How Do I Keep Safe Cycling on the Roads?
So, after weighing up all the pros and cons, you finally decided that you would bin the car for commuting to and from work, and buy an ebike to get you there and back instead. You have bought what you think will be the perfect model of ebike for the commute.
You thought it through, and decided, saving money, and helping save the planet, was the decent thing to do. You also had a sneaking suspicion that sailing by your colleagues caught in rush hour traffic jams, in your brand new shiny electric bicycle, would give you a little bit of sadistic pleasure.
The only thing that is making you kind of nervous at the moment though, is that you have never cycled in traffic. You have always cycled in the park before in your traditional bicycle, but never on the actual road where vehicles big and small career along, and much more abundantly so, in the rush hour.
How to Commute Safely by Ebike
Most safety tips are common-sense. They are what you will automatically do when you build up a bit of experience commuting in traffic. And, once you have enough experience, you will wonder why you were so nervous about commuting at the start. There is nothing complicated and there is no deep learning curve getting knowledgeable about safety. But there are a few basic rules you should embed in your brain to keep you safe.
How to See and Be Seen on Your Ebike
Whether you are commuting in daylight or twilight, in sunshine or darkness, make sure you can see where you are going, especially in country roads where there is no streetlighting, and make sure other road users can see you.
Legally, you must have lights front and back, white front, red back, when cycling in twilight or at night, but it can do no harm to keep your lights on in daylight hours also, especially on misty or foggy days. Lights will ensure you are seen at night, and a decent front light will illuminate your way ahead in darkness.
Being seen is not only about having lights though. Being clearly visible to other road users can be greatly assisted by wearing bright reflective high-vis clothing. If you don’t want to wear high-vis jackets and trousers all day and can’t change at your destination, then think about a hi-vis gilet, or reflective straps and arm-bands. Anything that makes you more visible will make your commute in traffic safer.
Don’t cycle in the middle of the road lane, cycle close to the kerb edge, but far enough out to avoid drain covers and other hazards that accumulate next to the kerb, like litter and debris. This will allow you to concentrate on moving forward without worrying about obstacles every step of the way. It will also give space for other vehicles to pass you when they deem safe to do so, and give you a bit of manoeuvre space if you need to take action to avoid a hazard, or a careless driver.
Of course, you will have to move out to the middle of the lane in such cases as passing parked cars, or, for example, passing buses stationary at a bus stop, or roadworks. In these cases, check behind you before you move out in case someone behind is just about to attempt to pass you.
How Do I Learn Road Sense to Ebike Safely?
Road sense is something that comes with experience. It means knowing what is in front of you, and what is creeping up behind you at all times. It means watching ahead for possible hazards, for example, a pedestrian looking to cross the road who may not see you, a stray dog that may run on the road, or a taxi that suddenly stops at a hand wave from an unexpected hire. It means checking the road surface for potholes, or flooded gutters ahead, and preparing to change lane if approaching a junction that requires it.
Glancing back regularly will help you know what is behind you, and watching ahead will help you avoid having to abruptly take action to avert a hazard you should have foreseen and expected.
See also: Roads Are for Everyone – Everyone Owns the Roads
Expect the Unexpected
Pedestrians using mobile phones, on a call, or even texting, can step on the road to cross over. Kids playing with a ball, can suddenly chase it onto the road, dogs and cats can appear from nowhere and run out. The door on a car parked at the side of the road can suddenly open. Hazards can come from a multitude of scenarios, and you have no control over anyone else, either on the road, or at the side of the road, so learn to expect the unexpected and you will do well.
How Will Other Road Users Know What I Intend to Do?
Let Others Know Your Intentions
Learn your hand signals and signal in plenty of time so other road users clearly know your intentions. Ensure traffic behind you knows, for example, when you are crossing a lane coming up to a turn. If you are not confident taking a hand off the handlebar to signal, then practice in a quiet area when there is little or no traffic. Build up your confidence so you can regularly glance back, and control your ebike with one hand as you signal. When others know what you are planning to do, then they will do nothing that impedes your progress, ensuring your manoeuvre will be safer.
Be Aware of Blind Spots
Trucks and buses and other large vehicles do not have the same fields of vision behind them as a smaller vehicle will have. Be aware they have blind spots in their rear vision and take care not to get so close that you may fall within one of these blind spots. If a large vehicle makes a manoeuvre that is hazardous to you, it may be that you are in their blind spot and the driver has no knowledge you are there. Care is required when in the vicinity of a large vehicle. Avoid being too close to them when you can, and ensure you can distance yourself from any unexpected movements, if necessary, when you cannot. Never assume that just because you can see that truck or bus, that the driver in that truck or bus can see you.
Is Your Ebike Safe to Use?
The most important part of your ebike is the braking system. Make a habit of trying the brakes to ensure they work before you venture on the road. Never take an ebike with faulty brakes out into traffic. And when in traffic, make sure you can reach the brake levers immediately in case you have to brake in an emergency situation.
As well as checking the brakes, it only takes a few seconds to check the tires and tire pressure as well.
Commuting with Your Ebike
After a short period of time commuting, the advice above will become second-nature and done without thought. You will spend more time enjoying the ebike commute than consciously looking for hazards. Who knows, you may even persuade one or more of your work colleagues to try ebike commuting also?