Heart Month: 6 rules for safe winter cycling

By Anna Edwards Feb 9, 2015

According to the American Heart Association, spending a few minutes of your free time each day engaged in some form of physical activity will lower your chance of heart disease. Research has found that middle-aged adults who were more active in their leisure time had lower rates of inflammation of the arteries, a risk factor for the disease.

Biking is a great way to get out and get your heart pumping, but winter biking can be tricky. Poor road conditions and visibility issues can make cycling hazardous. Following a few simple rules will not only make your winter commute safer, it means you don't have to wait for spring to get out and get moving.

Hussieno

Dr. Ammar Hussieno, a member of Fat Fish Racing in Casper, participates in the Fat Fish Cyclo-cross event this winter. Click the photo to learn more about Fat Fish, a club for local cycling enthusiasts.

Rule 1 - Be seen: Drivers don’t expect to see a cyclist in foul weather, so it’s important to make yourself visible. Use front and rear lights and reflective tape.  The goal is to be visible from the front, back and side. A disproportionate number of bicycle/car crashes happen at night.

Rule 2 - Know the hazards: Streets are slickest when it first begins to rain and snow.  Leaves, manhole covers, and metal bridges are particularly dangerous when wet.  Plowed snow decreases shoulder space; black ice can be sneaky; fresh snow make traffic hard. Your awareness of these conditions, particularly on your common routes, will help you anticipate and handle them.

Rule 3 - Know the tricks: Basic bike handling skills can make a huge difference in difficult conditions.  Ride slowly.  Pump your brakes when you need to stop. Keep your weight on the back tire for more stability.  If you do start to fall, try to lean away from traffic and resist the urge to put your hand out to break the fall.  Remember: There is no shame in walking your bike through treacherous spots along your route.

Rule 4 - Know your options: We all have our favorite routes to work, however, in snowy conditions it important to have options.  Knowing alternative routes will allow you to pick the one that is safest for a given condition. When conditions are slick, riding on an unplowed side street where traffic is going 15 mph may be safer than a well-plowed, main artery where traffic is moving 40 mph.

Rule 5 - Be predictable: Anticipate what other road users (that includes pedestrians, cyclists and drivers) are going to do, and help them anticipate your movements.  Pick a line of travel and stick with it as much as possible. Signal when you are going to change positions or turn. Learn to look behind without veering off course. Try not to stop abruptly; there could be someone right behind you.

Rule 6 - Be assertive: Don't hesitate to take a lane. If someone is honking behind you, that's a good sign. At least they see you. It is safer to take more room in the lane than to give someone behind you the idea that they can squeeze past you. Also, stay to the left of the right turning traffic at intersections. Oncoming traffic will see you better, and right turning traffic won’t hit you.

Anna Edwards

Anna Edwards is the grant coordinator for the Safe Communities program at Wyoming Medical Center. She has more than 10 years of experience in nonprofit program development and management. Email her at aedwards@wyomingmedicalcenter.org or call (307) 577-7904.

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