Thursday, July 7, 2011

Ebike Safety Tips

I have been meaning to get a photo of me on my ebike, but haven't gotten around to conscripting a photographer/family member to do it.  So I am going to go ahead with the post without the photo.  Here are some random ebike tips that I have learned that I want to pass along.
Veloteq eBikes
First things first!  Go to your local Driver and Vehicle Licence Issuer and pick up a handbook they have available for those wishing to test for their motorcycle licence.  For Saskatchewan, the motorcycle driver handbooks are online here.  Study this book and be prepared to follow the rules.
The following tips are really common sense and are included in the handbook, but these in particular have been items where I have noticed drivers around me have reacted to a slow moving ebike in a manner that reduces my safety and other drivers and pedestrians.
Here goes in no particular order:

- Fill the road if necessary.  When there is a parking lane that is currently empty, in courtesy to others who can drive a little faster I will lane change and drive in the parking lane.  Only if there are no parked cars.  My little rule is for at least 3/4 of a city block, which is time for traffic to pass me, without me having to slow, and come to a complete stop behind the parked car.  Once traffic has cleared, shoulder check, mirror check, signal, and move back into the main street lane.  Do NOT drive in the little space between the moving traffic lane, and parked cars.  You will get hurt.

If you are driving on the one and only moving traffic lane, there is no parking lane to move into, then you have 2 choices.  One, pull over and stop and wait for traffic to clear.  Always shoulder check, mirror check, signal and move.  Or secondly, you must own the width of the lane, sit tall and make sure that people know that you are watching traffic.  Sometimes you have to make a few cars slow down for a block until you find a safe place to lane change out of traffic.  Do NOT pull over a bit to make room for people to pass you!  You will eventually get cut off or driven over.

And other drivers out there... I know you aren't reading this because you are on the site for hot rods, or super suv's or something... but please DO NOT pull into oncoming traffic to pass bike riders who are moving slowly.  Just be patient, maybe the rider is trying to turn left.  I had a driver pull up to me, yelling that I should only drive against the right sidewalk.  Hard to turn left safely from there.

- To be sure, use hand signals.  My ebike is equipped with fully functioning front and rear signal lights, but in rush hour traffic I have a feeling the other drivers are not paying enough attention to me.  A firm use of the hand signals with your hand held flat
like a sign is unmistakable.  Weather permitting I wear bright coloured gloves with reflective material.  Nothing like waving your arm to get people's attention.

- Make eye contact with people.  With oncoming traffic, turning situations, be sure that people have seen you and can see your signals.  I look the driver in the eye, and almost always they will give a nod indicating they see what I am doing.  It may feel a little goofy at first, but it beats a trip to emergency.

- Make sure you are charged up when to leave on a journey.  Wind can make a huge impact on the amount of power required, so it's better to be safe than sorry.  If you are heading out for a day of errands and you realize that the wind is heavy and probably won't stick around to blow you back home, then plan ahead for a charge.  Carry your battery charger and an extension cord with you in your cargo hold.  Plan a stop over for even 30 min where you can plug in your bike, will give you a boost to the next place and eventually home.  Places to plug in?  Businesses you frequent are often fine with a quick boost from an outdoor plug in.  Just make sure if they are the parking kind, that they aren't set to cycle on and off, or worse turned off completely for summer.  I have even charged at my local Regent Park Public Library, one of the oldest and best eco heroes.

- Coast down hills to conserve your power.  Just kick off the cruise and coast.  Plus you can get higher speed, and you will be charging your battery as you coast.  If you are really low and the ebike starts chugging like it's coughing.  You have only a few min left.  Make the most of it.  Move to a quiet street where you won't block traffic and not too many starts and stops.  Then try to keep moving.  I call it rocking the bike.  Once your momentum is up, kill the accelerator and coast until you have slowed to about half speed.  Then accelerate just till it maxes out and repeat.  You will keep adding charge for the next phase on each coast.  I have gone as much as 3 km rocking the bike.  As long as you don't slow right down it will work.  If you have to stop for a light you will be pushing your bike for a bit because you may not have enough charge to accelerate from 0.  You can always use the pedals to get started again.  But if you can avoid it, do.  You will need a good long charge after a ride home like this.

- Stop where people can see you.

- Wear a full brain bucket.  I bought a motorcycle helmet with face shield for a couple of reasons.  1.) I like my head, 2.) if I have any hope of getting my kids to wear a good helmet I had better have one on, and 3.) I don't like the taste of bugs and gravel in my teeth.  I may not be driving fast enough to spit them up, but others are and many times I have had a big ol' bug splat on the front of that shield.  Thank you shield.

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