6 Tips for Cycling Safety When Leaves Fall

Bicyle Wheel - Autumn Leaves

At this time of year, some New York City streets, especially side streets and off-road paths, may be blanketed with leaves. The slippery accumulation may interfere with autumn cycling safety, especially when braking or turning. Leaves can also camouflage underlying road hazards such as storm drain grates, potholes or surfaces that become slick when wet — metal manhole covers and street striping, for example. Stay safe and enjoy your commute or ride around town by following these simple tips:

  • Scan the road ahead to anticipate obstacles or hazards.
  • If you need to slow down, brake before or after you encounter leaves.
  • Maintain a steady speed when riding on leaves; don’t accelerate.
  • If you spot leaves on a turn, maintain an upright posture as you enter the bend, and avoid braking.
  • If a bike lane is blocked by an accumulation of leaves, it may be necessary for you to enter the adjacent traffic lane. Glance quickly over your shoulder to look for oncoming cars. Signal your intention to take the lane, then ride with traffic for as long as the obstruction persists.
  • Even when roads are dry, the underside of leaves may remain damp, so continue to exercise caution.

Remember, if at any time you feel unsafe, dismount and walk your bicycle along a sidewalk or other location that’s free of traffic

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  • Riding on leaves or dampness can be quite treacherous, it’s like being on ice at times, so:

    1. Manoeuvre your bike very gracefully everywhere except the straights or hills. Slow down beforehand if there’s a possibility of a surprise, eg an uneven surface for your tyre to catch on, a pedestrian who might jump out.
    2. Ensure you have newish soft rubber on your tyres – not 4+ years old hard stuff.
    3. Let tyres pressures down about 10 psi from the summer maximum. Softness will improve your grip a little.
    4. Pre-apply the brakes when it’s wet or damp – brake pads need an extra revolution or so to cut through the film of water or dirt on the rim.

    • Baljeet, thank you for reading and for taking the time to share these additional tips — especially the reminder to adjust tire pressure. Keep them coming!

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