The Ultimate Introduction to E-bike Etiquette - 2021 Guide

Over the past decade, and especially since the COVID-19 pandemic, e-bikes have taken North America by storm, becoming a very popular way to get around or just go on adventures! This is for good reason: they are great for commuting, exercise, environmentally friendly, versatile, and can save you time and money. With the increased usage of e-bikes comes e-bike etiquette. 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 as safe as you can be and courteous to others around you.

        While electric bikes for many people are replacing daily car commutes, it is very important to learn road cycling etiquette to protect yourself and others. This cycling etiquette comes down to a few 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 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 Local Electric 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 solid 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, province to province and in some cases, 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. In Ontario, Canada, some of the main e-bike rules are as follows: an e-bike cannot exceed a motor size of 500 watts, and maximum speed cannot exceed 32km/h. You must wear a helmet while riding an e-bike and follow the same rules as cyclists on the roads. Riding on highways and sidewalks is a no-no, but the roads are all yours even if they don’t have bike lanes!

2. 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 peace of nighttime riding. However, cycling at night can be dangerous if car 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, to make it easier for drivers to see you. It's also best to have powerful front and rear lights for maximum visibility. Even if you’re riding in the day, this still holds true ! A good rule of thumb is to always assume that the cars nearby don’t see you, so it’s your responsibility to make sure you keep a safe distance from other cars and make yourself visible with lights/reflective tape or by the use of your horn/bell.

3. Use a Bell and/or Horn

       Bells and horns exist to help electric bike riders effectively communicate with the people, fellow cyclists and drivers around them so that everyone is remaining safe. It is best to ring your e-bike bell when passing through congested areas so that you are alerting pedestrians, other cyclists, or cars to your presence. This is strictly to ensure their safety and your safety. However, proper cycling etiquette states that you do not ring your bell or sound your horn all the time, as this may irritate people nearby—simply use them when the situation requires it to keep everyone safe.

4. Ride with Both Hands

       Sometimes there is a tendency to ride a bike one-handed with more experienced bike and ebike riders. 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. Slow Down Properly
        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. Ensure to also always keep your hands on the brakes - so you can stop the bike when necessary.

6. Parking
        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.

        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 park your electric bike correctly, you will set yourself apart with your high-quality road cycling etiquette. Now you’re armed with the knowledge to confidently take to the streets and be a courteous e-bike rider.

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