Winter weather has returned, bringing with it the potential for slick streets. Air temperatures are expected to drop around freezing over the coming days and we may see snow or freezing rain, especially in higher elevations. The freeze/thaw cycle may lead to ice forming overnight as we saw on Thursday night into Friday morning.
If streets are wet, conditions on the roadway can change in the blink of an eye. What was a regular driving and riding surface and appropriate speed one moment, can become a skating rink the next, especially on overpasses and bridges. Many crashes occur when people driving are going the speed limit as temperatures drop and roads turn slippery.
Here is a quick list of items to look over before heading out on your commute:
Cold weather driving tips
- If it is icy out and you don't have to travel, stay home
- Slow down
- Leave plenty of driving distance, don't accelerate quickly and don't brake abruptly
- Drive defensively and cautiously – your eyes should be looking ahead and down the road so you can see conditions and traffic and will be able to react appropriately and calmly
- Even if you have a green light, check to see you are safe proceeding through the intersection. There may be vehicles sliding into the intersection, without the ability to stop due to road conditions and unsafe driving
- If you have an outside temperature gauge in your car, check it from time to time (These gauges are inexpensive and available at stores locally)
- Drive as though you can't rely on your brakes
- Be aware that road conditions can change quickly as the temperature drops
- The surface on overpasses and bridges freeze faster so be cautious
- Remove all ice on windshields, windows, headlights and tail lights prior to driving to ensure adequate visibility, and make sure the vehicle’s windshield is defrosted
- Carry chains or traction devices if it is going to snow
- Check your tire pressure. It should be at least at the level recommended by the manufacturer. As the temperature drops, so does tire pressure
- Turn headlights on
- If you crash, carefully evaluate the situation from inside your vehicle. Don't immediately get out because it is possible other vehicles might also be crashing near you. Don't stand between moving traffic and your vehicle. Use a flare, hazard lights or other signaling device to warn other drivers of the crash.
- Four-wheel drive vehicles and all-wheel drive vehicles are great at accelerating, but in snow or ice that doesn't help you stop or turn.
- Don’t use cruise control in freezing, near freezing, or rainy conditions. The powered wheels can lose traction.
- Don’t leave your vehicle unattended, warming up in the driveway, a perfect target for would-be car-thieves.
Cold weather bicycling tips
- Slow down and give more time to reach your destination.
- Wear a helmet.
- Don’t hesitate to dismount if you think an area is too dangerous to ride.
- Be aware of lane conditions and watch out for black ice
- Take turns wider and stay upright around corners.
- Ride on clear pavement when available; anticipate stops way ahead of time.
- Ride defensively.
- Roll with the fall if you must take an unanticipated fall.
- Underinflate your tires for a slightly wider surface area in contact with the ground and ultimately more control.
- Wide, knobby tires will give you better traction through the snow than skinnier road bike tires.
- Studded tires will provide a better grip on icy surfaces.
- Light up – the brighter your light, the safer you will be.
- Keep your chain clean and lubricated.
- Wipe down your brakes after snowy or dirty rides and make sure contact surfaces with the wheels are clean.
- Keep your winter bike in an unheated space to limit condensation on the frame and in cable housings.
- Dress in layers, but not too many to make you overheat during the ride.
- Cover your skin to reduce cold shock due to wind chill.
- Keep your fingers warm with waterproof gloves.
- Remove pedal clips or straps, and wear boots in case you need to bail off your bicycle quickly.
- Keep your eyes covered.