As we enter into the darkest months of the year the AA is advising motorists to be on the lookout for vulnerable road users and for cyclists to make sure that they are properly lit. We have also asked for the view from the cyclist’s saddle, so please take a look at the advice from Dr. Mike McKillen of the Dublin Cycling Campaign & Cyclist.ie.
Road are dangerous. Lets put the phones away, treat all journeys with respect and spend the Winter looking out for each other so we all stay safe.
Regular commuters will have noticed the impact of the clocks going back last week, with more and more of us now commuting home in darkness. This change combined with the increasingly wet weather we see during winter presents a different set of challenges to all road users, whether they’re travelling by car, bike or foot. For motorists the most important message is to re-emphasise the importance of being on the lookout for vulnerable road users, allowing them adequate space, and adapting your driving to the conditions. For cyclists and pedestrians it’s hugely important to make sure you are visible to drivers by using front and rear bike lights if you’re cycling or hi-vis gear if walking.
Drivers need to make sure their windscreen, windows and mirrors are cleared before departing on any journey. You can’t see properly without them. Car glass should be kept clean and clear all the way around for 360 degree vision. The car should also be in good health – if you have put off having a service done then now is the time to do it before winter really takes hold.
For cyclists the same applies. Check that all essential parts like brakes and gears are working well and all is in good order. And for goodness sake have a strong set of working lights front and rear; it is crazy how often cyclists neglect this (If you’re unsure on the legal requirements when it comes to lights on your bike scroll down to read Dr. Mike McKillen’s explanation.).
On a wet winter’s evening in city traffic the car’s glass will be covered with beads of rain, all reflecting the lights of cars and streetlamps. On top of this mist and condensation will build up on the inside of your windows and moisture may also collect on your rear view mirrors leaving you with only the space your wipers can clear on your windshield to see out of. As a result, your peripheral vision is gone, and if there is an unlit cyclist on your inside it would be a miracle if you saw him.
For motorists the advice is simple, if you find yourself in this scenario slow down, leave extra space for cyclists where you can and expect the unexpected. For cyclists, it’s hugely important to ensure your lights are properly working and, while not legally required, hi-vis clothes can make it that bit easier for motorists to spot you. To be clear, drivers have the greater responsibility and rightly face stiffer penalties because the car is a lethal weapon. But cyclists also have a responsibility to obey the rules of the road.
Whether you’re driving or cycling, the AA is reminding road users that they are obliged to use the road “with reasonable consideration”. In particular, the motoring organisation is stressing the importance of avoiding the use of a mobile phone while on the roads. Incredibly there are people who can be seen every day trying to use their mobile while they drive or cycle, a dangerous practice which puts the safety of all other road users at risk.
AA’s top tips to road users this winter:
Be alert and never use mobile phones while driving or cycling (obviously)
Pedestrians should consider luminous, reflective clothing such as a hi-vis vest and fluorescent armbands which will make it easier for motorists to spot them when driving at night. While not legally required for cyclists they are worth considering as. along with proper lights, a hi-vis jacket will make you more visible on the road.
Whether you’re cycling or driving make sure your lights work, front and especially rear, and remember to switch them on.
For motorists, before setting out on any journey ensure that any rain, condensation or ice/frost which has collected on your wing mirrors and windshield which may obstruct your view has been removed. Clearing all mirrors and windows before you start your journey will make it easier for you to spot vulnerable road users.
When cycling, ensure that any scarves or garments are safely fastened so that they won’t obstruct vision or become caught in a wheel
Whether you’re driving, cycling or walking obey traffic lights – doing so might add a few minutes onto your journey but could help save your life or the life of other road users.
For cyclists, Dr. Mike McKillen of the Dublin Cycling Campaign and Cyclist.ie has the following advice.
Many cyclists don’t seem to realise that it is a legal requirement to have working front (white) and rear (red) lights along with reflectors front/back plus side ones on wheel spokes. Riders can now be fined on the spot (€40) for not having proper lights. A Garda member can even impound your bike and take it away until you come to the local station with a working lamp(s) to fit to it.
The lights must be fixed to the frame of the bike so please don’t use head-torch devices (Petzl) or lights clipped onto backpacks, hats or rain jackets.
There is a large range of lights available these days. Gone are the days of clunky devices powered by two D-cells and with bulbs that could blow on hitting the first pothole. Modern types emit intense light using LED type luminaires that can be operated in continuous- , flashing- or sequential-beam modes. Many are rechargeable by USB connection to your office computer so that there is no excuse for the battery going low on the way home!
Note that some lights are designed specifically for mountain-bikes for way-finding along forest trails. A word of caution: If you choose one of these high intensity devices you run the risk of blinding other road users. The last thing we need is more distracted-drivers or cyclists out there!
Your lights have to be turned on 30 min after sunset and off 30 min before sunrise (lighting-up time): For 30/10/17 sunset and sunrise times are 16:58 h and 07:20 h, respectively but these times vary with the advance of the season so check here
As with DRL for motor vehicles, there is a lot to be said for turning your lights on during dull wet days or in fog to make yourself more visible.
There is no legal requirement to wear a retro-reflective tabard or jacket.