Cycling in the winter months

Cycling in the winter months

It is dark, it is cold and it is wet. Your bed is comfy and the hot air blower and heated seats of your car are calling you in. It is winter in Manchester and the bike is going rusty in the shed.

But you know what, it doesn’t have to be like that. Winter can be an epic time for cycling. The crisp cool air as the early morning rays of sun dance on the frost and in the bare trees is a sight to behold. The endless blue skies of a clear January day tower above you to infinity (and beyond). There is something a little bit magical about cycling in the winter.

Photo courtesy @ciarantalbot

But it is important to be prepared. Yesterday’s defrosting efforts can quickly turn to black ice. A driver setting off with a half defrosted windscreen will have a much bigger blind spot than normal. Your fingers can go numb and make pulling your brakes more challenging in an emergency. Without the right layers and wind protection the cold can make the usually enjoyable ride to work a bit of a painful slog.

But there are a few things you can do, you can buy (or get on freecycle/gumtree) that will go a long way to keeping you safe and warm on the crisp cold winter mornings.

Be seen, be safe, be warm

Visibility doesn’t just mean looking like a Christmas tree, and even if you do look like the lighting department of IKEA you may still find yourself in danger. Below are some tips on how to keep yourself seen, safe and warm on your commute to work.

Be seen

Rule 60 of the Highway Code

“At night your cycle MUST have white front and red rear lights lit. It MUST also be fitted with a red rear reflector (and amber pedal reflectors, if manufactured after 1/10/85). White front reflectors and spoke reflectors will also help you to be seen.”

It goes without saying that a decent set of lights are an absolute must for riding in winter. You will see all sorts of combinations from handlebars to helmet mounted, disco strobe to blinding bright.

As a general rule of thumb it is a good idea to have at least one constant light on the front and back. Just a strobe light can be missed in the split second someone may look in your direction. This constant light can be supplemented by something that strobes or fades in and out to catch the attention of people who are potentially fixated on something else in your direction and miss you. USB chargeable is my preference now as they are more sustainable and quick to charge at my desk.

My own favourite is the Exposure TraceR as it has a setting which is constantly on and also pulses at the same time. This is a small but powerful option that clips to your handlebars with a rubber band and charges in around half an hour. It is plenty bright enough for city use.

I use the Fallowfield Loop on part of my commute and this has no ambient street lighting. For this I need a much more powerful light which is bright enough to light up the way for me to see the entire path. For this I have a Light and Motion Urban 800 which is plenty bright enough, USB chargeable and the battery lasts for several hours on low light which is perfectly fine for what I need.

I match this up with the absolutely incredible ProViz Switch jacket. High vis yellow side out for when the visibility is poor but improving. Reflective side out when it is dusk or worsening. Never the reflective side out during daylight though, I see people with the super reflective jackets on during the daytime and they match the road and the endless shades of grey car. I prefer to wear red or blue colours in the daytime.

https://www.instagram.com/provizsports/ @provizsports

I’ve also got some reflective spoke covers which create an incredible effect when my spinning wheel catches a headlight from side on, like a disk of light.

Don’t dazzle drivers

On every evening ride home through the city streets I will see a cyclist with a 2000 lumen monster light disco strobing straight into the eyes of everyone in a 200 metre radius. This is really unhelpful for everyone, including the person who is of the belief that because their light is super bright and pointing straight into everyone’s eyes that they will be seen and safe. Drivers are forced to look away from the road, their vision impeded badly by blinding lights. Other cyclists travelling in the opposite direction also need to avoid looking for oncoming traffic as the lights are too dazzling. This effect is particularly bad when travelling on unlit paths such as the Fallowfield loop where you simply need to look to the side to avoid being temporarily blinded.

The solution is quite simple and is exactly what cars do with their ‘dipped headlights’. Dip the focus of the beam onto the road in front of you so you can see the outline of the main beam on the road. The brightness of this is plenty for other road users to see you and you will not impede all other road users with your lights.

A colleague’s fantastic example of how this works in action from the UMBUG Facebook page

Be safe

Having the right lights and kit isn’t enough to be safe. Defensive riding is a necessity for safe commuting, especially in winter when driver visibility and road conditions are often quite poor.

Never ride in the gutter

Without doubt when you first start cycling it feels safer to ride closer to the curb and out of the way of the cars. However it isn’t necessarily the best place to be. If you look left and there is no room for you to move towards the curb safely out of the way of any danger to the roadside then you have no escape from a driver passing too closely. This part of the road is also where all of the little bits of broken glass, sharp stones and general road litter gathers and causes punctures.

If you are positioned to the left of a car driving in a straight line then it will continue in the same line and pass you, often way too closely. A good position is around the line that a car’s left wheels would normally be. At first this feels like it may be too far out and puts you right in the way of the vehicles behind, but what riding here does is make drivers consciously overtake you, as opposed to maintain a straight line that passes too close to you. Getting used to riding further out also keeps you out of the way of the car door zone.

Avoid the inside of cars at major junctions.

As you start to approach a set of traffic lights or major junction start to think about your position relative to the flow of cars. Is there a car to your immediate right that may want to turn left but may not know you are there? Is there a car speeding up behind you to overtake you quickly? This is often a sign of a car trying to quickly pass you before turning left right in front of you.

Try to be in a position where if a car turns left into your path you are happy you can brake to avoid them, or can move to the right and overtake them between cars. The same applies when filtering up the inside at traffic lights, keep an eye on the lights and when they change try to put yourself between cars where the car behind you can definitely see you and any cars ahead of you can turn safely.

Take the lane.

Taking the lane means putting your bike in a position where you cannot be overtaken by a car. Imagine you are approaching a junction and there is a left turn and a straight ahead lane, but the lanes aren’t wide enough for you and a car. Taking the lane would mean you look and indicate and safely put yourself in the middle of the lane so you don’t get squeezed onto the pavement by a car. You are entitled to do this and it is far safer than ending up in the gutter.

Be warm

The right kit

Cycling kit can be as expensive as you want it to be! Aldi and Decathlon are great places to start building up your supply of kit as you will find that there are several staple items you need for the winter months. Christmas and birthday lists do get a bit easier when you have all of this kit to replace though!

Layers

I have lost count of the amount of times I have reached the first traffic lights on my journey to work and I’m already ripping layers of clothing off. It is really important to avoid overheating and wearing multiple layers you can add and remove and stow away are the best way to achieve this.

The key bits of kit I have in my cupboard are:

  • Helmet
  • Ear warmers / skull cap / peaked cycling cap
  • High vis winter gloves
  • Base layers
  • Jersey (If you are feeling rich I absolutely wholeheartedly recommend you buy a Castelli Gabba jersey, they are a game changer)
  • Waterproof long trousers
  • Rubber overshoes – absolutely essential if it is raining on the way to work
  • High vis jacket – I love the Proviz Switch as it has a yellow side for dusk and a reflective side for dark

Finally…

A plan in case of emergency

I’m reasonably handy with bike maintenance and a puncture is something I can deal with at the side of the road most of the time. But it is important to know what you would do should you get a puncture on your way home. I actually keep a bike rack on the roof of my car so in a dire emergency when I’m miles from home in the rain my wife can load up the kids and come to the rescue. We had to do that once when I used up 3 inner tubes on one commute – but this is very rare!

Sometimes the tram is the best option
Photo courtesy @ciarantalbot

There are some basics that everyone should carry and learn how to use.

I carry in my bag at all times:

  • Tyre levers
  • 2 spare inner tubes – I repair the punctured inner tube in the warmth of my house in the evening
  • Gas canister inflator (a pump works fine but the canisters are faster)
  • Multi tool
  • Phone
  • A bank card for the train

If you get really stuck you could also try a mobile bicycle repair company such as revolvemcr.com while you take shelter in a pub or café or other suitable safe place.

Written by: Matthew Coupe (UMBUG Projects Team)

Further reading:

TfGM have a great website full of tips here: https://tfgm.com/cycling/safety

British Cycling have a video on correct road positioning here: https://www.britishcycling.org.uk/knowledge/skills/commuting-leisure/article/izn20170317-Commuting—Leisure-Correct-Road-Positioning—Commute-Smart-0

British Cycling have a vault of videos on bike maintenance including changing an inner tube here: https://www.britishcycling.org.uk/knowledge/bike-kit/maintenance

Rainbow Ride 2019

Rainbow Ride 2019

The cyclist breakfast on the 6th of February was at Manchester Children’s Hospital, and, as February is LGBT History Month, it was the Rainbow Ride. Rainbow laces, ribbons and badges were given out, as well as information relating to LGBT History Month events in Manchester, and the University of Manchester Equality, Diversity and Inclusion calendars.

Sign our petition on covered cycle parking spaces

Sign our petition on covered cycle parking spaces

We have some great cycling facilities at the University campus, including schemes to make bike purchasing easier, swipe card-protected covered parking, repair stands and regular events aimed at increasing the number of regular cyclists. So successful have these incentives been, that now 11% of staff regularly cycle to work1; that’s about 1,100 people. This is great news, until you realise that there are only 1,031 covered bike spaces to park in – a third of which are shared with the students, who also cycle in large numbers. That’s a lot of people competing for not many spaces to keep their bikes from rusting in the Manchester rain. Contrast this to the situation with car parking provision, and we find that, although only 2,604 staff regularly drive1, there are 3,124 car parking spaces on campus2!

Some very dedicated people have been collecting data on cycle shelter usage3, and regularly find that in peak times they are filled to capacity (and beyond, you often see extra bikes jammed into unlikely spaces in desperation). It’s impossible to say what effect this might be having on the uptake of cycling – who wants to make the change to a regular cycle commute if the chances are that their beloved bike will be exposed to the elements all day? It’s also a pretty regular sight to see cyclists taking their bikes into buildings, much to the exasperation of cleaners, fire safety officers and anyone who trips over it in the office.

All of which sounds like a big moan, and the intention is not to say that there is some zero-sum game with cycle and car parking provision, but to underline that the disconnect between the relative provision for each travel mode seems out of kilter with the University’s sustainable travel goals, one of which is to reach 25% of staff regularly engaging in ‘active travel’ by 20224. So we’re starting a petition to ask the University to invest in more covered bike stands. It can be accessed here (University login required). Please read it and submit your agreement to the statement, we aim to take it to the University this summer.

Petition link: https://apps.mhs.manchester.ac.uk/surveys//TakeSurvey.aspx?SurveyID=82KH4646H

UMBUG

1Staff survey 2017

2UoM Estates car parking website, 2018

3Data gathered by UMBUG shelter guardians Jan 2015 – Nov 2016

4UoM Living Campus Plan, Environmental Sustainability

UoM Bike Maintenance Stands

How to use the on-campus bicycle repair stands

There are a 4 repair stands located across campus so you can repair a puncture and more on your bike. Find out how to use them here:

1. Locate your nearest stand using the interactive map.
We are using the stand located near the Renold Building on North Campus for this demonstration.

 

 

2. Hang your bicycle safely on the stand by putting the seat post between the posts ensuring your saddle rests on top as shown in the pictures. You may need to adjust or remove any bicycle lights, saddle bags or reflectors to do this. This safely holds your bike and frees up your hands for the next steps.

3. Select the tools you need for your job. Each repair stand has a comprehensive range of tools including spanners (various sizes), allen keys (various sizes), tyre levers, chain tool, screw drivers, adjustable spanner and pliers.

4. When you are done carefully lift your bicycle off the stand. Then ride away on your newly repaired bicycle!

5. If you notice there is a problem with the repair stand you can report this by emailing es@manchester.ac.uk .

Do you have tips or comments to share on using the repair stands? Join our Facebook discussion.

 

Autumn is coming. It’s time to keep your bike on the road…

Autumn on campus

Join in the conversation on UMBUG Facebook with your tips and advice.

After what has been a hot and intense summer, autumn is back with a change  in the weather and dark nights. Some cyclists will be putting their bikes away, waiting again for the light nights and sunny days of spring.

Autumn and winter cycling can seem daunting, the traffic sounds louder when the roads are wet, the dark might seem more dangerous and more people take to their cars for the school run, to pop to the shops or just to avoid the walk to the station.However, more traffic means that it is often moving more slowly so it’s actually a great time to be on your bike!

There are a few things you’ll need to consider if you decide to keep up that fitness (and allow yourself some extra calories at Christmas for an extra three and a half months of cycling!!):

Prepare

Check the weather forecast the night before and get all your kit together so you’re not dashing around in the morning trying to find your waterproofs or lights.

It’s also worth keeping a spare set of clothes in your office if you can, just in case you get caught in unexpected rain.

Bike

More regular cleaning is important, especially the chain and drivetrain components as the muck you pick up will act to wear the cassette and chainrings.

Check your tyres are properly inflated. This helps stop mud, which can conceal all sorts of sharp nasties, being picked up and sticking to your tyres.

Carry a spare tube – it’s much quicker than a repair kit or a long walk in the rain.

You should think about mudguards, if appropriate,to protect yourself and other road users from spray.

Clothing

You might want to invest in a decent waterproof jacket if you’re riding at night something highly reflective is good. Decent jackets can be expensive but staff can buy safety equipment (like lights, jackets, helmets) through the Cycle to Work scheme, with a saving on tax.

Waterproof trousers and rucksack covers can also prove useful. I tend to wear cheap cotton combat trousers as they have a lot of pockets and dry quickly. I personally use walking gaiters to keep my trousers out of my chain and they help keep my shoes and trousers dry from the spray off the road.

A thin balaclava or hat to keep your ears warm and gloves that are wind chill and rain resistant are good for frosty mornings.

Visibility

Lights – it’s the law! I strongly recommend USB chargeable ones as you can charge them up while you’re working and you can get some relatively inexpensive ones. The quality does vary though, so read the reviews.

Keep your lights clean.

If you’re going to go off road or on roads with little or no street lighting, you’ll probably also want to consider an extra bright front light (300-400 lumens on more) that shows up obstacles.

High visibility clothing will also help drivers spot you.

The environment

When riding in the autumn, fallen leaves can be a problem, as they tend to aggregate at the sides of the road where you want to cycle. When wet they are slippery and when dry they can hide potholes and nails, so it’s a good idea to keep away from the kerb.

Frosty mornings are not too bad, just be careful on quieter roads as they may not have been gritted and can be slippery.

You could also consider cycling into work and getting the train home if there’s a convenient one near your home.

Autumn cycling isn’t that different to the summer – apart from the fact you don’t sweat as much if you’re dressed prope

I’m relatively new to cycling; I got a Cyclescheme bike 4 years ago and for the first two years stopped cycling when the clocks changed. A couple of years ago though I decided I wanted to keep going through the winter because getting motivated to start again in spring was hard work! I got a Cyclescheme accessories-only package and haven’t looked back since.

By Dr Andrew Thomas, School of Materials and Photon Science Institute

Brunswick Park Development

 

Brunswick Street continues to be transformed into a new landscaped, pedestrianised and cycle friendly space, Brunswick Park, that complements TfGM’s Oxford Road Bus Priority scheme, encouraging public transport and cycle use.

Whilst completion is planned for May 2018, the start of the new academic year in September presents the University with a number of safety challenges to ensure that access is maintained to surrounding buildings for large numbers of returning staff and students. The access routes through and around the periphery of the park are currently constrained by the construction works, and therefore make it very difficult for cyclists and pedestrians to share the same space.

As a consequence, the Directorate of Estates and Facilities are actively discouraging cyclists to cycle through and around the periphery of Brunswick Park. ‘Cyclists Dismount’ signage will be placed at strategic access points to the park area, and cyclists are encouraged to walk their bikes to a cycle parking location, or shelter, close to the building that is their destination. To help matters further, they ask that cyclists do not use Brunswick Park as a through route to other locations on campus. Building and wayfinding signage will be erected around the park to help pedestrians/cyclists reach their destination.

The Directorate of Estates and Facilities are therefore seeking the patience and co-operation of the University’s cycling fraternity, to bear with them, for what will be a challenging start to the academic year.

During the course of the next few months, the contractor will be handing back to the University sections of the completed park, as progress is made towards completion, which should gradually relieve some of the pressure on space for pedestrians/cyclists to safely move around and between buildings in this locality.

We reproduce this press release without comment!

MANCHESTER CYCLING FESTIVAL BEGINS WITH NUDE BIKE RIDE

Hundreds of people are set to take to the streets of Manchester for a fortnight of free cycling events including the now infamous World Naked Bike Ride.

On Friday 9th June more than 200 brave cycling enthusiasts are expected to gather in Manchester for the incredible ‘bare as you dare’ ride. Ride organiser Andrew Fisher says “It’s all about getting cyclists to be more visible on roads. Drivers say they don’t see you, we’re saying cyclists need to be seen to get their fair share of the road.” Similar events take place in cities across the world and aim to highlight the vulnerability of cyclists.

The nude ride marks the beginning of North West Velo Fest 2017. This popular, free festival is now in its 6th year and despite appearances isn’t only for the naked or lycra-clad crowd. Festival organiser Joe Hulme says “There’s something for everyone, obviously the naked bike ride is the one everyone notices, who couldn’t? But it’s not all about getting your kit off. There are lots of other less scary opportunities to feel the wind through your hair in new places.”

The festival runs for two weeks from Friday 9th to Saturday 24th June. Events include a free bike tour of Manchester’s musical history, a street party, led countryside rides and races with cash prizes. The full lineup is available at http://www.nwvelofest.com.

Cycling UK BUG membership

The University has renewed it’s Bicycle User Group membership with Cycling UK. The group affiliation means that individuals can affiliate too and enjoy all the benefits available at a discounted price of £24 per person for annual membership.

If you are interested, contact umbug@manchester.ac.uk for the club code and enter it in the box at the bottom of the page when you join via https://shop.cyclinguk.org/membership/affiliate-membership-myself.

 

Saddle up for European Cycling Challenge in May

We are supporting the 2017 European Cycle Challenge and need your help to get on the leader boards.

The European Cycling Challenge is an urban cycling competition taking place between 1 May and 31 May 2017. In 2016, 52 cities from 17 countries joined the challenge, and 46,000 people cycled 4,000,000km during the event. The city that cycles the longest total distance wins.
This year Greater Manchester is taking part for the first time, and the entry will be led and promoted by Transport for Greater Manchester.

Anyone can join in, it’s easy to take part and you don’t have to be a cycling enthusiast. Any cycling you do counts towards the challenge, only competitive sporting events and static bike miles aren’t included.

How to join in:

  • Download Naviki in the app store on your smartphone or follow these instructions to participate without a smartphone
  • Register and sign in.
  • Go to ‘Settings’ on the home page
  • Go to ‘Contests’ and then ‘ECC2017’
  • Select ‘Greater Manchester’ as your team
  • Select ‘The University of Manchester‘ as your sub team

That’s it – you’re all ready to go on 1 May.

Prizes
There will be spot prizes to be won throughout the challenge direct from the ECC, including shopping vouchers of £150, £75 and £50 every week. To qualify for the weekly raffle you just have to have registered and logged a minimum of 10km to be entered.

We will have a small prize for the University member who tops our leaderboard too!

LGBT History Month

We helped kick off LGBT History Month in collaboration with All-Out, the LGBT staff network group, by wearing go-faster rainbow shoelaces and ribbons to the cyclist breakfast on 1st Feb.  Thanks everyone who took part!