Most deadly bicycle accidents happen at night. How do you protect yourself when the sun goes down? It’s simple: put lights on your bike. The more the better. Those dinky reflectors that came on your bike simply aren’t good enough. Do you really want to pin your hopes for survival on a flimsy piece of plastic designed to be the cheapest way to minimally fulfill an outdated law?
Use at least one blinking front (white) and rear (red) LED light on your ebike. Even better, put more than one of each. An additional light on your helmet is even better. Spoke lights are great too. Anything that makes you more visible at night will greatly decrease your chances of being hit by a car. For more info on ebike lights, check out my article “Put the Right Lights on Your Ebike”.
Install both a bell AND a horn on your bike. Bells are for warning pedestrians and horns are for warning cars (don’t mix them up, pedestrians don’t like getting blasted by an air horn). You’ll notice I said “air horn”. Leave the rubber ended trumpet for the clown cars.
What you are looking for is a bicycle air horn such as the awesome AirZounds bike horn. These suckers are LOUD. I thought I had damaged my hearing the first time I blasted it indoors while removing it from the packaging. An air horn is what you need to alert drivers to your position when they try to merge on top of you or start pulling out ahead of you. My AirZound horn has saved me from multiple close-calls and probably even a few collisions.
On an ebike, ride in the lane if you can travel the posted speed limit of the road. Traffic in many urban areas, especially downtown and business centers, rarely surpasses 25-30 mph, and is often much less during peak hours due to stop-and-go traffic. It’s much safer for you to ride in the lane with the cars so that they can see you than trying to hug the curb and getting passed by cars.
Also, when cars pull out onto the road, they check the middle of the road for other cars and often miss a bicyclist who is riding on the extreme edge of the road. Giving yourself more space between you and the curb also provides you with room to work with should you find yourself needing to make any sudden evasive maneuvers. Lastly, it removes the chance of getting ‘doored’ by a parked car, which happens when a parallel parked car opens its door before you have a chance to move out of the way. At low speed these collisions are annoying and result in damages; at high speed on an ebike they have been known to be deadly.
Drive defensively and assume other drivers are out to get you. To be fair, they usually aren’t actively gunning for you, but sometimes it might appear that way due to their misjudging your speed on an ebike.
Most drivers see a bicycle and think “slowpoke” regardless of how fast the bike is actually moving. Years of seeing kids on bikes have seemed to reinforce this bicycle=slow mentality of drivers. This can be a big problem when you’re on a fast ebike and the oncoming driver assumes he has time to make a turn in front of you. You might think that he obviously realizes your current speed means he’ll never make it, but all he sees is a bicycle and assumes he’s got all the time in the world.
This situation happens much more often than you may realize and you want to take electric bicycle safety seriously then have to be prepared for it. I never give a driver the benefit of the doubt and ALWAYS assume they’ll take make a bad judgement call about when to make a turn or start slowing down. If I’m wrong then I get left with the pleasant surprise of meeting a competent driver, and if I’m right then I was already prepared to start braking or move out of the way.