Bridge Icing and Winter Riding
By Dom Mozzone, Safety Officer
During our winter riding season we all hope that the weekend weather holds up and that the temperature and precipitation cooperates so we can ride. Typically we wake up and see the sun shining. Looks like a good day for a ride, we check the hot line and wala the ride is on yeah!!!. The weather report agrees. It will be sunshine and a high in the mid 40’s. The current temperature is 38 degrees. You know about the wind-chill factor, so you bundle up to stay warm during the ride.
Twisting down the roads, you’re enjoying the ride and the scenery. There’s a bridge up ahead. Shouldn’t be a problem, you’ve already crossed several bridges. As you start to cross this one, something happens. All of a sudden you lose traction on both tires. It’s almost like the motorcycle is skiing across the bridge. You make it to the other side and regain traction and control. Although your nerves are a little unsettled, you continue. The main difference now is you slow down before crossing any other bridges. The rest of the ride is uneventful. Still, you can’t help but wonder what in hell happened.
The answer to this mystery is simple—ice. Even though the weather report indicated the temperature was 38 degrees, which is above the freezing mark, temperature readings are taken at certain locations, such as airports, townships and schools. Temperatures in suburban areas can, and usually are, lower than what they would be in urban areas.
Why on this one particular bridge there was ice, but not on the others? Several factors are involved. One is the amount of traffic that crosses the bridge. Fraction from tires and heat from the exhaust of vehicles can cause ice to melt where the traffic flow is moderate to heavy. This doesn’t mean you should still be wary of bridges in these types of areas. It could still be on the shoulder or on the least traveled lane of the roadway and bridge. Bridges that are lightly traveled could easily remain iced for longer periods.
What about the roadway leading to the bridge? Why wasn’t ice on it? The ground acts as an insulator and will maintain a certain degree of warmth. Bridges are open and exposed, plus they are usually made of metal and concrete; thus lacking the ability to create warmth enough to melt the ice.
What to do to prevent a similar situation from occurring? First, understand that temperatures near freezing will vary from area to area. Some areas on LI, such as near the south shore bridges, will be cooler than others.
Second, when temperatures are near the freezing mark, even around 40 degrees, use caution around bridges. Always suspect there may be ice on them.
Third, slow down prior to reaching the bridge and reduce lean angle. You want as much available traction as possible from your tires.
Finally, what should you do if you hit a patch of ice? As we covered in previous meetings and news letter articles, you squeeze the clutch in and coast through it. Avoid any abrupt changes in speed or direction. Once past the patch of ice, slowly ease the clutch back out. The key words here are “slowly ease.” Never grab or squeeze the brakes on ice as bad stuff can happen…..
Stay alert to the conditions of the environment. Remember that it constantly changes and adjust accordingly. Ride safe, ride the winter often and have fun doing it!