Cycling – All Year Round
Faced with a dark, cold morning it is understandable why the warm embrace of a car or public transport can be tempting. However, as we have seen in recent months, strikes are often on the horizon, jeopardising travel plans. A short car journey to work or doing the school run can often be fraught with stress, when faced with traffic jams and finding somewhere to park or drop off the kids.
Many of these journeys could easily be achieved by walking or cycling. A lot of work was done by Chris Boardman MBE in his role as the Greater Manchester Cycling and Walking Commissioner. Their data revealed that each year in Great Manchester there were 200 million car journeys less than one kilometre - the equivalent of a four-minute bike ride.
Despite the clocks going back on 29 October 2023 and the dark days setting in, with the right preparation, there is there is no reason to not cycle throughout the colder months ahead.
I have prepared some tips for cycling safety in autumn and winter, in conjunction with Jack Talbot, organiser of The Struggle Hill Climb which is this year hosting the RTTC National Hill Climb Championships in Ambleside on 29 October 2023.
We at Irwin Mitchell are proud to be one of the event’s sponsors, ensuring that the event proceeds will be going to the Great North Air Ambulance (GNAAS).
Be seen, be safe
Make sure your bike lights are operating and fully charged and that you and your bike are visible. You may have started your day in the crisp morning sun, but don’t be caught out by the nights drawing in or a delay in your journey home.
The UK’s weather can be volatile, so ensure that you have waterproofs with you, ready for those sudden showers.
Becoming cold can affect your concentration while riding, so ensure that you're wearing layers that you can adapt for the conditions.
Watch out for puddles and leaves
Leaves can be slippery, but they may also hide hazards such as drains and pot holes. Manhole covers, tram tracks and painted lines on the road can also become slick in damp and wet weather. Puddles can also obscure deep potholes and ruts in the road, therefore should be avoided.
Judging speed and distance
This is more difficult in the dark, so take care around other road users and at junctions.
Be mindful of the weather
As temperatures drop, roads can become slick with frost and ice, which presents dangers to all road users. Take extra care when riding through shaded areas that don’t catch the sun during the day.
Make sure your bike is roadworthy
Doing so will help ensure that everything is in full working order and will help guard against making roadside repairs in the cold, dark and rain.
Have the correct tools and knowledge
In the event of a mechanical issue, make sure you have the correct tools and knowledge to be able to complete roadside repairs, or have a phone with you so that you can call for help.
Be aware of other road users
Many other road users will be travelling in the dark for the first time too and while you may be prepared - they may not be. Past reports suggest that drivers are 30 per cent more likely to have an accident in the month following the clocks going back, particularly driving between the hours of 5pm and 8pm.
As a cyclist myself, I recognise that I am a vulnerable road user. Per billion miles travelled, the casualty rate of pedal cyclists that are killed or seriously injured is 866, compared to a rate of 29 for car drivers.
I value, however, the importance of cycling for my mental and physical wellbeing – it’s also a lot of fun! By planning ahead and taking precautions, I will continue to cycle all year round.
As nights draw in, all road users should take extra care. Be aware that vulnerable road users such as cyclist and pedestrians will be harder to spot.
If the road is wet or icy, it will also take longer to slow or stop. For motorists, in wet conditions, stopping distances will be at least double; in icy conditions it can be ten times greater than on dry roads.
Every year the arrival of dark nights heralds an increase of crashes on our roads and it’s important that all of us, but particularly those new to cycling, are aware of the additional risks.
I urge everyone to take that extra bit of time to be ready for the change in the weather and those colder, darker mornings and nights. After months of daylight riding and driving, even familiar roads can look very different in the dark.
Sadly, through my work I too often see lives shattered by incidents on our roads and how people require legal advice to either access the specialist rehabilitation and therapies they require to try and regain as much of their independence as possible or to access support they need to come to terms with a bereavement.
I am therefore proud that at Irwin Mitchell can work with Jack Talbot and The Struggle Hill Climb team, supporting their efforts to raise vital funds for the Great North Air Ambulance Service (GNAAS) charity, who provide pioneering, life-saving support.
I look forward to joining the crowds on 29 October, with the riders setting off from Ambleside, riding to the Kirkstone Pass Inn at the top of The Struggle. Riders will be setting off at 30-second intervals from 09:01am.
Find out more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise in helping people and families following road accidents at our road traffic accident claims section.
 DfT (2021) ‘RAS30070: Relative risk of different forms of transport, Great Britain, 2020’
URL: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistical-data-sets/ras30-reported-casualties-in-road-accidents: Accessed 26/07/2022