From the monthly archives:

August 2012

Electric bikes, lights and bells

by Jack R. on August 25, 2012

Your electric bike riding experience is not complete without lights and a bell.

If you bought your electric bike here at NYCeWheels and regularly ride around New York City, you should know that New York law requires lights and a bell.

That’s right, reflectors alone don’t cut it, you need to be equipped with a front and rear light if you’re riding after sundown or before sunrise. Besides the legality of it, having a light on your electric bike (or even your regular non-electric bicycle, or adult kick scooter) is a huge safety plus. Being visible in traffic is essential, not just to oncoming cars but to other cyclists and pedestrians. An old-fashioned reflector doesn’t hurt, but those work better when there isn’t much ambient light. With so many light sources in New York, and so many things grabbing drivers’ attentions, having a bright light is the only reliable way to make sure your presence on the road is noticed. You’ll want a white light on the front of your bike (mounted somewhere on your handlebar), and a red light on the rear of your bike (mounted anywhere from the seat post to your rack, if present.)

Be visible as you ride your electric bike!

Some electric bikes even come with safety lights built into the package. Many electric bikes, like the Gepida Reptila electric bike, the Kettler Twin electric bike, and the Styriette electric bike by Bionx come with built-in lights.

The Kettler Twin Electric Bicycle

The Kettler Twin Electric Bicycle

For all other cases, you can always purchase and attach battery-powered bicycle lights. These generally mount universally, but in the case of a particularly wide seat-post some lights will not work. If you are unsure if a particular light will work with your bike, we’ll be happy to help you out and clarify.

Electric bike’s motor make no sound, so don’t forget a bell!

As for bells, it’s simply the law. You’re required to have a method of notifying pedestrians of your presence. Bicycle bells are certainly functional and useful. One could argue that they can make their presence known to pedestrians by shouting at them or whistling. While that will get their attention, a bicycle bell does the same thing, and it does it in a polite manner, and it does so in a very distinguishing way: the sound of a bicycle bell is very identifiable as a bicycle bell.

Bell on the Kettler Twin Electric Bike

Bell on the Kettler Twin Electric Bike

A pedestrian that hears it will instantly recognize that a bicycle is approaching and that they may or may not be in its path. Whereas a loud “Yo!” or “Ay!” does not offer any immediate context for those hearing it. A bell speaks as a warning to everyone within earshot. Shouted words or a whistle come off as an exchange between two parties, and can easily be ignored the the intended target. There are numerous options for bicycle bells, and most will mount on any bike. The only exception is wider diameter road handlebars, which none of our electric bikes use!

When riding your electric bike, do it safely.

If you’re stopped on your bicycle by a police officer (say you were riding on the sidewalk, ran a red light, or were riding the wrong way down a one-way street or in the wrong lane), you can be ticketed for not having lights or a bell in addition to whatever the original infraction was. And guess what, the ticket is the same as any vehicle moving violation. You’ll end up paying well over the cost of a light set and bell. In fact, the amount of money you’ll end up paying in fines could have purchased you several of each, for you and all of your cycling friends.

Cycling culture has been booming in New York, and not just around the 10028 zip code where electric bikes and folding bikes are commonplace. With more and more bicycles on the road, we all need to do our part to ensure not just our safety but the safety of others. And on top of that all of New York is watching us as a group (albeit a large, mixed, and sometimes dysfunctional group), and how the city continues to treat cyclists (more bike lanes, or more laws and restrictions?) is largely going to be determined by how we handle ourselves out there.

Watch out for yourself, watch out for others, and make your presence known. When you finally find that perfect electric bike for you, don’t forget to add on that perfect light next to your perfect bell!