Ahead of the clocks going back later this month, solicitors Irwin Mitchell, who often acts on behalf of cyclists injured in road traffic collisions, has teamed up with Cycling Time Trials (CTT) to give advice to people who will be commuting by bike in the dark for the first time.
The law firm says that research it has commissioned shows that in the wake of lockdown, cycling is now more popular than public transport as a means of commuting, with many turning to two wheels to avoid trains and buses.
Irwin Mitchell says its research suggests that many new cyclists want to continue riding but at the same time the firm points out that shorter daylight hours plus colder and generally more inclement weather may put many off – leading it to draw up hints and tips in partnership with CTT.
Peter Lorence, a senior personal injury solicitor at the firm and its spokesman on cycling, said: “Every year the arrival of dark nights heralds an increase of accidents on our roads and it’s important all of us, but particularly those new to cycling are aware of it.
“Sadly, we see the often life-changing results of accidents on the roads and we urge everyone to take that bit of extra time to be ready for the change in the weather and those darker mornings and nights.
“No matter what form of transport you use, it can be daunting to be on the road in the dark for the first time in months.
“It’s easy to be caught out by those first nights commuting home in the dark, particularly after a morning commute in daylight.
“Potholes easy to see in daylight are harder to spot at night and obstacles such as tram tracks can become more of a hazard.
“As we have a lot of people on bikes experiencing this for the first time this year, it is well worth making the effort to be prepared and take extra care as we all adjust to a darker commute,” he added.
Stewart Smith of CTT commented: “It’s always comes as a surprise how much of a change the dark nights make after months of daylight riding. Even familiar roads can look very different.
“Our advice holds true for most forms of transport, as no one wants to be making repairs or changing a tyre in the dark, cold and rain. However, for those new to cycling, the change can make you feel especially vulnerable.”
“Taking the time to get the basics right, by double checking junctions for traffic and taking account of it being harder to judge distance at night can make all the difference. With the right preparation and taking a few simple precautions, we can all continue to enjoy cycling in safety.”
Here are their hints and tips, all of which will be familiar to experienced cyclists, while providing sound advice for those commuting through the autumn and winter months for the first time.
Consider your route – having enjoyed the light of spring and summer, your familiar route can look very different in the dark and may no longer be suitable as the light fades, such as a canal path, due to being entirely unlit.
Be seen, be safe - make sure your bike lights are operating and fully charged and that you and your bike are visible.
Stay dry – the UK’s weather can be volatile, so ensure that you have waterproofs with you, ready for those sudden showers.
Keep warm – becoming cold can affect your concentration whilst riding, so ensure that you are wearing layers that you can adapt for the conditions.
Watch out for leaves – not only can they be slippery, but they may hide hazards such as drains and pot holes. Manhole covers and painted lines on the road can also become slick in damp and wet weather.
Judging speed and distance 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 – to ensure that everything is in full working order and to guard against making roadside repairs in the cold, dark and rain.
In the event of a mechanical, 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 that 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.
Carry a mobile phone and, if possible, inform someone of your route and expected ride time.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.