Safe Bicycle Riding in Cold Weather: Tips for Seattle Cyclists

Max Meyers
Max is a Kirkland personal injury attorney handling cases in Seattle, King County & surrounding in WA State.

Bicycle Leaning Against Pole in SnowThe weather may be getting colder in Seattle, but that will not deter many avid cyclists and commuters who bicycle from biking all over the city. Biking year-round provides riders with many physical, economic and mental benefits, but also requires them to take the right safety precautions. If you plan on riding your bike this holiday season, follow these tips to keep you safe on the roadways.

Ride Carefully in Adverse Conditions

With the poor weather conditions and lessened visibility, it becomes more necessary than ever for riders to exercise caution while riding. Experts suggest:

  • Use both hands to brake - Stopping your bike while riding on the icy or wet lanes of the I-90 bridge may prove to be a challenge. Experts suggest using both hands to stop to increase stability.
  • Take over the lane – Lanes can disappear in snowy conditions. The law allows bicyclists to take over the entire lane if it is not safe to ride on the side. You may annoy some motorists, but holding your position on the road will help ensure your safety.
  • Go slow – Braking suddenly or speeding through a turn are easy ways to end up in an accident. Make sure to start slowing down early when you plan on stopping or turning.
  • Pay attention and ride defensively – Staying visually alert and being aware of your surroundings is essential, especially during the winter time. Do not rely solely on sounds, as snow often absorbs reflected noise. Also, try to make eye contact with drivers as they are less likely to pay attention to bikers during the winter.

Have the Right Bicycling Gear

If you are riding your bike in Seattle this winter, you should be ready to handle strong winds, cold rainstorms and even ice and snow. The first step is making sure you have the right clothing and equipment. Experts suggest the following items to ensure a comfortable ride to work or leisurely Sunday ride on the Burke-Gilman trail with your family.

Clothing:

Experts suggest wearing multiple layers to account for temperature changes. The first layer of clothing should be a thin, breathable fabric to keep your skin dry as you perspire. The second layer should be well-insulated (no cotton). The third, outermost layer should be reflective/neon and wind and water-resistant. Some suggested clothing items include:

  • Reflective rain jacket with a ducktail
  • Shoe covers to keep you dry
  • Midweight wool clothing
  • Sunglasses during the day and clear glasses at night
  • Tights
  • Soft-shell gloves
  • Caps

Equipment:

Bikers should have equipment that makes it easier for drivers to see them and makes it easier for them to see through the rain and snow. Some necessary equipment may include:

  • Helmet with a brim (to keep the rain out of your eyes as your ride)
  • Handlebar and helmet lights that produce at least 700 lumens
  • White light on the front of the bike and a red rear reflector (as required by state law)
  • Fenders
  • Carbide-studded tires can help you get a grip on icy roads
  • Spare tube (preferably two) in case you get a flat tire

Know Your Route Before You Ride

Winter in Seattle means fewer hours of daylight and poor visibility due to the rain and ice. Because of this, it is more important than ever for you to know where you are going. Study your route before hitting the road and if possible, test out your path during the daytime when the weather conditions are still good. Smartphones and GPS systems can also assist in case you lose your way, but it is important not to rely solely on these devices.

Before you head out, check the weather and road conditions in your area. If you see that there is a huge accident on State Route 99 or a winter storm, you may consider finding another route or waiting until things calm down before leaving. If conditions are too poor to ride in, you should consider alternative methods of transportation.

Max Meyers Law PLLC wants to make sure that you are safe as you ride your bike this winter. Whether you are on a bicycle or a motorcycle, you must have the right clothing and equipment and ride carefully to protect yourself and those around you. For more information, see our pages on Safe Winter Driving Tips and Safe Cold Weather Motorcycle Riding.

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