14 January 2010

Safety in Numbers

Spontaneous Drafting
I noticed a little detail the other evening while I was out and about in a bit of a snowstorm. It was a Tuesday at about 21:00ish. Perhaps fewer cyclists than average, what with the snow and wind, but still many on the streets.
Snowstorm Cyclists
Normally when a cluster or crowd of cyclists gather at a red light it doesn't take long for them to spread out once the light turns green. The different tempi of the different people means that the clusters are dispersed. In the heavy rush hour bicycle traffic it's a bit different. A larger school of fish swimming together. But in smaller groups it's more noticable.

What I noticed that evening was that many cyclists were sticking together on many stretches of snowy bike lanes. Simply a variation of the Safety in Numbers concept. It's slippery so you slow down but sitting behind other cyclists perhaps makes it feel safer. The head of the pack carves a route and the other follow along.

Snow Traffic
Unplanned and spontaneous. I doubt that drafting was the sub-conscious reason. You don't see that much in the city. Just some people on bikes forming safe little groups in the adverse weather. Helping each other along without really being aware of it. I like that.


Marco te Brömmelstroet said...

Another explanation could be that overtaking is almost impossible if the cycle lanes are full of snow. There often is one cleared track and leaving that for overtaking is increasing the danger. So people tend to stay longer behind slower ones.

But your romantic interpretation is also nice ;)

Anonymous said...

Aye, I agree with Marco. Overtaking can be very hazardous when there's a lot of snow. Many years ago I tried to make a quick pass of two very slow cyclists in conditions like the ones pictured here, and my front wheel skidded, throwing me head first into a traffic sign. Standing on the sidewalk, all blurry-eyed and with something warm, sticky and red running down my face, I learned the hard way that it can be *very* slippery under the snow - and you won't know until you ride over it.

Did I say I never got past the two slow riders? :)

Oh, and when there's strong headwind and rain or snow, I often ride close behind other cyclists, so I don't get so much "weather" in my face.

Mikael said...

perhaps. although many people overtake in the snow here. quite a few. as you can see in my film from a week or so ago, especially near the end of it.

snow doesn't frighten many people here. hell, you see mothers with kids fly past, overtaking other cyclists.

the bike lanes are more than wide enough to overtake.

i just think it's the very basic "it's dark, the snow is blinding me, i'll tuck in behind this guy and take it easy..." way to do it.

João Lacerda said...

Talking about safety...

Thought you might like this armadillo like bike helmet... Honest to what it is supose to do, prevent small injuries, but the writer of the blog has some belief that bike helmets seem to avoid certain injury or death.

João Lacerda said...

the link