How eBikes Appear to Motorists & How to Stay Safe

How eBikes Appear to Motorists & How to Stay Safe

Motorists are generally accustomed to seeing bicycles on the side of the road, and understand the necessary precautions they must take to ensure the safety of both parties.

These perceived notions are based mostly on non-motorized bicycles.

However, with electric bicycles, the situational awareness required by the driver changes, as e-bikes are capable of greater speed than normal bicycles, particularly while ascending hills. A driver safely passing a bicycle may be achievable in certain scenarios with a non-motorized bicyclist, but can quickly become hazardous with an e-bike travelling at faster speeds.

As e-bikes become more popular, and driver’s begin to re-learn their situational awareness, there are some important precautions that e-bicyclists can take to ensure their safety while riding.

  • Wear a helmet anytime you are riding your bicycle.
  • Be visible. Wear bright, visible clothing with reflective strips, if possible.
  • Be heard. Having a bell or other noisemaker on your bike (even yelling) can help alert those nearby of your presence.
  • Adhere to the rules of the road. Bicyclists share the same rights and responsibilities as automotive traffic.
  • Ride defensively. Make sure you keep enough distance between yourself and others (bicyclists and motorists) so that you have plenty of time to react to anything unexpected. With e-bikes, this is incredibly important, as the distance should increase as speed increases.
  • Be predictable. Maintain a straight course and ride respectfully. Its better to take the lane than weave left and right around parked cars.
  • Don't try to be nice by giving space and then end up putting yourself in danger. Stick to the traffic rules because that is predictable..
  • Use hand signals to indicate your direction of travel to motorists. To brush up on your hand signals, see this video.
  • When you are interacting with a car/driver, make eye contact with the driver if possible/safe. Sometimes people look right through/over a cyclist because they are not mentally looking for a bicycle.
  • If riding at night, make sure your bicycle lights are on, and that you have enough lights to be visible from all angles. In addition to the stock lights that come built into an EVELO E-bike, we recommend this light set if you are going to be doing any night time riding. Again, visibility is key.
Although bicyclists legally have the same rights and responsibilities as motorists, the truth is bicyclists ride with vehicles more than 20x their weight that are faster and sometimes operated by impatient drivers. Thus, “street-smarts” (pun intended) are essential to safety.

In addition to the points highlighted above, make sure that you are always aware of your surroundings, especially when riding in traffic.

If a line of cars builds up behind you, pull over to let them pass.

You can also use a bike mirror to help see what is behind you. Be ready to brake when necessary, and give yourself plenty of reaction time in the event of anything unexpected.

You can also make adjustments to your route that will make for a safer ride. Check your preferred maps software and other online resources (Google Maps, Strava, Map My Ride, etc.) to help you choose a route that has protected bike lanes, if possible.

You might even discover a new, more exciting place to ride your e-bike! The more you ride, the more you’ll understand its capabilities and limitations, which will help build confidence while riding on the road. And don’t forget to have fun!

Photo by Ben Pham

How eBikes Appear to Motorists & How to Stay Safe