“The risk of accident for pedestrians and cyclists is three times greater in the dark than during daylight hours. If you also factor in the effects of rain, snow and glare, the risk is multiplied by ten”. This is the message of a video article published by the Swiss Council for Accident Prevention (bfu). Cyclists often find themselves battling precisely these conditions in autumn and winter and are therefore exposed to increased risk. We have put together six tips to help you cycle safely in the autumn despite the dangers:
- Check your brakes regularly. If the brake pads don't grip properly, they should be adjusted or replaced. But that's not all. In autumn the streets are often damp and slippery. If you have to make an emergency stop, even the best brakes in the world won't help. That’s why it's vital to keep a close eye on the road ahead and adjust your speed to the conditions. Be careful when crossing tram lines, pedestrian crossings, manhole covers and red cycle routes – they are especially slippery when damp.
- In autumn the days become shorter and the nights longer. The morning and evening rush hours occur during darkness. At this time of year it is vital that you have your lights turned on when cycling, not only to ensure that you are visible to other road users but also so that you can identify potential hazards (e.g. piles of leaves) in good time. Turn your lights on as soon as the daylight begins to fade. Reflectors attached to the spokes also increase your visibility from the side. Reflectors must be fitted at the front and rear of bicycles by law.
- Let a little air out of your tyres. This is an easy way of achieving greater stability on slippery surfaces. If that’s not enough for you, you can even switch to winter tyres, some of which even come with spikes.
- Your feet can easily slip off the pedals when the weather is wet and cold, but it's also possible to do something about this. When you’re buying pedals, make sure they have a rough surface, or you can stick a little griptape to the pedals. Either of these options will deliver more friction between your shoe and the pedal and give you a better grip.
- The wearing of helmets has become widely accepted by skiers, but not by cyclists. You should always wear a helmet when cycling. A helmet with ear muffs – or with a thin beanie under it – will also protect you against the cold in winter.
- If you are using an e-bike, you should be particularly careful during the winter months. These bikes have a significantly higher top speed than normal bikes and their stopping distance is therefore much longer. This distance becomes even greater if the road is slippery.