This weekend the clocks go back - and that can mean only one thing to bikers: we’re about to do a lot more riding in the dark!
It’s also going to get slightly more dangerous; research by the RAC Foundation found that in the two weeks immediately after the end of British Summer Time, road crashes increase by over five per cent, and given the disproportionate number of bikers involved in traffic crash statistics, you can bet that a lot of that increase will be from the two-wheel community. When Enterprise Rent-a-Car conducted a similar survey, it thought the problem might be even worse, with crashes up 10 per cent in the weeks after the clocks go back.
The biggest problem is that for most of us, our journeys to and from work will now take place in either the gloom of dawn or dusk or, in a few weeks, the pitch black of night. A 5.30pm journey home in the twilight suddenly becomes a more treacherous journey home in the dark.
So what can you do to make sure you get home safely?
- Realise you’re harder to see
Other road users seem to find it hard to spot bikers when the light is at its best, so when it’s gloomy or dark we become practically invisible to them. Don’t let that happen to you. Make sure your headlights, tail lights and indicators are working well, with all bulbs working, and give the all the lenses a clean so your lights aren’t masked by road grime.
In addition, think about your kit. Is that jet-black jacket-and-biking-trousers combo really the best way to get you noticed in the dark? If you can, wear brighter colours with reflective panels that catch the headlights. If jet black is the only biking gear you possess, add hi-vis reflector strips to the arms, body and back – and to the helmet, too. You can buy a pack for less than a tenner – that’s got to be worth it, if it gives other road users an early warning of your presence.
- Slow down in darker months
Okay, we know that bikers shouldn’t be expected to do all the work in keeping ourselves safe, but keeping your speed low is one of the best ways to avoid serious injuries when other motorists make a mistake.
If cars and vans foul up at 20mph it can mean a messy insurance claim for them; if they take a biker down in the process, it could lead to a serious injury, or even take your life.
Expect them to make a mistake! We know it’s annoying to have to account for the stupidity and selfishness of others, but that’s smart riding, and it could save your life.
- Allowing extra time and planning your trip carefully will help to reduce risk. Take your time and cut your speed.
- The end of BST also officially tells us we’re heading for winter, so expect the roads to be wetter, icier and more slippery as a result. Watch your distance: braking distances are doubled on wet roads and ten times more on icy roads.
It will become windier too – so take particular care if overtaking high-sided vehicles, as the wind sheer when you pass them is sometimes enough to knock you off your path.
- Wrap up warm
Cold riders make mistakes, so keep yourself warm when in the hot seat. Multiple layers are best for keeping out the cold when on the road.
Finally, remember that safe riding is as much a state of mind as it is a manual skill. Make sure you stay alert to the actions of other motorists and keep scanning ahead for hazards.