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Safety Issues Regarding The Beginning Of The Chicago Bicycling Season

In the months of March, April, and May, often (depending upon the weather) more people will become active in bicycling in Lake County.

There are many factors that bicyclists should consider, especially in the early part of the bicycling season.  Most riders have not been active bicyclists for a number of months.

“Safe bicycling,” especially if it is done in traffic, depends on a number of factors that can vary significantly at any given time.  Here are a few general factors that bicyclists should consider with regard to early-season riding:

  • There may be road salt and gravel (from snowplowing) still on roads and streets.  If salt and gravel is still present on pavement, this can significantly impact stopping distances during braking, especially for those who are bicycling at higher speeds.
  • Roads and streets likely have new or worsened potholes and other road deformities that have developed over the winter.  As such, bicyclists who haven’t been active throughout the winter may not be aware of these newly-formed road deformities.  Often, these potholes and other road deformities may not be (fully) fixed until later in the spring, or perhaps the summer.  As such, bicyclists should be vigilant for these potential road hazards.
  • For the first ride of the season, bicyclists may want to be extra careful, as they may have to somewhat re-familiarize themselves with regard to bike handling and riding especially if the bicycling is done in traffic.
  • Be sure that the bicycle is in proper working order and has been properly maintained.  Since the bicycle likely has been sitting for a number of months , it is important to make sure that the bicycle is in proper working order.
  • Bicyclist awareness:  In the early bicycle season, motorists may not be fully aware of bicyclists, as bicyclists haven’t been active in traffic for a number of months.  Research (as discussed in the February 26, 2014 post titled “Motorist Awareness Of Bicyclists“) indicates that awareness of bicyclists often depends on the frequency of bicyclists on roads.   While it is unknown as to whether the Chicago bicycling “off-season” contributes to motorists’ lack of awareness of cyclists, it would appear as if extra caution in the early riding season would be warranted for this reason.

Of course, other general bicycling safety tips should also be considered, such as wearing bicycle helmets.  The importance of bicycle helmets with regard to preventing head injuries is discussed in the July 12, 2014 post titled “Bicycling Helmets And Their Importance Regarding Head Injuries.”


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