12 Essential E-Bike Safety Tips
As the world starts to emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic, many of the things that were forced upon us by repeated lockdowns are starting to feel like positive lifestyle changes that we want to retain. Using our cars less and exercising more are top of many people’s lists of habits that were forged in lockdown but that they are keen to preserve as restrictions ease.
The cycling industry in general has been booming over the last eighteen months, largely due to widespread state endorsement of cycling and walking as ways of travelling to work or getting your permitted outdoor exercise fix. Both activities were celebrated as ways to maintain or improve your fitness, whilst adhering to social distancing guidelines and avoiding crowded public transport. Many governments also put your money where their mouth was and invested in improving the urban infrastructure for cyclists and pedestrians.
Many people heeded this advice but due to the length of their commute, the hilliness of their location or their lack of fitness, they felt unable to act on it on foot or on a fully manual bicycle. This resulted in a flurry of orders for electric bikes in 2020, to the point where manufacturers struggled to keep up with demand.
E-Bikes: An Opportunity to Improve Our Urban Environments
E-bikes provide electrical assistance to the rider when pedalling, which makes cycling easier. This makes them a great solution for anyone whose fitness levels (whether due to lifestyle, illness, age or injury) fall short of their cycling needs and ambitions. You can also carry more luggage on an e-bike, so they are great for shopping and commuting.
With half of all car journeys in the UK being between one and five miles in length, increased e-bike usage presents an opportunity to reduce the congestion on our busy roads, improve the air quality in our urban centres and to reduce noise pollution too. In the UK, anyone aged 14 and over can ride an e-bike and you do not need any tax or insurance, so it really is one of the easiest ways to travel.
However, with more e-bikes on the roads (and trails) than ever, it has become apparent that many people are unaware of how to use them safely. This has resulted in a number of well-documented tragic accidents involving electric bicycles and controversy rages regarding regulating how, where and when they should be used.
It is irrefutable that e-bikes make cycling more accessible and it seems a shame to reject the multiple benefits of electric bike usage simply because some people use them without due care and attention (if we adopted this approach with everything, none of us would be allowed near our cars). E-bikes are heavier than regular bikes and they reach higher top speeds, which means that it is even more important to ride them with due care and attention.
E-Bike Safety Tips
We’ve put together a list of 12 essential e-bike safety tips to help those of you already using them make sure you are doing it safely and to encourage anyone thinking of giving them a try to get out there and do it!
1. Protect Your Head
Remember that you are often sharing the road with SUVs, plant machinery and HGVs and, on your e-bike, the odds are against you in a collision with a Fiat 500, let alone any of those monsters of the road. Protect yourself as best you can by always wearing a well-fitting e-bike helmet, even if you are just dashing down the road for a pint of milk.
It is worth investing in a purpose-built e-bike helmet, as opposed to a standard cycling helmet, as these are similar in construction to the helmets worn by professional cyclists and are designed to withstand harder impacts. Some even offer nifty integrated features such as built-in lights and bone conductor headphones.
This rundown of the best electric bike helmets by Cycling News is a good place to start on your quest to find your perfect e-bike helmet.
2. Pay Close Attention to Both Wheeled and Foot Traffic
Most motorists and pedestrians are unused to sharing the road with e-bikes. They expect all two-wheeled traffic to be traveling at the speed of a manual bike. Your higher top speeds may well take them by surprise and this dangerous assumption could lead to risky scenarios. Motorists may wrongly assume that they have plenty of time to nip out of a side road into your path and pedestrians may think they can cross safely in front of you before you reach them. With this in mind, be extra vigilant about the traffic around you and if in doubt, slow down.
3. Stand Out From the Crowd
The majority of e-bikes are used in urban environments where cyclists are competing with a host of other road users and external distractions, all of which are vying for a driver’s attention. Give yourself the best chance to be spotted early by wearing colours that clash with your environment. Choose high-viz colours during the day and remember to include reflective elements in your kit if you are likely to be riding after dark, as these will glow brightly in car headlights and help to alert drivers to your presence.
Proviz has just launched the Platinum E-Bike Jacket, which is the first jacket on the market specifically designed for the E-Bike user and is available in high-viz yellow, black or reflective.
4. Be Aware of Your Speed
If you are new to e-bike riding or exploring a new area, don’t make the mistake of turning your speed setting right up to maximum straight away. Get used to the differences in handling between a manual and an electric assisted bike and remember to slow down and get used to your surroundings if you are navigating new streets. When you have a bit more experience under your belt you can notch the dial up to turbo and feel the wind in your hair with more confidence!
5. Brake Earlier
Electric bikes move faster and are heavier than regular bikes, so you need to get used to braking earlier at road crossings and stop signs. Braking sharply at the last minute, especially in wet weather conditions, could cause you to lose control of the bike.
The braking power of each e-bike will vary depending on the manufacturer, the level of wear and the weather conditions, so make it your mission to become familiar with your e-bike’s braking pattern. The better you know it the safer you will be.
6. Limit Distractions
Whether it’s a stunning rural vista or a billboard advertising a discount at your favourite shop, bike rides are full of potential distractions. Try not to let anything take your attention away from the important job of cycling safely to your chosen destination. Put your phone on silent and don’t look at it until you are safely off the road.
7. Take Care Mounting and Dismounting (and learn how to fall off)
E-bikes are a godsend for older cyclists and people with mobility issues, but their popularity within this demographic means that many of the injuries associated with e-bike usage are sustained getting on or off them. This is largely to do with the greater weight of an e-bike (when compared to a regular bike) and also to the novelty of e-bikes, which means that people are not prepared for the differences between mounting and dismounting an e-bike rather than a manual one.
It sounds daft, but practice getting on and off your e-bike in the park or in your garden, where the grass can cushion your landing if you get it wrong. When you are out and about, try to get on and off your e-bike away from really busy roads until you have had plenty of practice.
You should also read this article about how to fall off your e-bike, so that if you find yourself losing your balance, you can part company with your bike as safely as possible.
8. Obey All Traffic Laws
Standard electric bikes are subject to the same traffic laws as regular bikes and you must remember the following:
- Stop at traffic lights – they aren’t just for cars. Some have a designated spot for cyclists at the front of the queue, but you still have to wait for the green light.
- Stick to cycle tracks and lanes where possible and join the cars in the road where there is no special provision for cyclists. Never cycle on the pavement.
- Unless specially designed to do so, you should never carry passengers on your electric bike.
- Never cycle dangerously or carelessly or under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- Disobeying any of the rules of the road whilst riding your e-bike could result in you facing the maximum penalty of £2,5000 for dangerous cycling.
9. Use Bike Mirrors
Remove the risk of checking behind you by glancing over your shoulder and keep your focus on the road ahead by adding rear view bike mirrors to your e-bike. These can be purchased cheaply from major retailers such as Halfords and Wiggle.
10. Wear Appropriate Clothing
Due to the pedal assistance offered by e-bikes, you are less likely to get hot and sweaty riding them, which is one of the reasons why they are so handy for commuting. Due to the higher speeds you can reach (while not trying as hard as you would on a fully manual bike), the average wind chill on an e-bike is higher too. The combination of these factors means that you need to dress slightly differently to ride an e-bike than you would to ride a regular bike. Layering up and wearing a lightly padded jacket on top, with close-fitting clothing on your bottom half that won’t tangle in the chain or pedals is appropriate for all but the hottest and coldest days in the UK. It’s also worth protecting your extremities with gloves, warm socks and a buff on colder days.
Check out the first ever jacket specifically designed for e-bike users.
11. Remember to Signal
If other road users have plenty of warning about your intended manoeuvres they are less likely to collide with you. You can purchase e-Bike indicator lights or you can go old school and use arm signals. The most important thing is to give traffic plenty of time to adjust their behaviour to accommodate your intentions.
12. Carry Out Regular Maintenance Checks
Depending on how regularly you use your e-bike, you should get it serviced ever 6-12 months with a reputable service provider. In addition, you should carry out regular checks at home to ensure that the tyres are properly inflated, the brakes are in full working order, the chain is properly oiled and that all the key nuts and bolts are sufficiently tight.
Whilst there may be people out there disabling the speed limiter on their e-bike and terrorising their locality by zooming around illegally quickly, the majority of people who use them are keen to do so sensibly and safely. And the truth is that this is going to get easier and easier to ensure, as more companies respond to the popularity of e-bikes by producing specialist gear that caters to the specific needs of e-bikers.
It is also true that the greater the number of people there are out riding e-bikes, the more motorists and pedestrians will come to expect their presence and adjust their behaviour accordingly. Combine specialist kit with more experience e-bike riders and a general population that is used to sharing roads and trails with e-bikes and you have an environment where electric bikes do far less harm and far more good, both for people and the planet.
Curious to learn more about the hottest trend in cycling? Here are our top 10 E-bikes on the market today.