Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Safely Navigating Storm Debris on Your Bike

Here in Thurston County, we're still cleaning up from the snow and ice storm that broke many trees and left a lot of debris on our roads. Many bike lanes and road shoulers in the area still have a lot of sand and gravel and smaller tree debris covering them in certain places. Here are a few tips to safely ride your bike in these conditions:

  • Scan ahead: Be extra aware of potential road hazards ahead of you, plus vehicles approaching from behind. This will give you time to plan a course of action. Decide whether to enter the traffic lane to go around the debris, or wait until car traffic passes.
  • Traffic: If there is a long section of shoulder or bike lane that is unsafe to ride on due to debris, ride in the traffic lane, as far to the right as is safe. Ride straight and predictably, and signal if you plan to stop or turn. Remember you are a vehicle on the road and have all the same rights and responsibilities as other road users.
  • Traction: Riding on sand and gravel is a little like riding on ice- traction is reduced and can be unpredictable. Remember when changing speed or direction, to move smoothly and slowly. Give yourself more room to stop, and take corners slower. Wider, lower pressure tires can help on sand and gravel by creating a larger "contact patch" so that your tire is not rolling over the top of each little rock, but compressing around it and staying in contact with the road.
  •  BE VISIBLE! At this time of year, it is often dark, rainy or foggy, and visibility is limited. Many drivers are simply not watching for bikes on the road, especially in the dark. Even an attentive driver may have difficulty seeing a cyclist in the dark. Wear bright and/or reflective clothing (or accessories like a reflective vest, belt or leg/arm band), and have bright, well-aimed lights on your bike. A headlight that is bright enough to see ahead of you can be expensive, but so worth it if they save you from encountering debris on the road that could cause a fall.
  • Beware of sticks from tree branches on the road. If you must ride over a stick, try to hit the middle of it. Hitting the end of a stick can couse it to flip into your spokes, which can cause bad damage to your wheel at best, and a nasty crash at worst. I have seen this happen.
  • Eye protection: Road debris gets airborn, and will get in your eyes without some kind of eye protection.  Inexpensive safety glasses from the hardware store can do the job, and even come in stylish shapes these days. If you must be super-stylie, your local bike shop has the goods.
Ride safe and have fun- I look forward to seeing your headlight coming my way. If you hear a bike bell ring, it could be me!

No comments: