Bike Safety in Winter Weather

Sure, summer is the perfect time to enjoy bicycling- extra daylight hours with picturesque clear and dry days that are the perfect temperature for rides of all distances. But, as all good things must come to an end, the Pacific Northwest we know and love to complain about is back. While unpredictable weather and reduced hours of daylight can pose hazards to those who continue to cycle it doesn’t mean you have to stop riding just because the season has changed.

We’ve compiled the following checklist to help you ride safe through any kind of weather.

First and Foremost, Keep it Legal.
For starters, cyclists must obey all rules of the road. Second, by Washington State law, “during the hours of darkness” riders are required to:

  • Use a lamp on the front of the bicycle that emits a white light visible from of distance of at least 500 feet to the front.
  • Use a red reflector on the rear of the bicycle that is visible from all distances up to 600 feet when directly in front of lawful lower beams of head lamps on a motor vehicle.
    • A lamp emitting a red light visible from a distance of 500 feet may be used in addition to the red reflector.
    • Don’t use blue or green lights as those colors are used by emergency vehicles.

Need a little more help? Our friends at Choose Your Way Bellevue have this helpful worksheet of all Washington State bicycle laws. While it is not a state law in Washington to wear a helmet, many cities do have that ordinance and any veteran cyclist will encourage you to wear one as well. (Seriously, protect your melon!).

Be Seen
In addition to using proper lights and reflectors to be seen from all angles, bright or reflective clothing can help keep you safe while you ride.

A bright helmet is easily a first step in being seen (and protecting your noodle!).

Choose Purposeful Paths
Planning your travels based on sanctioned bike routes is an easy way to help motorists and other riders anticipate you. For the Westside, Seattle has this helpful guide. Get the scoop on Eastside riding with this helpful map of Bellevue and this downloadable map of Redmond.

Don’t ride against traffic (unless in a properly sanctioned 2-way bike path). Motorists aren’t looking for bicyclists riding on the wrong side of the road.

Whether you choose to ride on the roads, hit one of the region’s amazing trails or cycle a combination of both don’t forget to wear a helmet and protect your noggin!

Utilize Safe Habits

  • Obey traffic signals and signs. Yes, these rules apply to you too.
  • Pass on the left, calling out “On your left,” as you pass. Don’t pass on the right. It can confuse pedestrians, drivers, and other cyclists.
  • Make eye contact with drivers. Granted, this is more difficult to do in the dark but always assume that if you haven’t made eye contact with a driver that they don’t see you.
  • Scan the road. Learn to look over your shoulder or use a mirror to know what moving parts surround you while riding.
  • Wear a helmet! Keep your faceholder safe!

Dress for Success
We already covered wearing reflective and bright clothing for night, but it is also helpful to motorists if you wear bright clothing during the day. It is especially helpful if you wear bright colors in the rain, as motorists might not be anticipating seeing bikers. In any weather, make yourself visible. The more you stand out from your surroundings the less likely you are to get hit because a driver can’t see you.

  • Tight, close-fitting clothes will keep fabrics from rubbing against your skin.
  • If your bike doesn’t have a chain guard be sure to keep your pants away from the chain while pedaling. You can roll the leg up or use a band to secure your pant leg.
  • In cold weather, wear layers so you can adjust your clothing as necessary per the temperature.
  • In the rain, waterproof jacket and pants are your friend! (It can be helpful to have a spare pair of dry pants on hand for unexpected showers).
  • Always wear a helmet. Make sure that it fits properly. A well-fitting helmet fits on top of the head and is parallel to the ground.

It’s okay to say “I just can’t do it today.” If you biked to work but just can’t muster the motivation to bike home, don’t fret. Our friends at Go Redmond have a ton of helpful videos including our favorite featuring how to put a bike on the bus. (Also, employees of GRTMA member companies qualify for our Emergency Ride Home program).

Don’t let soggy weather and darker skies keep you from riding. With a few extra layers of (bright, reflective and waterproof) clothing, proper lights and you guessed it, smart route planning there is no reason you can’t ride all year round. Oh yeah, and our favorite- don’t forget your helmet!