Short-range weather forecasters are predicting snow by the end of this week. Long-range forecasters are predicting the winter of 2010/11 will be harder, colder and longer than the hard, cold, long winter of 2009/10.
Met Office spokesman Alex Fox said: “There’s a risk of snow in most parts of the UK and some places will see significant amounts. It’s going to be much colder than average.”
Jonathan Powell of Positive Weather Solutions said Britain is in for a repeat of last year’s winter: “December is looking very cold indeed and it will be similar to last year in temperatures.
“There are going to be some pretty sharp frosts and black ice, which makes the roads treacherous for drivers.”
And cyclists, don't forget cyclists.
Last winter, stocks of rock salt for 'gritting' roads came close to exhaustion. This year a special Government cross-agency working group - the so-called 'Salt Cell' - has been coordinating salt stockpiling in readiness for another icy winter.
But not all roads get gritted. And unlike in the Netherlands, very few bike paths in the UK get gritted. So, more and more cyclists who wish to keep commuting by bike are now using tyres studded with tungsten 'spikes'. Last year studded tyres from brands such as Nokian and Schwalbe sold out very early in the season.
The Schwalbe supplier in the UK - Bohle - has good stocks of MTB studded tyres but 700c tyres for cyclo-cross commute bikes won't be in stock until December, and are likely to fly out of the door when they do arrive. Retailers are being urged to stock up before the ice kicks in.
In related news, falls on black ice are a major cause of bike crashes, reveals a new NHS study.
The study - by NHS Bristol - is the UK’s largest and most comprehensive survey into non-collision cycling incidents, ie crashes that do not involve another road user.
The survey revealed that slipping on ice is the most common non-collision incident, being mentioned by 26 percent of respondents. The next most common incident noted was slipping on wet roads, with 8 percent of reported incidents.
Hugh Annett, Bristol’s director of public health, said: “Cycling is an excellent way of staying fit and healthy and we need to get as many people as possible cycling in Bristol and the UK. We want all cyclists – whatever age and ability – to be aware of the potential hazards of being on the road and making the right choice."
Rob Benington, NHS Bristol’s injury prevention manager who conducted the research said:
“I hope this research will help cyclists stay on their bikes. As a keen cyclist I was amazed that slipping on ice was by far the largest single cause: the finding helps put other hazards into perspective. While ice is not the only cause we need to consider, if we raise awareness as winter approaches cyclists can prepare to take appropriate action which will help keep us riding all year round.”
In 2008/09, 9,447 cyclists were admitted to hospital in England following a non-collision incident and ice caused an estimated 40,000 incidents in total. By comparison, during the same period, 1,826 cyclists were admitted following a collision with a vehicle. Other non collision incidents reported by riders included failing to mount a kerb, mechanical failure, potholes, slipping on gravel or wet leaves, swerving to avoid dogs and more.
NHS Bristol, Bristol City Council’s ‘Better by bike’ team and partners including the West of England road safety partnership advise cyclists to use other modes of transport when it's icy.
Beryl Miles, spokesperson for the West of England Road Safety Partnership said: “When it’s going to be icy, we would urge cyclists to listen to weather forecasts and avoid cycling in frozen conditions."
There's no advice from the West of England Road Safety Partnership on fitting studded tyres to bicycles. Clearly, it's not yet a mainstream thing to do. But then very few British drivers switch to winter tyres for their cars, something that's recommended by the AA.