Monday, November 17, 2014

It's Ice Season Again In the Bike Lanes (and road shoulders)

Photo of ice in Central Ave Bike lane
near the Catholic Church.  Photo taken 
a couple years ago during
a particularly wet winter.
While bicycling to work this morning, I needed to stop at the Post Office. Therefore, I made a left turn from Diamond onto Canyon. Riding up the hill towards Oppenheimer, I saw several large patches of ice in the bike lane where the lane is in shadow.

In addition to bike lanes and roadway shoulders that are on the south side of our roads being in shadow much of the time due to the low angle of the sun, its not surprising there will be water collecting and freezing in them due to the camber of the road draining water to the edges of the pavement.

So be prepared for ice spots on our roads now that we are seeing really cold weather. Some suggestions:

1. Look far enough out front of you to spot bad ice. If you need to, scan behind you for overtaking traffic, signal and merge left into the traffic lane when it is safe to do so. Remember: AFRAP means "as far right as is practical" and a cyclist is not obligated to use a bike lane if it is dangerous or impassible.

2. Avoiding ice and other roadway hazards is a good reason to have a powerful headlight. I won't suggest an absolute value of lumens or anything, but your light should illuminate the road far enough ahead of your bicycle so you can react to hazards. That amount of light depends on your typical bicycling speed and other conditions (i.e., fast downhill routes). You decide.

3. If you do a lot of winter cycling and its a wet year, strongly consider winter tires incorporating studs. They are available in a range of sizes in both 700c and 26" rim sizes. Peter White has a good discussion of these here. Sure, they are heavy, but it is winter and the distances are short enough.

4. If you merge left out of a bike lane, please be predictable and stick to a line until you are past the icy parts of the bike lane. Weaving in and out of closely spaced ice patches can be unpredictable and lead to a sideswipe crash or needless aggravation of overtaking motorists.

5. If you find yourself on ice and don't have studded tires, don't accelerate or brake or make sudden directional changes. Soft pedal or coast through the ice.

6. If you are a motorist, keep an eye on the condition of bike lanes and expect cyclists to be merging out of them when necessary.


Steve A said...

I'm thankful we don't have an "ice season," here. We just have the not-too-common ice day. It's a plus of living where city entrances list the population rather than the altitude.

bikeolounger said...

And be aware that even though YOU know the lane to be unsuitable for use, a law enforcement officer will second-guess you (especially if you live in or near Nicholasville, KY).

Khal said...

I know, which is why I've worked closely with the local police ever since I moved here. You have to engage, rather than react.