Short Days. Short Commutes!
Be Bright, Please Use a Light
It gets dark early during the winter - be prepared. The law requires using a white light in front that is visible for at least 500 feet, pedal reflectors, and a rear red reflector and/or rear red light that is visible for at least 600 feet. The more illuminated you are, the better. Supplementary visibility measures such as blinking lights, reflective straps and reflective tires are particularly helpful.
Remember that motorists and pedestrians need to see you. Many cyclists believe that lights in the city are not necessary, as the streets are relatively well lit. The point is not so much what you as a rider see; it is that you are seen by others.
Nearly half of all cycling deaths in the US involve cyclists riding at night without lights, although only 3% of biking is done after dark.
Dress for 15 minutes into your ride. Remember that your body will heat up, even if it's cold when you start. Layers, layers, layers! Wear layers that are easy to remove so that you are able to adjust as needed while en route. Your hands will get cold if you don't wear something on them! Mittens are our favorite addition, but there are lots of other ideas out there.
The key to effective layering is dressing in wicking fabrics (wool, fleece, silk, etc.) that keep you dry and warm. Be sure to avoid 100% cotton clothing as a base layer because the fabric does not wick as well as silk or wool. On especially cold days, you may want to wear a wicking base layer shirt that you can change out of when you arrive at work. Another option is arm warmers that you can adjust as need be. And, you can wear just about any cold weather jacket (as long as it allows for complete mobility while you ride and is not so long that it gets caught in your back wheel). Just be sure to NOT over dress; this leads to over-heating.
Read what A Better City TMA has to say about winter biking clothes.
Position on the Road
Be predictable. Do not weave in and out of traffic or parked cars. Ride at least three feet (3') away from parked cars and be alert for motorists or passengers opening car doors. Never pass a bus on the right. You could collide with a pedestrian or get squeezed against the curb. Slow down in the winter. Remember that there may be black ice on the roadways, so give yourself plenty of time to come to a complete stop at stop signs, crosswalks and stoplights. Also remember that when it's dark out, cars may not see you as easily (and it gets dark early). Weaving will catch drivers off guard.
Be especially alert when going straight through an intersection -- look for motorists in all directions, merge behind a right-turning motorist when possible.
Signal your intentions - use hand signals to indicate turns and stops.
Left turns: There are two possibilities: Signal, move into the left lane, and turn left. OR Ride straight to the far side of the intersection, then stop, turn left, and ride across. If you use the crosswalk, walk your bicycle across. A mirror is helpful, enabling you to be aware of traffic approaching from behind.
Want to Learn More?
Learn more about CitySmart and getting around by bicycle here.