Here are a few winter riding tips from the Portland Office of Transportation, a place where they know a thing or two about wet road conditions.
Stay Dry and Warm
You don’t need the latest and greatest cycling gear to get around town by bicycle. A decent rain jacket and pants are your best defense. They both cut down on wind and keep you dry. If you can afford it, GoreTex or other breathable fabric will keep the rain out and keep you from feeling clammy. Fenders are also a very good investment — they keep your clothes from getting gritty and dirty. Nice extras include waterproof gloves, a snug hood or cap, a synthetic layer next to your skin to wick away moisture, and rain booties to go over your shoes.
Use Front and Rear Bicycle Lights
Lights are required by law when riding after dark. A white light visible at least 500 feet to the front, and a red light or reflector visible at least 600 feet to the rear. These lights allow other people to see you from the back, front and side. For more visibility at night wear bright clothing, an orange vest, or use reflective tape. The more reflectors whether blinking, flashing or solid, the better.
Brake Early and Often
Allow plenty of stopping distance. Gently squeeze your brakes in the rain to clear the water from you brake pads before you need to stop.
Avoid Some Painted and Steel Road Surfaces and Leaves
Steel plates, sewer covers, grates and other metal can be very slick in the rain. For paint, Portland City crews use non-slick paint and plastics for bike lanes and bicycle markings (and those blue bike lanes); however, crosswalks and other painted surfaces can be slippery. Avoid using your brakes or turning on these painted surfaces and on leaves and oily spots.
Stay Out of the Puddles
While it is tempting to splash through puddles especially if you have really good rain gear, a puddle can disguise a very deep pothole.
Slow Down on Newly Wet Roads
That first rain brings all the oil on the road to the surface making for a slippery ride. This is especially true after a long dry spell. Give yourself longer stopping distances and keep a firmer grip on your handlebars.
Probably the question we’re most frequently asked by our non-bicycling friends and colleagues is, “Why do you ride bicycles for transportation?”
Underpinning everything we do here at EcoVelo is the desire to reduce our dependence on the automobile while encouraging others to do the same. We strongly believe reducing automobile use can improve our neighborhoods, our cities, and ultimately, the world. While this is reason enough to leave our car in the garage, truth be told, there are other, more personal (selfish?) reasons why we ride bikes, including:
- the feeling of well-being that comes with physical activity in the out-of-doors;
- the tangible health benefits that come from daily exercise;
- the surprising amount of money that can be saved by eliminating an automobile;
- the greater connection with our community that comes from being out and exposed to our neighbors;
- the increased appreciation of nature that comes from daily exposure to the elements; and perhaps most importantly for us,
- the sheer joy of sharing the experience with friends and family.
Taken together, these benefits make a compelling case for transportational bicycling, and on a personal level, they make bicycle riding an extremely important part of our daily lives!
—Alan & Michael
The dark has really been coming on lately. I know people who essentially park their bikes over the winter, even in the relatively mild climate we have here in Northern California. Around here, I think it’s a general unease with riding in the dark, more than the cold and wet, that causes some people to put their bikes on a hook until spring. The thing is, riding in the dark can be exhilarating (it’s one of my favorites, second only to cruising on a cool spring morning), and with a good set of lights, it’s at least as safe as riding during the day where we blend in more with our surroundings and share the road with many more motorists. I’d highly encourage anyone who hasn’t tried night riding to pick up some lights and give it a try; it truly is a blast.
Here are a few of our articles on bike lights:
Enjoy your weekend!
In the northern hemisphere the autumnal equinox occurs at 9:04 a.m. UTC today. An equinox occurs twice a year, when the tilt of the Earth’s axis is inclined neither away from, nor towards the Sun. I always look forward to this date because it marks the change of seasons and the impending arrival of the cool breezes and lovely colors of fall. It also means it’s time to start playing with bike lights again, which happens to be one of my favorite fall/winter pastimes.
Transportation planners talk about something they call “the last mile problem”; the challenge of bridging the gap between a public transit stop and a person’s final destination. Typical solutions include walking, bicycling, and so-called Park-n-Ride lots. Walking is an option for able-bodied individuals, though time and distance can be major drawbacks. For obvious reasons, the Park-n-Ride solution is popular, though it presents a number of issues including neighborhood traffic congestion and limited flexibility. Bicycling combines efficiency with flexibility while solving the congestion problem; arguably, this makes it the best “last mile” solution.
Folding bikes are the perfect solution for a different, less-common type of last mile problem. Let’s say a car-lite or car-free person needs to travel to an area that’s not served by transit and is left to drive there. And let’s imagine they have to stay in that location for a few days but they were unable to bring a full-sized bike due to storage issues or lack of a bike rack on a rental car. Typically, a person would have no choice but to use the car more than they’d like. But, with the addition of a tiny folding bike, they can park the car once they’ve made their long trip, and then use the folding bike for getting around the area during their stay. This often overlooked use for a folding bike saves gas, cuts down on emissions, and provides some exercise while on a motorized road trip.