Cycling in winter requires more than wearing extra thick and warm attire. It requires an extra amount of vigilance when you’re out on the road in order to keep safe.
Evenings start earlier and day breaks later than the summer months, extending your riding time in the dark. For this reason, it is vital that you increase your visibility to all other road users – motorists, runners, pedestrians and fellow cyclists.
Cycling with a good, high quality headlight and taillight is non-negotiable, it is the law (NRTA/Reg. 1999 / Chapt. VI / Part II – Equipment on or in respect of vehicles). Having these critical items is one thing, but ensure that the batteries are fresh or that the device is charged before embarking on your ride is equally important. Visible clothing, even light and bright colours, would benefit largely by reflective strips or piping across the garment.
The National Road Traffic Act (NRTA) stipulates that two lights are required (as per the stipulated act reference above), with the red light to be mounted on the rear of your bicycle, and the white light on the front end. This keeps in line with the regulations of motor vehicles where the orientation of the vehicle can be determined from a distance i.e.: whether the bicycle is oncoming or moving in the same direction as the vehicle.
Visibility wise, the lights need to be seen from 150m away (NRTA/Reg. 1999 / Chapt. VI / Part II – 158 – Visibility distance of light). This does not mean that the length of the beam must shine 150m, but rather that other road users should be able to spot the cyclist from at least 150m away.
Positioning of lights also carries importance – (NRTA/Reg. 1999 / Chapt. VI / Part II – 161 – Dipped beam) the headlight must not strike the ground more than 45m ahead, and must not shine its beam upwards as it will blind oncoming traffic. Technically, the NRTA prohibits cycling with a powerful strobe (flashing) headlight (NRTA/Reg. 1999 / Chapt. VI / Part II – 160 – Main Beam) despite it making the cyclist more visible. The headlight should be a solid beam.
Not limited to winter riding but a good habit for cyclists to exercise is making eye contact with drivers. Refrain from putting your head down and cycling as if no one else is on the road. Make clear eye contact with the driver of the vehicle to assist in ensuring that you have been seen.
It is good practice to keep at least a taillight fitted to your bicycle at all times, even for an off road outride, where the need for a light might appear to be unnecessary. Mechanicals and unforeseen incidents do occur at times, which result in extending one’s ride time considerably. It could result in getting home in the dark, and at least a rear light will assist you in being visible at the end of a long and challenging day.
Riding on regular routes so that you are aware of the route and its dangers and nuances and so that other road users are aware or cyclists making regular use of familiar routes is particularly advised during winter times.
Exercise safety on the roads at all times, especially during winter.
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