights, wearing hi-vis clothing and other bright colours where possible, and using reflective strips, either as part of your hi-vis clothing or attached separately, making sure that everyone on the road can see where you are and what direction you are travelling in.
Look for risks
Just like driving a car, it is essential to be constantly aware and look out for risks which could cause an accident. Common risks when cycling in bad weather include wet leaves, pot holes, slippery drains and manhole covers and any other wet surface where traction is limited. If it feels slippery underfoot, slow down and ride with caution. Also remember that just like driving, stopping speeds are greatly reduced in the rain, so it’s important to look ahead for risks and reduce your speed. In very heavy rain, your brakes can be rendered almost useless if they get too wet. Keep your brakes dry by gradually applying them on flat, straight sections of road, removing excess water and keeping them as dry as possible.
Use all your senses
When cycling in winter, either in the dark, or in bad weather conditions, it is important to use all your senses to stay safe. Leave your headphones at home and listen to the road. With your eyes looking ahead, you’ll need a way of telling when vehicles are coming up behind you, so keep your ears clear to be fully aware of what’s around you.
With the risks that come with cycling in the dark or in bad weather, it can often pay off to have some company with you as you ride. If cycling for fun or fitness, ask a friend to join you, or cycle as a small group. A cycling buddy helps to offer motivation, and if something goes wrong with yourself or the bike, you have someone to help. If you commute by bike, see if any of your workmates cycle the same route and suggest that you cycle together. Some company on a long, dreary commute can be great motivation and offer peace of mind, especially if it’s your first experience of dark or bad weather cycling.
Image sourced: Danielle Kellertagsoutdoor fitnesssafe cyclingsustainable transport