Last Updated on May 17, 2023 by Matt
In this post, I have put together all the possible electric bike safety tips, rules, and precautions you need to know before you start riding, based on my own experience with electric bikes. We will cover everything – traffic rules for electric bikes, defensive riding methods, bike maintenance, general electric biking etiquette, etc.
The following strategies can help keep you safe with electric bikes. They apply to leisure e-riders, sports riders, and those who use electric bikes as a means of transport on public roads.
Always have your safety gear with you
Never ride your e-bike without your safety gear, even if you are covering a short distance. In the findings of the recent biking accident research from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), it was found that a majority of biking deaths happen because of serious head injuries.
I highly recommend the following safety gear for electric biking (these are also usually part of traffic safety laws in most places).
E-bike helmet for head protection
A good bike helmet is not an option for electric bikes – it is a must-have! In the report I mentioned earlier, it was found that over 52% of electric bike riders who die in biking accidents haven’t worn helmets. Pretty scary piece of statistics.
Reflective clothing for visibility
Both the Center for Disease Control and the NHTSA recommend reflective gear for all cyclists. The reason is simple – they save lives!
Wearing your reflective gear while riding your electric bike on the road makes you more visible to other road users, especially vehicles. This can save your life on busy public roads where you are sharing the tarmac with cars, trucks, and pedestrians.
I have both retro-reflective clothing for night-time riding and normal fluorescent reflectors for the daytime. In addition to that, my electric bike has active lighting which includes turn signals and brake lights.
Fast aid kit for cycling emergencies
You should try to ride as safely and defensively as you can to avoid accidents.
Unfortunately, it’s not always up to you. Oftentimes, it is someone else’s mistake that can catch even the most experienced cyclists unaware.
For this reason, I always try to carry a first aid kit on my electric bike.
I recommend you strap your kit somewhere visible and easily reachable so it can be of use in an emergency. You can also put it in your bike’s storage bag, trunk, or basket.
As an extra precaution, I always label first aid kits with bold letters and have my blood group printed somewhere in the kit. This is purely personal preference, but it’s something to consider if you want to cover all safety bases.
As for the items to include in the first aid kit, I advise you a pre-packed kit that has all the essentials. At the minimum, the kit should have antiseptic wipes, pain relievers, band-aids, a pair of scissors, and a cotton bandage.
I usually have some kind of strobe light attached to the frame of my electric bike or on top of the helmet for night rides. In addition to the retro-reflective clothing, a good strobe light announces my presence to other road users and makes me more visible.
Being dehydrated while riding my electric bike disorients me, and that’s the case for the majority of bike owners out there. As a precaution, always have a bottle of water in your bag or strapped to your e-bike for regular hydration.
Water can come in handy in emergencies too. For instance, I remember one time accidentally scraping my hand on a wall as I tried to squeeze through a tight space. I used the water to wash off the bruised area before disinfecting it and covering it with a bandage.
Riding gloves for extra grip (optional)
I find having special rubber riding gloves on to be safer and more comfortable for riding my electric bike. They are especially helpful on hot days when my palms get all sweaty. Riding gloves improve grip and give me more confidence when maneuvering my bike in tight spaces and over long rides.
Now, riding gloves might be considered optional safety gear. However, they are a great addition if you don’t want your palms to get sweaty when you ride. I know most bikes come with gripped handlebars, but the additional grip from a good pair of rubber riding gloves cannot be overstated. I’ve also found that having gloves on prevents blisters.
Riding sunglasses for glare protection (optional)
Sun-blocking sunglasses that protect your eyes while riding during the day are strongly recommended for safety purposes. They also help you block reflections from the road or other surfaces that can be disorienting in some situations. I find it easier to look further ahead and focus my view on a sunny day with my riding sunglasses on. They also protect my eyes from dust and debris.
Clipless cycling shoes (optional)
Some electric bikes come with clipless pedals that require special clip-in shoes or boots. These shoes attach to the pedals ensuring your feet are in the same spot when pedaling thus offering better pedaling performance and comfort. Riding a clipless pedal electric bike with normal shoes is not safe.
Cycling shirt/jersey (optional)
Cycling shirts or jerseys fit the form of your upper body for better riding comfort and aerodynamics. I like wearing them when riding my electric bike for a long distance or on an off-roading adventure. They also improve safety because their fit ensures I don’t get my upper body caught in branches or other low-lying obstacles.
Cycling shorts/tights (optional)
Cycling shorts or tights have the same function as cycling jerseys for the lower body section. In addition to the snug fit, good cycling shorts have a padded chamois that can provide cushioning and prevent chafing.
Personally, I rarely wear them, but that’s mostly because I don’t like the way they look. Safety-wise, they are still a good idea, although an optional one.
Follow traffic rules and riding etiquette at all times
It’s easy to get carried away when riding a fast electric bike, especially in low-traffic sections or open highways. Thanks to the electric motor that provides pedal assistance, it doesn’t take much effort to gain speed on an e-bike.
However electric bikes are not exempt from traffic rules, and a silly mistake in public can have serious consequences.
In my early days owning a reasonably fast Rad Power electric bike, I always caught myself speeding and using pedestrian walkways to dodge traffic. Sometimes this got me into trouble with a few traffic cops, but luckily I never got into serious trouble or an accident. I don’t practice careless riding these days, and I recommend you do the same.
Every place has its own traffic rules and laws for motorists and cyclists. Because of traffic laws for motorized transport, electric bikes in most countries have a regulated top speed of 25 mph / 40 kmh.
Many brands limit their bikes to these top speeds, or whatever the legal speed limit for electric bikes is in the region. However, some brands don’t do this, and it’s your responsibility as an owner to make sure you never ride faster than the legal speed limit.
Some common traffic signs and rules to be aware of when riding your e-bike include:
- Stop signs: Stop signs and red traffic lights apply to every road user, including electric bike riders. Ignoring a stop sign or red light is extremely dangerous and illegal.
- No entry signs: A no entry sign means you shouldn’t enter a road section or area. It could be private property or a closed road.
- Speed limit signs: Always watch out for speed limit signs, especially on residential roads and business district streets. It’s easy to break speed limits in these areas because they tend to have low-speed limits, so be extra mindful in those situations.
- Bike lane signs: A bike lane sign indicates that there is a special lane for bikes that you must use. It is a requirement in most cities to use the bike lane when it is available and avoid the vehicle lane for your safety.
- Pedestrian crossing signs: Never ignore pedestrian crossing signs, even if you are riding at a low speed on your electric bike. You can easily knock a pedestrian and injure yourself and the pedestrian. Also, disregarding traffic rules could get you in serious trouble.
There are many other traffic laws and rules of etiquette you must follow when riding your electric bike for your safety and that of other road users. In addition to the rules above, I recommend learning the use of hand signals, avoiding one-way roads, and giving way to other road users.
Make sure your electric bike is safe to ride
I have had an electric bike’s braking system fail on me once and it’s something I wish on no one.
As a result, I have come to appreciate the importance of preventive maintenance as a way to ensure my safety as a cycler. A fault on your e-bike can lead to an accident in the most unexpected and dangerous ways!
Here are some of the precautions you can take with regard to the condition of your electric bike.
Check the e-bike’s braking system
Always check your electric bike braking system for faults before you head out. Most electric bikes either have mechanical brakes or hydraulic brakes, with controls attached to the handlebars. Mechanical brakes on electric bikes are usually either disc brakes or rim brakes attached to both wheels. Some advanced bikes have disk brakes attached to the fork or the frame and are designed to grip the rotor.
An easy way to check the braking system on your electric bike is to suspend it on a stand and spin the wheels before applying the brakes. You can also do the test while riding the bike at low speeds on an empty road.
I also advise that you take some time to understand your electric bike’s braking system and how it works. Having this knowledge can help you spot faults in the braking system with your eyes and even diagnose the problem before getting it fixed.
Check the motor and controller
A sudden failure of the electric bike motor or controller can disorient you, especially if you are at a high speed.
As a safety measure, I advise you to perform preventive maintenance on these two components and fix issues as soon as they surface. For instance, I always make sure my motor is cleaned, oiled, and greased according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.
Check the tire pressure, condition, and wear
Never ride your electric bike with flat, deflated, or worn tires. Tires with low pressure or low tread have more risk of punctures and blowouts, and those can be very dangerous.
Deflated tires also tend to decrease stability and control, as they cannot adequately absorb vibrations and bumps on the road. More importantly, flat, deflated, or worn tires on an electric bike are especially dangerous because they reduce braking performance.
Check the frame, seat, and handlebars
I have made it a habit to often perform a quick visual and touch inspection of my electric bikes focusing on the frame, seat, and handlebars. The common signs of danger to look for include a bent frame, wobbly seat, and jammed handlebars. These are issues that can easily jeopardize your riding safety and must be fixed as soon as they surface.
Other Electric Bike Safety Precautions
Up to this point, I have discussed all the main precautions and strategies you can use to be safe when riding an electric bike. The following are additional or bonus safety guidelines, but no less important than the preceding ones:
- Never store removable e-bike batteries in a hot environment
- Use the right charger with the correct voltage when charging your electric bike
- Keep your hands on the handlebars and both feet on the pedals
- Avoid slippery surfaces such as wet pavement, ice, wet tiles, or snow
- Ride defensively and be aware of your surroundings
- Never use drugs or alcohol before or when you are riding an electric bike
- Take a road safety course for road bikes if you intend to use your e-bikes more on the road
- Be aware of road conditions such as traffic, pedestrians, rain, snow, or road works.
As a rule of thumb, I always assume other road users cannot see me whenever I ride my electric bike on a public road. Every decision I make on the road is defensive and aimed to guarantee my safety. By following the strategies in this guide, you can also be sure that you are safe while out on the road with your e-bike.