Over the past decade or two, but especially within the last year or so since the COVID-19 pandemic began, e-bikes have taken the country by storm, becoming an extremely popular mode of transportation. And this is for good reason: they are great for exercise, safe, environmentally friendly, versatile, and can be great cost savings for people. Bike riding etiquette is just like driving a car: there are certain rules, both written and unwritten, that must be followed so that you are being safe and courteous to others.
While electric bikes for many people are replacing daily commutes in cars, it is very important to learn road cycling etiquette to protect yourself and others. That cycling etiquette comes down to several aspects, including following e-bike laws, using your bells and hand signals properly, ensuring you are visible to drivers and other cyclists, riding safely and slowly, and then parking your electric bike correctly. Let’s walk through all of these individually so that you have a thorough understanding of bike riding etiquette for your future rides.
1. Check the E-Bike Laws
As mentioned previously, road biking etiquette is much like driving etiquette: you should not be taking to the street until you have a comprehensive understanding of the proper electric bike laws. This is an important point because laws related to bicycles and electric bikes can differ from country to country, region to region, state to state, and sometimes even city to city. For example, some places classify electric bikes as motor vehicles that cannot ride on greenways or sidewalks. Other places do not, and people are encouraged to ride on the sidewalks. These common discrepancies exemplify why you should always check and obey the laws in your local area before riding. If you have any questions, it can also be helpful to contact your local authorities for guidance on the laws in your area.
2. Use the Bells
Just like a car or truck might use a horn, it is helpful to understand the bike riding etiquette around when to use your bells while riding. Bells exist to help electric bike riders effectively communicate with the people and riders and drivers around them so that everyone is remaining safe. It is best to ring the bike's bells when passing through areas that are congested with people or complicated road conditions so that you are alerting pedestrians, other cyclists, or motor vehicle drivers to your presence. This is strictly to ensure their safety and your safety. However, proper cycling etiquette states that you do not ring the bell all the time, as this may irritate people nearby—simply use them when the situation requires it to keep everyone safe.
3. Be Seen
Some cyclists ride at night, whether as part of a commute, because that is the only time to grocery shop or exercise, or simply because they enjoy the tranquility and coolness of nighttime riding. However, cycling at night can be dangerous if motor vehicle drivers cannot see you. It is imperative to always have reflective objects on your electric bike and also on your body while riding at night, so make it easier for drivers to see you. For more information on doing this safely, we put together a comprehensive guide to cycling at night.
4. Ride with Two Hands
Especially more experienced electric bike riders, sometimes there is a tendency to ride a bike one-handed. It can be easier, more relaxing, more casual. However, it can also be more dangerous. Oftentimes, that free hand ends up doing something distracting, such as holding a phone or food. Just like driving a car, these types of habits can be highly distracting and also dangerous to both you and the people around you. This is why you should always keep both hands on the handlebars when riding an electric bike. E-bikes are faster than standard bicycles, so accidents can not only easily occur, but they can cause more damage.
5. Slowing Your E-Bike
You have probably heard the expression "slow and steady wins the race." Or perhaps when riding with a fast driver someone has uttered, "I'd like to make it there in one piece." While these are a bit cliché, they stand to reason: Driving faster than you should is a dangerous activity that can lead to injury or damage. Following proper road cycling etiquette means taking it slow on your e-bike, always using appropriate speeds to ensure you are being safe for yourself and those around you, especially when you are in a place where many other people or vehicles are present.
The last thing any electric bike rider wants to do is return to where they locked up their bike only to find that they had not properly secured the lock and their bike is gone. Parking and locking your bike properly is an essential aspect of bike riding etiquette. Typically, there will be a special parking area for electric bikes that is out of the way of normal traffic and does not interfere with any larger motor vehicles. However, parking your e-bike is only the first step. You also need to ensure that it is securely locked. For some helpful tips about locking your e-bike effectively, check out this handy guide we put together.
Riding your electric bike safely really does come down to these six helpful pieces of advice. If you can follow e-bike laws, use your bells and hand signals properly, ensure you are visible to drivers and other cyclists at all times, ride safely and slowly, and ultimately park your electric bike correctly, you will set yourself apart with your high-quality road cycling etiquette. With these six tips for proper cycling etiquette, hopefully you will also have much more confidence that you are being a safe a courteous rider the next time you are out on your electric bike.