One of the most often cited benefits of electric bikes is their high speeds. They can go significantly faster than a traditional bicycle, and in some areas even keep pace with traffic. While this is a major selling point for many, the ability to ride a bicycle 20 miles-per-hour or faster comes with some special responsibilities.
Pedestrians, fellow cyclists, and drivers now have to interact with high-speed, motor-powered bicycles almost every day. Electric bike etiquette is vital. Not only is being conscientious of your surroundings a matter of common courtesy, it is also important for safety reasons – a faster bike can increase the risk for accident and injury, especially if you are not diligent about obeying basic rules of the road.
In order to keep the roads and trails safe and fun for everyone, follow the tips below.
Obey The Cyclist Laws In Your State
Like any other vehicle on the road, ebikes are subject to local laws and regulations regarding cycling. Not only is following the laws important for safety reasons, it also shows courtesy to anyone else out on the streets. The presence of an electric bike in pedestrian-friendly areas, for example, could cause irritation.
In the majority of US states, ebikes are classified the same way as bicycles, so you must follow standard bike laws. In California, for example, requirements for ebikes are the same as requirements for any other bikes. In other states, however, ebikes are classified as motor vehicles. In fact, six states – Alabama, Alaska, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Mexico, and North Dakota – require you to have a driver’s license to ride an ebike.
Make sure to research local laws and regulations closely so you understand the rules of the road before you start biking.
Stay Off The Sidewalk
In many states and cities, biking on the sidewalk is against the law. But even if ebikes and traditional bikes are permitted on the sidewalk, ebike riders should stick to bike lanes or roads out of courtesy.
Traditional bikes are considered hazardous for pedestrians, and an ebike’s high speed only increases the risk of injury in the event of a collision. Use the bike lane whenever possible and – if there is not a bike lane nearby – always dismount and walk your bike if you have to stay on the sidewalk.
A good tip to avoid cluttering the sidewalk is to familiarize yourself with nearby neighborhoods. When cycling, try to stick to areas you know have usable bike lanes.
Use Proper Signals
When riding any type of bike, letting other riders know if you’re planning to turn or stop is considered both good etiquette and a standard safety practice.
Common hand signals do vary by country, but in the United States signals are as follows:
- Left Turn: Fully extend your left arm out to the side.
Right Turn: Fully extend your right arm out to the side
- NOTE: Some states do not allow this type of signal for safety purposes. If that is the case, extend your left arm to the side and turn your arm upward to make a 90-degree angle
- Stop/Slowing Down: Extend your left arm out and bend it downward to a 90-degree angle
Make sure you carefully review specific guidelines in your area. On ebikes especially – which often keep pace with traffic – alerting drivers and other cyclists of your intentions is important.
Respect Trail Regulations
Ebike riders are often understandably eager to hit long, tennous trails with the help of pedal assist settings. However, not every trail is welcome to every vehicle. Some trails ban motorized vehicles, including ebikes. Before mountain biking, make sure you are permitted to ride your ebike at your chosen destination.
Ebikes may be banned for a variety of reasons. Trails that allow horseback riding, for example, may be wary of startling horses with loud noises. Very narrow trails may make passing on bikes difficult, and ebikes – due to their speed – need to pass other pedestrians and cyclists more frequently.
Whatever the reason, be respectful even if you disagree with the rules. This helps you avoid tension with hikers and other cyclists.
Pass With Care
When sharing the street with those on traditional bikes, ebike riders will inevitably do a lot of passing. One of the most common complaints cyclists have regarding ebikes is disrespectful passing.
Leave a space of at least three feet between yourself and the other cyclist. If you are unable to do this, slow down and wait to pass until space becomes available.
When approaching a fellow cyclist from behind, notify them of your presence as to not startle them. Installing a bell or horn can help, but cyclists sometimes opt to yell things like “Coming up behind you!” or “Excuse me!” to give someone a head’s up that they’re about to pass.
Electric Bike Etiquette: The Bottom Line
An ebike can be a great way to cycle longer, faster, and more often. However, you do have to be conscientious of everyone else on the street or road. Following common rules for electric bike etiquette ensures you can coexist safely with drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians.
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