Fewer daylight hours during winter make it difficult to get your training done without spending time riding in the dark. Here are some safety precautions to consider.
Not quite dark
Often winter training rides start in darkness and go into the light, or start in the light and go into darkness, and it is worth bearing in mind that road accidents are common around dawn and dusk. To cut through the gloom of the half-light when motorists might not have their lights on, you need fluorescent or white garments to be seen, because even reflective strips need light bouncing off them to work.
Plan your route
Pay attention to your direction of travel, because you could be almost invisible to motorists who have the glare of the rising or setting sun in their eyes. Roads running diagonal or at right angles to the sun are certainly safer at these times. Also remember that quiet roads where it is pleasant to ride during the day may be too isolated to be safe at night.
See and be seen
If you are riding on a public road, the law requires a white light on the front of your bike and a red light on the rear, but that is the bare minimum.
A wide range of lights of varying brightness and efficiency are available and it is worth considering where you ride before you choose one. A light that is adequate in areas with street lighting might not be bright enough to allow you to see potholes or even a change in the road surface where there is no ambient light. While a single bright light on the front of your bike may help you to see in the dark, note that you might not be so visible to oncoming vehicles when there is a lot of traffic.
Often a flashing light is more effective at getting the attention of other road users. Flashing rear lights are common and if you can find a light that has a wrap-around feature so that vehicles approaching from the side can also see you, that is even better. A number of small flashing lights, on the front of your helmet, in your back pocket and perhaps on the stays of your bike also help to get the attention of other road users.
Turning or not
If you need to turn right, moving to the middle of the road requires extra care. If you are not sure that the vehicles behind have seen you, it is better to stop and wait for a break in the traffic before you turn. Even going straight where you have right of way can be dangerous. Proceed with caution if another vehicle is turning across the traffic.
Black is a popular for cold-weather gear, but it is not a safe colour to use in traffic. Look out for garments with reflective strips. Bear in mind that a reflective patch on a moving limb such as your ankle might be more effective than a bigger patch on your upper body, which doesn’t move.
Traffic isn’t the only hazard in the dark. You also need to watch out for uneven surfaces, pedestrians in dark clothing and other cyclists without lights.