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Safety Tips for Winter Cycling


On Friday February 12th, cycling enthusiasts all over the world will celebrate International Winter Bike to Work Day 2021 by taking their bicycles for a spin in the snow. Although many of us may be working from home this year, and gathering in large crowds is not an option available to anyone, those who enjoy cycling to work in the winter still plan on showing their solidarity with each other by participating in this fun annual event, even if it means riding solo around their neighbourhoods and back to their home-offices.

Riding a bike in the winter months can be an invigorating form of exercise. Now more than ever, after spending whole days locked up indoors, getting outside for a breath of refreshing cold air and stress-reducing exercise can have both physical and psychological benefits.

But cycling during the winter months can be dangerous. With fewer hours of daylight, lower visibility, icy road conditions, and a lack of dedicated bike lanes in cities throughout the province, winter cyclists put themselves at risk of serious injury every time they hit the pavement for a ride.

While some winter bike accidents may be out of the cyclist’s control, taking certain safety precautions might be able to help reduce the chances of a collision. Personal safety should be top of mind for all cyclists, regardless of the season. That means taking appropriate safety precautions even before mounting a bicycle. For instance, regardless of the season, in the province of Nova Scotia, all bicycles must be equipped with a bell or horn, a front light, and a rear reflector or light. If these lights are battery-operated, making sure that they’re fully charged before riding can help increase visibility while cycling.

Before setting out onto snowy roads, anyone thinking of cycling in the winter can perform maintenance on their bicycles to make sure they’re up to the challenge of tackling the weather conditions. Some cyclists may even decide to keep their regular summer bikes in the garage for the season, and use a wider-framed, more durable bike in the winter instead. During the cold, snowy months, installing a fender and a mudflap on the front and back end of a bicycle could provide better protection against salt or slush on the roads.

When cyclists know they’ll be riding their bicycles on slick, wet, or icy roads, slightly deflating the bike’s tires may provide them with more traction. Some cyclists may even choose to use studded tires during the winter months. Though not required by law, studded bicycle tires can help cyclists keep control of their bikes when traveling on roads that haven’t been cleared of snow or ice yet.

Cyclists should also make sure to test their brakes on snow or ice before taking their bicycles out into traffic. While bicycles with hydraulic drift brakes are best suited to winter conditions, the brake pivots on every bike should still be tested and oiled regularly. Routine maintenance and upkeep throughout the colder months can help keep bicycles in safe working order, and therefore, might decrease the likelihood of its rider being injured in an accident.

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What to Wear When Cycling in Winter

No matter the season, Nova Scotians are legally required to wear helmets when riding a bicycle. To combat the cold, cyclists can wear a toque underneath their helmets, but they may need to remove or adjust their helmet’s sizing pads to make sure it fits properly on top of their hats.

In addition to wearing proper headgear, it’s important for cyclists to increase their visibility. Even though a bike may be equipped with a front-light, reflectors or flashing rear lights, when visibility is low due to inclement weather, extra precautions may be necessary. Wearing brightly coloured clothing or reflective vests over a cyclist’s outerwear may increase their chances of being seen by other vehicle operators on the road.

When riding in snow storms, freezing rain, or high winds, cyclists may choose to wear eye protection, like winter cycling goggles. Cyclists might also choose to install “pogies” on their bicycles. These handlebar mitts attach directly to the bike itself, and can help keep a cyclist’s hands warm while maintaining control of their bike’s steering mechanism.

Riding a bicycle in difficult conditions can generate a substantial amount of body heat. To avoid overheating, cyclists may consider layering their clothing with synthetic fabrics underneath a breathable, waterproof outer layer. Wearing a light jacket during the cold winter months may sound counterintuitive, but doing so might lead to a more comfortable, and safer commute.

The Dangers of Winter Cycling

Anyone who routinely commutes on a bicycle can appreciate the importance of personal safety while sharing Nova Scotia roads with motor vehicles. At any time of year, cyclists could be at risk of being seriously injured in a collision. Without the protection of built-in safety features common in most passenger vehicles, bicycle riders are vulnerable to serious injuries as the result of collisions with other vehicles on the road.

Approximately 7,500 Canadians are seriously injured in a bicycle accident each year.

Some common injuries resulting from bicycle accidents include:

  • Broken or fractured bones
  • Abrasions, contusion, and lacerations
  • Back and neck injuries
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Paralysis
  • Concussions
  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • And more

In the winter months, low visibility and poor weather conditions might increase a cyclist’s likelihood of being injured in an accident with negligent drivers. Bicycle accidents in the winter months can impact the course of a victim’s entire life. In addition to potentially sustaining severe injuries, bicycle accident victims may incur substantial financial losses as a result of their accident. Injuries resulting from bicycle accidents may make it impossible for a victim to perform the duties of their jobs. If an accident victim is unable to earn a paycheck because of their inability to work, it could make a difficult recovery process even more stressful.

If you were injured in a bicycle accident caused by a negligent driver, a Nova Scotia bicycle accident injury lawyer may be able to help you recover financial compensation for costs you incurred as a result of your injuries.

Pursuing Damages for Bicycle Accident Injuries

There is no law prohibiting a person from riding their bicycle in the winter. No matter the season, all motor vehicle drivers have a duty to exercise care to everyone on the road, including cyclists.

If a driver’s negligent behaviour on the road caused an accident in which you sustained injuries, a Nova Scotia bicycle accident lawyer may be able to help you pursue compensation for both pecuniary and non-pecuniary damages.

Pecuniary damages refer to any costs accident victims may have directly incurred as a result of their injuries. By filing a lawsuit against the negligent driver who caused the bicycle accident, a lawyer may be able to recover the costs their client was forced to pay out of pocket because of their injuries. Some examples of pecuniary damages may include:

  • Medical expenses
  • Rehabilitation costs
  • Ongoing medical care/in-home care
  • Lost wages
  • Loss of future earning capacity
  • Adjusted living expenses
  • And possibly more

In the truly unfortunate cases where a bicycle accident ends in permanent, debilitating injuries, in addition to physical pain, accident victims may endure emotional trauma and a diminished quality of life. In these scenarios, a Nova Scotia lawyer may be able to help injured cyclists pursue non-pecuniary damages. Examples of these damages might include:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Mental anguish
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • And possibly more

Contact Preszler Injury Lawyers Today

If you were injured in a bicycle accident caused by another driver’s negligence, you may be eligible to recover financial compensation for damages you incurred. To discuss the circumstances of the accident and learn if you’re eligible to pursue damages, contact us today.

For a free, initial consultation, call Preszler Injury Lawyers at 902-405-8282.

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