Devoted cyclists don’t let inconveniences like snow or frigid temps get in the way of a ride. In fact, it is such a common occurrence that the city of Longmont has a page dedicated to winter cycling safety tips. Suggestions like these are certainly worth our attention, but they should not overshadow a troubling reality: A cyclist’s safety is, too often, dependent on the actions of motorists around them.
Drivers have a responsibility to drive safely around bicyclists. As we move into the cold, snowy months, this becomes paramount. Here are three important wintertime driving factors that can further imperil cyclists.
1. There is less light
Bicycle-car crashes can happen any time, but they occur disproportionately in low-light conditions. During winter, the sun rises later and sets earlier, meaning a bike ride to or from work during standard commuting hours could be done in darkness.
Drivers should recognize this, and take extra care to remain attentive. Failing to see a cyclist is not a valid excuse for a collision.
2. Road conditions are poor
An unexpected slick spot on the road can send a cyclist tumbling, which is why Longmont recommends riders travel with care. The same applies to drivers in cars and trucks. Conditions could make it hard for a motorist to quickly stop. If they are close to another road user (such as a cyclist) when this happens, it could result in a tragic collision.
Drivers need to give cyclists – who have the right to use full lanes – sufficient space based on unpredictable road conditions. Not doing so endangers fellow travelers.
3. Distracted driving persists
Smartphones, GPS devices, food or drink, other passengers and music can all distract a driver, potentially increasing the odds of a crash. This behavior doesn’t simply disappear come wintertime. Considering 85% of Coloradans admit to driving distracted, this should be particularly concerning to cyclists. In addition, inattentiveness can exacerbate the other dangers mentioned above.
Safe driving during the snowy, cold-weather months requires extra care and caution. If a motorist chooses to let themselves be distracted, it is a bicyclist that may pay the price.