Why ride a bicycle on New York City streets in the slushy aftermath of a blizzard? For starters, it feels great to get outdoors after hunkering down during the storm. Fewer riders mean the bike lanes (those unblocked by snow, at least) are relatively empty. Finally, cycling is an efficient way to travel around town as the city digs out. Here are eight quick tips to help you stay warm, dry and safe:

  • There will be cold, wet spew. These days, many city bikes come equipped with fenders to help protect against the spray of water, salt and grime in sloppy weather. If you’re interested in buying fenders — full, clip-on or flipper — seek advice from your local bike shop. Size and width of your tires and other features such as brake type are necessary considerations in fender selection.
  • You’re going to get dirty, even with fenders. If you’re commuting to work, you may want to pack an extra pair of trousers and shoes in a plastic bag. Covering up with waterproof pants is another option. (Fisherman’s bib overalls were the choice of one rider whom I observed on Fifth Avenue.)
  • Keep your feet warm and dry with insulated, waterproof boots, and tuck in your pants.
  • Slow down. With road surface conditions throughout the day ranging from wet to slushy to snow-pack to black ice, exercise extra caution to help prevent a wipe-out.
  • The road narrows. Snow accumulation, plows and trucks catching up on deliveries may block the bike lanes, as shown on Second Avenue above. This means you may need to signal to motor vehicles and “own” the adjacent traffic lane more frequently than usual. Under these circumstances, good visibility is crucial, especially as dusk falls. Don’t forget your lights!
  • As always, actively scan ahead to anticipate the actions of cars, pedestrians and other cyclists and to give yourself time to plan your own moves. But also keep a close eye on the road right in front of you; metal or painted surfaces may become especially slippery and snow may hide debris. In the Sixth Avenue bike lane, for example, splintered wooden boards were almost perfectly camouflaged by a few inches of slush.
  • Expect the unexpected. On Prince Street, I got showered with the output from sudden ignition of a sidewalk snow-blower.
  • Wipe down your bike with a damp rag after your ride. If allowed to accumulate, road salt and grime can take a toll on your bicycle components.

Read more about bike commuter safety here.

photo: velojoy

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