While riding in the winter is always fraught with risks (temperature, road conditions, slowed reflexes due to numb fingers, etc.), conditions on the W&OD Trail with ice melting and refreezing, with tire tracks running through, poses increased risks. My own tires got caught in tracks and fishtailing and loss of control were experienced. When the path is wet, it takes longer to brake. When there is ice, you may not be able to brake. And, when there is “black ice,” you cannot see the hazard until the last moment. I had difficulty riding with several friends; I had to walk my bike through several patches of melting snow and ice, even though 80-90% of the trail was clear and dry. Under some overpasses, the ice did not melt, and there was run off, such that I could not immediately see whether there was just water or ice underneath. And when you cannot see the danger, until it’s too late, it can result in smashed bike, an injury-causing crash, and possibly traumatic brain injury.
Bike crashes resulting in diffuse axonal brain injury, broken bones and death can be avoided by knowing the conditions; walking your bike when there is ice present; and, communicating with other riders and path users. When crossing the roads on the path, remember that the cars can also encounter patches of “black ice.” A car that hits a patch of black ice can slide off the road right into a bicyclist on the path, causing orthopedic and brain injury. Safe winter cycling requires extra vigilance, reduced speed and greater communication.