Thursday, 11 December 2008

Cold weather = Half a brain

The thing about cycle commuting in all weathers is that once you're out the door, you become instantly awake. At least that's how it is for me. The stimulus of piloting a two wheeled machine down the road and around various obstacles combined with the blast of icy fresh air gives me an instant wake up call. Unfortunately some motorists miss out on this benefit, their stiff tired bodies slumped in their frosty cars, driving off down the road half awake, peering through half defrosted windscreens. Today was a classic example of this.

You can probably tell from the mention of frost that December is still being wintery, which is what it should be. I was enjoying the ride out down the first couple of icy side roads. The radio this morning warned motorists not to leave their cars running unattended outside houses as thefts of cars is on the rise. I see people doing this most frosty mornings and today was no different. The enjoyment of the fresh air was
diminished somewhat as I passed through a fug of engine fumes in one street. No matter, pressing on, the commute was going well (apart from me catching one of the road signs in the clutter of the culvert works at Roe Lee -sorry guys).

I say well, it was until I was squeezed into the side of the road by a car. If we had a 'three foot' rule it would have been seriously broken as the clearance was only about a foot - slightly unnerving. Instead of braking and waiting until there was sufficient room, this driver made his split second decision to squeeze through the gap between me and the oncoming traffic. Motorists are in the main quite cautious around bikes and leave plenty of room. Not this guy. I caught the driver up at the next lights and tried to offer some polite advice through his closed windows. Hopefully he heard and he and his wife had a discussion about his driving
on the way to the shops.

Later, on Philips Road, I was on the roundabout when a driver failed to give way. He had clearly seen me riding round but didn't bother to stop. This was despite me having my Polaris II lights blinking away and it being reasonable daylight. What he was going to do I couldn't tell but the trajectory of his car and my bike would have had me on the front of his bonnet or under his front wheels. I slowed down and he decided I was in his way and also slowed down. Then we stared at each other passing a few words before continuing on our way. He could not see that he's failed to stop at a give-way. I was so incensed that I didn't have the wit to get my camera out and photograph his car pointing at me on the roundabout a good 10 feet from the give-way line. Maybe a caution from the police would modify his driving attitude for the future. This is the same roundabout that last week saw a number of shunts in the icy road conditions first thing in the morning, so keeping a bit more distance is extra important when the weather is like this but this guy was more intent on getting his son to school than worrying about the safety of
other road users.

These two examples illustrate why I think cold weather and dark mornings are a problem for some motorists. They begin their journeys in a less than prepared state. Cyclists beware because though hopefully
we will be fully alert, other road users might not be.


Maple Leaf Cyclery said...

The engine always starts, even when cool!

Just found your blog via Urban Xavier in Montreal..get your feelings about commuting in dark and cold..can be challenging, try to think of savings..

welshcyclist said...

Enjoyed reading your blog, but riding in icy conditions has left me injured, with a painful shoulder and swollen knee, plus a week of work. If I'd known the ice was there, I wouldn't have cycled. How do you cope with ice on the roads?

Psychalist said...

How do I cope? Usually fine, although I think my 2.5 mile urban dash is less of a weather challenge that your 3hr round trip. Interestingly a few days before your fall in Morrison's, I also had a tumble. The frost and ice were particularly bad that day and I had to cycle further out from the edge of the road because the road salt hadn't been effective where the cars hadn't driven. This made me feel even more vulnerable but I made it to work safely. When it's like that, I go a lot slower and try to keep vertical, which means for sharp bends very slowly indeed. It was our car park that got me. The 2 inch of slush from the day before had turned the flat tarmac into a corrugated ice rink and my tyres just wouldn't go across the ice ridges. I knew I was losing it so did a graceful roll onto my back, which must have looked hilarious for any onlooker. I was unhurt but my sandwich in my back pocket that I'd picked up minutes before from the local bakery was squashed flat. So was my banana!