Natural disasters can result in a transportation nightmare with subways down, streets congested and gas in short supply. After hurricane Sandy, commuting by bike proved the only way to bypass New York’s traffic jams and flooded streets. After a major storm, even the most seasoned bicycle commuters should stay extra vigilant and keep these safety precautions in mind.
After a disaster, many people are operating in panic mode. Expect that pedestrians, motorists and even other cyclists are exhausted and that their thoughts don’t include looking out for you. Chances are high of someone walking in front of you, opening a door or making a sudden turn in your path, so anticipate any sudden moves and slow down in congested areas. As tempting as it may be to let your mind wander, try to focus on the present moment and stay aware of your surroundings.
Prep your bike
Storms often blow everything from sand to tiny pieces of glass into the roads, so be on the defensive. If you’re commuting by bike through mud, dirt or street sludge, lower your tire pressure. This creates a larger area of traction for your tires and also helps resist small, sharp objects. Because there’s likely to be objects in the street or bike lane, lower your saddle a millimeter or two to make frequent dismounts easier.
Steer clear of objects
When commuting by bike after a storm, avoid puddles and slick leaves, which could be housing any number of hazardous objects and waste, and try not to run over sticks and branches that can snap and become lodged in your spokes. If an object flies into your spokes, remain in control and squeeze your brakes to prevent a crash. If you must cross through water, approach it at a slow, but steady speed, keeping your pedals parallel to the ground. Stay off the brakes and try to keep your center of gravity low and over the pedals.
Commuting by bike? Obey the rules
Always follow the rules of the road, even if no one else is. Signal your turns, stop at stop signs, wear bright colored clothing and try to resist the urge to fly through the city, past motorists and through intersections with no power. Above all, remember the rules of the road, stay calm and be grateful that you’ve got two wheels that can take you virtually anywhere.