Bicycle riding is a wonderful sport. I ride between 2-3,000 miles per year, often commuting the 13 miles from my home to the law offices of Rubin Guttman & Associates. Bicycle riding on our city streets always calls for great care and following the big three Rules of the Road: 1) Be careful; 2) Be lawful (obey the traffic laws); and 3) Be well lit (use lights on the front of your bike, on the back of your bike, and on your helmet).
These rules apply all year, but are even more important during the winter months when, according to Bikewinter.org whose slogan is “Every day is a Great day to ride a bike,” you’ve got to make a special effort to know your hazards. Avoid streets with chuckholes to the extent possible, ride carefully and predictably and remember, under Ohio law, you have all the rights and responsibilities of a motor vehicle. Bicycle riders have a right to the road. Check out the Ohio Department of Transportation’s Cycling Smarter Guide for the whole legal picture. Bikeradar.com, a British and American bike riding site cautions against black ice on winter roads, something we know all to much about in Cleveland and Northern Ohio. Apply your brakes equally and in a measured way. Take it easy and don’t focus on speed in the winter.
Winter riding is a time for fatter tires as well, although some folks feel that 28mm tires are a good balance between traction and cutting through the icy mess. Thicker tires will do better on slush and be more likely to survive an encounter with chuckholes like those found in Cleveland.
As we all know, in the winter, not only are the days short, but the sky is often gray. Being well lit (with illumination, not alcohol!) is even more important than it is all year long. Wear the brightest lights you can find and place them strategically so that you won’t blend in with the surrounding cars and scenery.
Wear bright reflective biking gear (a good idea all year) and make sure that your outer layer is waterproof to guard against hypothermia and frostbite. Ditto for gloves and headgear under your helmet. Cover your ears and keep them dry. Put fenders on your bicycle to avoid being splashed and ride at least a foot away from the curb, to avoid the water, ice and trash, which accumulates there.
You’ll also stay safer if you follow Rubin Guttman’s rule: ride only when it’s dry, daylight, and above 40º. This minimizes the chance that you’ll skid on black ice, because it is more likely to have melted. Be a little bit wimpy…er… cautious, and live to ride another day.
Stay safe out there! But, if you have the misfortune to be in a bicycle accident call Rubin Guttman & Associates at 1-888-GUTTLAW. We’re Cleveland based bicycle riders and bicycle lawyers who will get you what you deserve.