Be careful out there

Right now, in south eastern England at least, following a long cold spell demanding the liberal application of road salt and without much if any rainfall to wash it away, the roads are very slippery. Maybe not quite as slippery as they would be if covered in black ice, or there’d be no point in laying road salt. But certainly slippery enough to demand care when cornering, especially on two wheels. As occasional RCUK contributor Jon Gregory found recently.

The nature of the foul, greasy coating left on road surfaces after the conditions described above has been discussed previously on this site. Here, however, we have evidence of just how treacherous the stuff is. Treacherous? Exactly that; the road can look perfectly grippy while offering the adhesion of margarine on a floor tile. Turns out that, seeing nothing untoward and expecting the usual level of grip on a bend he takes daily on his cycle commute, Jon sailed into it at the usual speed – and went down instantly.

To add insult to injury, he acquired in addition to grazes what can only be described as a randomly applied face pack – and one unlikely to be good for skin condition. Happily, his injuries were superficial and the face pack easy to scrub off.

But there is a point here beyond the obvious one about slick road surfaces; falling off when you expect to be safe is usually worse than doing so when there is the expectation – as when ice is encountered – of a slip and consequent fall. No doubt this is partly because speed is bound to be higher, but there is also the difference in reaction time given that senses will be heightened in anticipation of a slide.

That’s not to say that the outcome of an unexpected fall is usually worse; Jon’s injuries were, thankfully, minor and it is easy to break something even when a fall is anticipated. But the psychological effect – the shock – is more profound. Anyway, we need a good dose of heavy rainfall in these parts, and not just to wash away the grease.

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