North East Post
A Voice of the North
4:25 PM 17th November 2021

Road Safety Week: The Dangers of Winter Cycling

Cycling is arguably one of the more dangerous modes of transport at the best of times, let alone when it’s freezing cold, it’s pouring rain and black ice on the roads!

How safe do cyclists feel safe on the roads?
Motorists often experience what some call ‘road entitlement’ – where they assume they are the superior road user, claiming that cyclists don’t belong on the road. It is then common for cyclists to become victims of intimidation from motorists. These intimidation tactics include but are not limited to: trailing closely behind cyclists, verbal abuse and overtaking cyclists too fast and too close for comfort. A survey conducted by Jorvik found that 41% of cyclists found these intimidation tactics the most annoying thing when out cycling. Not only do people find this extremely annoying, but it also makes cycling a lot more dangerous than it should be.

Road Safety Week: What is it?
Road Safety Week was introduced by Brake, a road safety charity, to raise awareness for road safety issues. This is especially important as traffic levels return to pre-pandemic levels. Despite cycling friendly infrastructure being implemented across the UK, the only time the number of deaths and injuries on the road decreased was during lockdown … when no one was allowed out!

The theme for this year is road safety heroes. This road safety week will therefore focus on the work that school crossing patrols, highway engineers and community campaigners do to raise awareness for road safety as well as the support offered by fire and rescue services, ambulance and medical staff during and after road traffic accidents. As well as celebrating road safety heroes, this week also aims to help people understand how they should be taking responsibility for their own road safety.
Everyone can be their own road safety hero.

How to get involved with Road Safety Week?
Brake have outlined ways that everyone can get involved with Road Safety Week:
In schools, teachers should be teaching children and young people, and even parents, about road safety as well as how road safety heroes help keep them safe. Teaching children from an early age about road safety responsibility for themselves and others is crucial in helping reduce road traffic accidents now and in the future.
Although it’s beneficial to teach children road safety, adults are the ones behind the wheel now! Through effective driving courses, education and policies organisations are able to educate adults on road safety.
Appreciating and raising awareness for the work that emergency services and other road safety professionals do to reduce the number of fatal road accidents and care for people during and after accidents.
Brake are also encouraging road crash victims to share their stories about road safety heroes to help people understand the work they do as well as the importance of road safety.
Jorvik are trying to be their own Road Safety Hero by taking the time to raise awareness for winter road safety. As we head into the winter, cyclists don’t only need to watch out for the dangers motorists pose, but also have to be extra careful with the additional dangers of winter cycling.

What are the dangers of winter cycling?
In the winter, there is an increase in fatal road accidents involving cyclists. Adverse weather conditions such as torrential rain, black ice, snow, fog and high winds make it hard for motorists and cyclists to maintain control of their vehicle or bike during the winter months. As a result, there is an increase in fatal road accidents. Additionally, as the days get shorter, motorists visibility becomes compromised in the dark, fog, rain and sometimes snow! To try and reduce the number of fatal road accidents caused by poor visibility, IAM Road Smart has campaigned to remove the October clock change. Having longer, brighter days could help improve visibility as visibility is already compromised by worsening weather conditions. They found that removing this clock change could reduce the number of people killed on the roads by 4.5%.

What can you do to stay safe when cycling in the winter?
Encouraging individuals to also be their own road safety heroes by taking extra precautions to reduce the risk of road accidents. Cyclists often overestimate their visibility, assuming that motorists would be able to see them moving along the road. However, motorists are taking in a lot more information than we realise when driving, which makes it easy for cyclists to blend into their surroundings if they don’t wear the appropriate attire.

To improve cyclists visibility on the road it is a legal requirement for cyclists to have a red light on the back and a white light on the front of their bike as well as reflectors on the wheels and pedals. The lights not only help others see you but also helps you see where you’re going or if there is any obstacles in your cycle path, for example in the winter fallen tree branches. It is also a legal requirement to have reflectors on your wheels and pedals, but it is also useful to wear reflective clothing when out cycling. This could be on vests, knee and ankle bands or gloves.

Staying safe while cycling in the winter is not just about improving your visibility on the road, but also about preparing for the potentially treacherous weather. This ranges from investing in good waterproof clothing to keep you dry, a helmet (for obvious reasons!), mud guards to avoid being sprayed with mud and a puncture repair kit so you’re not stuck in the middle of no where with a flat tyre and no way to fix it.