Sometimes even the most committed bicyclist commuters consider the sight of snow a good enough excuse to find an alternative means to travel. But there are many reasons cyclists find to keep pedaling. Some have noted that keeping up on their daily treks despite the cold overall keeps their immune system virile, their bodies overall healthier. It also remains for many the fastest way to their destination. Whereas a bus or the T might take 45 minutes to travel, a cyclist can often make it in half the time. As Boston bicycle attorneys know, in cities like this where cycling is increasingly common, you’ll notice those bike lanes stay busy, with riders layering up their clothing and some fattening up (their bike tires that is). Staying safe though can be another matter.
An estimated 40,000 bicycle trips were made in Boston every day, according to official counts in 2017. Cycling slips off a bit in the winter, but the reality is biking infrastructure isn’t appreciably worse in the winter versus the summer. The only thing especially perilous about riding in the colder months is the same thing that is dangerous about cycling in Boston every other day: How other road users behave toward you. Primarily, that means careless or inattentive drivers, though pedestrians and other cyclists sometimes pose a risk also.
Of course, that doesn’t mean it’s wise to head out into a blizzard or ice storm or when the snow becomes virtually impassible. Not only are you more likely to get stuck, motorists are going to have a tougher time seeing you than they do normally. Even if you’re wearing all kinds of reflecting and contrasting gear, drivers may have difficulty slowing or stopping in time to prevent Boston bicycle accident by the time they do see you.
In general, winter weather bike riding in Boston requires bicyclists to be cautious and alert, dress appropriately and to maximize visibility, ride slowly and be especially careful on roadways and at intersections already known for their danger.
Hazardous Boston Bike Intersections Especially Dangerous in Winter
Boston.com recently reported the two highest bicycle crash corridors in Boston are Mass Ave. (the northern stretch) and Comm. Ave. These intersections are tight and traffic patterns complex, with a heavy concentration of drivers, buses, trucks, pedestrians, school groups and bicyclists all trying to safely navigate the area. The city has begun improvement projects along these roads, but they remain incredibly hazardous for regular cycling commuters.
Just last month, a 24-year-old Boston University graduate student was struck and killed by a dump truck, right in front of the entrance to the Museum of Science, located on the Boston-Cambridge line. He was the 17th to die in Boston and Cambridge since 2011. Boston bicycle accident attorneys at BikeAttorney.com have noted many riders feel so unsafe near that intersection, they simply keep to the sidewalk or else avoid that intersection altogether if they can. This is especially true considering city authorities’ primarily solution involved painting lines on the roads – especially ineffective in winter when a dusting of snow can render painted lines invisible.
Boston city officials have said a number of improvement projects are on the horizon that aim for better-protected bike lanes, such as those that will be physically separated from motor vehicle traffic in the busiest areas. However, the city has missed several projected timelines for important bike safety improvement projects. A comprehensive bike program launched under Mayor Menino in 2008 promised nearly 200 miles of bike lanes by 2018. The GoBoston 2030 Mobility Plan released last year revealed those plans are still in the works, but only about half of those lanes had been completed.
Other Winter Cycling Hazards to Watch
Some riders say they might cycle less for recreation and fun or make fewer stops during inclement weather, but they nonetheless don’t let it stop them from getting out on two wheels. However, it’s a good idea if you’ve never biked in bad weather before to test it once or twice for leisure before committing to a commute.
Dooring may also be an out-sized risk in winter too. As noted in Mass. Gen. Law Ch. 90 Section 14, this is when a person leaves a vehicle door open while parked or idling (usually in or near the bicycle lane), interfering with the movement of other traffic, including bicyclists and pedestrians. In colder weather, folks are less likely to take the extra time to park and walk even a short distance, instead pulling right up to the front doors of their destination to load or unload passengers and goods. Even under the best of weather conditions, dooring accounts for 40 percent of all bicycle accident injuries where the vehicle driver is deemed at-fault. In winter, these percentages increase.
When you are out in the cold, it is understandable you may want to go as fast as you can to get to your destination (and out of the cold) as soon as possible. However, Boston bike attorneys generally advise against it (both as lawyers and long-time cyclists ourselves) because the risk is you’ll be encountering slick conditions, potholes, shrinking shoulders (thanks to piles of snow) and drivers around you who have less control. Unpredictable drivers are dangerous drivers. By going a bit slower, you make the ride less stressful and give yourself – and motorists – more time to react if need be. Anticipate requiring more time to brake.
Be mindful of the fact winter days are shorter on daylight. Darker mornings and evenings can pose numerous risks to cyclists. Low visibility means riders must – more than usual – prioritize their own visibility with reflective gear and lights. Remember too that winter can muffle sounds because snow banks absorb noise – especially true if you’re wearing earmuffs. That means you as the cyclist really must be an active looker; make sure you are seeing as well as being seen. Bring an extra tire pump too, as the risk of a puncture may increase. Clean and oil your bike regularly to avoid rust, and check daily for potentially hazardous wear and tear.
If you or someone you love has been injured in a Boston bicycle accident (we prefer the term “bike crash”), call for a free and confidential appointment at 617-777-7777.
Your Guide to Winter Cycling, Promote Winter Cycling in Your Region, December 2016, EnviroCenter, Government of Ontario
More Blog Entries:
Boston Bike Share Wars: Should We Get Attached to Dockless Bikes, Oct. 8, 2018, Boston Bike Attorney Blog