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I commute 5 miles each way to work. I live in a climate where the weather can change from decent to torrential rain and thundering within 5 minutes (i.e. the first mile of my commute).

This happened on my commute earlier this week and I took shelter in an apartment parking lot that had covered parking. The "cover" was a sheet of aluminum. I can't say definitely whether this was a safe place to be during a thunderstorm or not.

My question is: do you have any solid safety advice on what to do if you are on your bike and a thunderstorm erupts?

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2 Answers 2

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Mainly, pedal like heck.

Re lightning, if you're the highest thing around then lightning is a concern. If there are buildings, power poles, etc that you have to look up at higher than a 45-degree angle to see the top of then you're pretty safe from a direct strike.

Re "indirect" strikes, it's best to stay 4-5 feet away from poles, awning supports, etc, and also lay your bike down or lean it somewhere at least a few feet from you. Being near/leaning against the side of a masonry or "frame" building is generally safe, however.

Understand that there is no such thing as "perfect" protection from lightning. You can be inside a building on an apparently clear day and still be struck (though the odds are vanishingly small). It's just important to take "prudent" precautions that reduce the risk of lightning injury.

(Of course, in thunderstorms don't forget the risk of hail. If you cycle any distance in "unstable" weather you should have a helmet (obviously) and at least a durable jacket to protect you from serious injury from hailstones.)

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Pedal like heck? I think the risk from falling/crash will be higher than getting hit by lightning. It's more dangerous when commuting in traffic, one sudden move from a car and he might hit the brake then the road. You can slide pretty far too when you fall in the rain, although you lost less skin than when it's dry. –  imel96 Aug 2 '13 at 0:02

Check the radar weather maps. They can give you a pretty good indication of which specific area is being affected by rain and lightning. If it's possible with your job, you can leave early/late to avoid storms. When they forecast storms, they are usually forecasting for quite a large area. Often when they "Get the weather wrong" it's because the storm just happened to travel 10 miles south of you, and you just got lucky that day.

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