What to do During a Lightning Storm When Cycling

What should you do during a lightning storm when cycling? Cyclists often put on a determined face when its raining and ride out the storm. That is providing you have good gear such as a Gore-Tex jacket, waterproof panniers and other gear. Others seek immediate shelter.

However if there is lightning strikes in the area you are at risk and need to reconsider. Sitting on bicycle is a risk, the metal frame and skinny bike tires conduct electricity and will not insulate you. For example in Canada alone, 10 people will die and 160 are injured by lightning each year.

Experts tell us that you can see a lightning bolt before the sound of thunder can be heard. You can tell how close the lightning is by counting the seconds between the flash and the sound of the thunder, if you count less than 30 seconds take shelter. Each second represents about a distance of 300 meters and at 30 seconds it means the storm is less than 10 km way. The storm does not necessarily have to be right overhead you for lightning to strike.

If a lightning storm is in the area your first option is to seek shelter in a building or car. If this is not possible follow these bike safety tips:

  • Stay away from tall objects including trees, telephone poles and hilltops
  • If you are cycling across a large open area make sure you are not the highest point and get shelter in a valley, ditch or low lying area. Crouch down, but don’t lie flat.  If you feel your hair standing on end, kneel down right away with your feet together and place  your hands on your knees and bend forward, lightning may be about to strike you
  • Do not stand in puddles and avoid open water
  • If with a bike touring in a group spread out, do not cluster as a group
  • Take off cycling shoes with metal cleats
  • If cycling along a forest trail look for some shelter in a low lying area under small trees or a thick bushes

You need to be flexible when bike touring during a storm. That may mean taking a local bus, train to your next destination. Depending on whether you have reserved accommodation you may need to make an unscheduled stop.

For more cycling tips including information on bicycle helmets click on the link.

Follow the above bike safety tips and have an enjoyable ride even if the weather is not cooperating.


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