The leaves are falling, the sun is setting earlier, it's a bit cooler out as we head into autumn. On TreeHugger we have written many posts about riding your bike all winter, but author and cycling evangelist Yvonne Bambrick offers up 14 Tips for Safe and Comfortable Cycling Through the Fall that make a lot of sense. A few of them caught my eye.
Check your tire pressure. Of course, I never thought of this but pressure varies according to temperature and those tires are in contact with cold asphalt.
Shorter daylight hours and grey, rainy weather mean you should have your lights at full strength. In summer I am rarely caught out in the dark but in fall, particularly after the time changes, it happens often. Yvonne also reminds us that if you are driving west at sundown, the sun is in everyone's eyes and it can be very hard to see.
I would add that you should be really careful on the few days after November 1st when the clocks roll back. Studies have shown a significant increase in the number of accidents immediately after the change, because people are tired and they are not used to the conditions. According to the CBC:
[A] study, by two researchers at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh in 2007, found that daylight time has a significant impact on the number of pedestrians killed by vehicles in the immediate aftermath of the time switch in the fall. People walking during rush hour in the first few weeks after the clocks fall back in the autumn were more than three times as likely to be fatally struck by cars than before the change.
Then there is the weather. Getting caught in a light rain in August can almost be pleasant, but it's no fun in October. Yvonne advises keeping a scarf, hat and gloves for protection, but also "a rain poncho and waterproof pannier are totally worth the investment." I keep my hiking rain suit in my pannier all through the fall. Unfortunately it is black; if you are buying one, get it in a bright colour. Yvonne warns us:
Rainy windshields combined with earlier darkness make bicyclists and pedestrians even harder to see. Wearing lighter-coloured clothing, a reflective safety vest, sash or clothing, and always using lights will keep you visible.
Yvonne also reminds that leaves are slippery when wet, and you don't know what's under them. She suggests that you avoid them when possible, which is hard when you are sharing the road with cars, or when the City and homeowners decide that the bike lane is a great place to store them. So slow down, and be really careful when turning.
I used to be really blasé about this stuff, complaining that cyclists shouldn't have to be lit up like a Christmas tree. I must confess that I have become much more careful over the years, getting really bright lights front and back and even wearing a yellow vest. I have had just too many close calls. Yvonne is one of the most level-headed bike activists out there so read all of her 14 points, and her terrific book which I reviewed here.