Pulling back the curtains I am greeted by another cold and wet London morning. Not for the first time I question my desire to plonk on a helmet, turn on the bike lights and get to work on the city’s streets. I will join thousands of others who will head to major roads to make their commute navigating the traffic, pedestrians and other cyclists. Millions around the country will be doing the same.
Cycling is not risk free; speak to any cyclist and you will hear their own personal horror story of the ‘time that taxi nearly took my front wheel off.’ Unfortunately in the winter months the ever present danger of a serious accident becomes far more real. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (ROSPA) have stated that whilst cycling accidents are more common during the summer months (May to September) the casualty rate in terms of miles travelled is higher in autumn and winter (October to April).
Things to do to stay safe
Dark, wet and icy conditions can lead to some pretty hairy moments but there are ways that you can counteract this:
- Pick your roads carefully and try to stick to those that have been gritted or which you know are free of ice.
- Watch out for slippery manhole covers and road markings.
- If you do get stuck on ice try to relax and ride it out.
- Remember that braking distances will always be longer; this is particularly true if you have v-brakes rather than disc brakes, which are not as exposed to water.
- When applying your brakes try and do so evenly, putting 50% force through both the front and back brakes.
- Be aware of low visibility and if you have not invested in some day glow wear or decent bike lights now might be the time to do so.
- Always wear a helmet – an obvious one but even more pertinent in winter months.
- Try to be more aware of what is happening on the roads and see if you can read situations before they happen. Places where it might have been safe to nip ahead before might not be so now!
The worst happens
So you have tried your best to follow the advice above but as we all know some situations are beyond are control. So what should you do if an accident occurs?
- Make sure you are safe – get to the side of the road if you can and away from any on-coming traffic.
- If you are injured call the police and an ambulance.
- Try to stay calm and reasonable, nothing will be resolved by becoming aggressive or giving an errant driver a piece of your mind.
- Take photos as soon as possible of the accident site, any injuries you have suffered and any damage to your bike or other possessions.
- If you can, get details of witnesses to the accident.
- If the accident has occurred with a motor vehicle take the driver’s contact and insurance details as well as the vehicle’s registration number.
- Do not get into a discussion about whose fault the accident is.
- If the accident has occurred because of a defect in the road try and take a photo of it straight away, preferably with an item in shot to give a size comparison. If you can, go back to the defect as soon as possible and take photos with a tape measure for greater accuracy.
Cycling in winter can be tricky but there is no reason to head to the cramped underground or sit in traffic. Keep safe and enjoy the odd bit of winter sun.