Black Ice on Seattle area roads?
Is there the potential for black ice on Seattle area roads on cold mornings? I've heard people say that:
1. The ground is generally too warm in winter to accumulate black ice.
2. There is the potential for black ice due to temperatures below freezing.
Any first-hand experiences with Seattle area winter road conditions. I'm thinking about continuing my bike commute through the winter. Rain doesn't bother me, but the potential for icy roads does.
Yes, we can get black ice, but it seems very micro climate dependent. I've had a couple run-ins with it bike commuting and they've been such that I don't ride on the days where it could occur along my route. With that said, plenty of folks ride everyday regardless of conditions and do fine.
I rode my bike to work year-round for five years. You'll get some black ice now and then. nickn is right, it's very location dependent - generally when you get away from urban centers you'll encounter more black ice.
The UW has a website you can check that shows surface temps:
Commuting by bicycle year-round is very doable around here - some mornings you just have to be careful.
Watch out for bridges or any elevated surface.
We get it all the time on the hilly parts of the northern suberbs, Cedar Park and what not.
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Like freakybro said, bridges. Seems like you can find it on surfaces with tree cover as well. Mornings have potential.
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Suggestions for avoiding black ice on the roads?
Thanks for the feedback! Any suggestions for avoiding black ice on the roads?
One thing that I heard today was not to ride on the roads if the temperature is under 40 degrees in the morning.
I typically start looking out for black ice when temps drop to around 34 degrees. Here are a few suggestions:
1. Use the snowatch site I linked to. When road temps in your area are near freezing, be careful.
2. Drive your route on a couple mornings when temps are near freezing and specifically look for signs of black ice. My experience is that it seems to form in specific spots over and over.
3. If you pay attention to the road surface, especially if you are riding in the dark with a light, you will come to recognize that particular shiny sheen that indicates black ice.
4. If you find yourself on black ice, coast your speed down, don't brake hard, try to keep your weight centered. Put a foot down if you can.
Bridges and areas that see no sun during the day ice will form in the Seattle area. I've got one downhill corner that if it's cold out, I avoid bike commuting because of it.
Or anything in a wet area.
Originally Posted by freakybro
Nice link! Thanks!
Originally Posted by woodway
Somehow I've never run into black ice in all my years riding here, but all my commuting has been between Capitol Hill and 115th & Meridian or up to Northgate or over to Ballard, or Greenwood to First Hill, plus a lot of riding between Capitol Hill and downtown/Belltown (when I was a courier and lived in that area), and those areas seem to be a little less likely to freeze than areas a little further out. Once I rode out onto Pier 62/63 about 8AM when everything was showing it being 37 degrees out and discovered the outer end of it all iced over, but it was visible and I just took it really slow as I rode out onto that part and turned around to take some pictures. I managed to remount and cycle away without biting it.
I have to agree about the micro-climates, it's amazing how much variation there can be here between each little mini-valley or dell, or areas that are in shadow vs those that aren't or slight variations in altitude. It's odd riding through falling snow that isn't sticking as you are slowly gaining elevation and then suddenly reach that point where it is sticking.
Take it straight and easy across bridges and bridge-like structures when it is close to freezing as they'll often actually get icy before the temperature is quite that low around it.
I picked up a pair of studded tires (Hakkapelitta's) a little over a year ago, but I'm starting to wonder if I'll ever actually need/use them. I got them so I could ride in to work if we end up with packed snow/ice again, but that happens pretty rarely. So rarely in fact, that it could easily come and go over my two days off. I don't see any point in putting them on just because the weather is threatening to be cold enough for black ice. Generally I think the forecasts are pretty good here, the exception being they love to make any storm sound worse than it most likely going to be. I'd rather take it easy if it actually gets cold enough for black ice and only put the ice spikers on if we get conditions that more warrant them.
FWIW, I did inexplicably take a break in riding between about 2005 and 2011, and the weather seems somewhat cyclical, so I may have lucked out and missed the colder cycle where it might happen more often. Before that my bicycle was my only form of transportation here for over 6 years, and my livelihood for two of them.
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