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Commuting Bicycle commuting is easier than you think, before you know it, you'll be hooked. Learn the tips, hints, equipment, safety requirements for safely riding your bike to work.

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Old 08-03-09, 09:52 AM   #1
billyymc
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Winter Commuting and Safety

This might be more appropriate in the A&S forum, or in the Winter forum.

My commute is about 14 miles. The first three are on suburban 30 mph roads, the next 10 on a road that is mostly 55 mph with soem stretches of 45. There is a good shoulder (about 5 or 6 feet in most places), but I'm not sure how clear it is in the winter.

I can dress for the cold, but I'm not sure of what my level of safety will be if I decide to try winter commuting.

Any thoughts?
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Old 08-03-09, 10:00 AM   #2
woodway
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Where do you live? Will you be dealing with ice and snow?

Many of us commute all winter. If you can make a commute in the summer, you can make it in the winter (ice and snow excepted). The main things to be aware of:

1. Be ready for all kinds of weather, dress in layers carry extra layers with you.

2. Be visible. You'll need lights (front and rear), wear a safety vest, put reflective tape on your bike

3. Fenders!

4. Perseverance. You'll need a healthy does of it to commute in the winter if you live in a northern clime.

I actually feel somewhat more comfortable around cars when commuting in the dark because I am so much more visible than in the summer months...
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Old 08-03-09, 10:05 AM   #3
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In the winter I don't mind taking the lane on a 30 mph road if conditions on the right side of the road are bad. I'd be reluctant to do that where the speeds are 55 mph. So if it were me and the shoulders were really bad, I wouldn't ride on that road. I have studded tires so if it's just packed snow or icy patches then I can manage. If it's fresh snow that's more than a few inches deep, then probably not.
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Old 08-03-09, 11:16 AM   #4
billyymc
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Yes, snow and ice is a concern. I live in upstate NY near Binghamton.

I really don't think my commute could be done safely in the winter, unless there is no snow/ice on the road or the shoulder. Then it would be a matter of riding in the dark for 10 miles along a well travelled, 55 mph road. There are a couple sections where the shoulder is unrideable (narrows to a foot, with rough blacktop and a ditch), and as it is now I have to take the lane and pedal like crazy for a hundred yards or so to avoid a car coming over the hill too fast and not being able to slow.
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Old 08-03-09, 11:49 AM   #5
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I was going to say that if you have ice that studded tires are a requirement if you want to be safe, and to keep in mind that you need a decent pair (something that comes with carbide studs, not just steel) - but from your description above it doesn't sound like winter commuting would be very feasible at all unless you can find an alternate route.

Even in the summer, if you end up biking anywhere near dusk I would *highly* suggest a really good tail light like a Dinotte 200L. (It's expensive, but biking alongside 55mph traffic is actually the point at which you would *need* a light that bright)
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Old 08-03-09, 12:43 PM   #6
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Paul - yeah, I think an alternate route would probably be for the best. There are about four different ways I could get to work.

1 - (The one I ride): mostly flat, 55mph speed limit , great shoulder, and a few small hills

2 - The shortest: 8 or 9 miles, 55 mph speed limit, almost no shoulder and lots of curves, steep hills. This isnt' even a good option in the summer as far as I'm concerned.

3 - A bit longer than current ride, but even flatter. 55 mph. Very windy. Also not a great winter option.

4 - Longest of all. Not sure of exact mileage because it's country roads with various options. One stretch of 55 mph road that is hilly but less than 2 miles. Total ride is probably 18 miles one way. Some steep hills. Mostly 30 - 40 mph country roads. No shoulders on the country roads, and lots of twisties.

Well, I think I just talked myself out of winter commuting.

BTW, Paul, I am going to check out the Dinotte light. I have a couple typical blinkies - one on my bike, one on my back - but something brighter is probably a good idea for foggy mornings like today.
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Old 08-03-09, 12:52 PM   #7
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How many lanes is the fast moving road? Can vehicles change lanes in order to pass you, or is a two-lane road where they have to cross the centre line? If its a 2 lane road is it moderately heavy traffic, or light?

I would use a mirror (to monitor that fast moving traffic sees you and moves left early enough) and stay off the shoulder in the wintertime as its likely to have icy patches and you want to maintain a straight line. Use the shoulder if there are clear patches and backed up traffic behind you to be considerate and allow them to pass.
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Old 08-03-09, 01:50 PM   #8
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How many lanes is the fast moving road? Can vehicles change lanes in order to pass you, or is a two-lane road where they have to cross the centre line? If its a 2 lane road is it moderately heavy traffic, or light?

I would use a mirror (to monitor that fast moving traffic sees you and moves left early enough) and stay off the shoulder in the wintertime as its likely to have icy patches and you want to maintain a straight line. Use the shoulder if there are clear patches and backed up traffic behind you to be considerate and allow them to pass.

One lane in each direction. Couple of small hills and curves where taking the lane would be extremely dangerous because a car would come over or around so quickly there wouldn't be time to react.

I have no issues taking the lane on 30 or 40 mph roads. I don't really like to do it on 55 mph roads though, not even in the summer.
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Old 08-03-09, 04:21 PM   #9
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I ride 11 miles each way all winter in Michigan on 50 MPH 2-lane roads with no shoulder, however, the traffic is pretty low.

In my experience, you can't count on the shoulders to be clear for a few days after a snow storm, but after a while they will be. MOST days around here anyway winter riding is no different than summer, road width and traction wise; if I didn't have studs and only rode when the roads were clear, I'd still probably ride 4 days out of 5 during the winter.
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Old 08-04-09, 03:48 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by billyymc View Post
Paul - yeah, I think an alternate route would probably be for the best. There are about four different ways I could get to work.

1 - (The one I ride): mostly flat, 55mph speed limit , great shoulder, and a few small hills

2 - The shortest: 8 or 9 miles, 55 mph speed limit, almost no shoulder and lots of curves, steep hills. This isnt' even a good option in the summer as far as I'm concerned.

3 - A bit longer than current ride, but even flatter. 55 mph. Very windy. Also not a great winter option.

4 - Longest of all. Not sure of exact mileage because it's country roads with various options. One stretch of 55 mph road that is hilly but less than 2 miles. Total ride is probably 18 miles one way. Some steep hills. Mostly 30 - 40 mph country roads. No shoulders on the country roads, and lots of twisties.

Well, I think I just talked myself out of winter commuting.

BTW, Paul, I am going to check out the Dinotte light. I have a couple typical blinkies - one on my bike, one on my back - but something brighter is probably a good idea for foggy mornings like today.
Seems like your best bet would just be to wait until winter and see how much shoulder there is then.

And, like people have mentioned, a lot of time there's about 2-3 weeks that there's a lot of snow on the shoulder but the rest of the winter it's clear.
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