With power comes responsibility
“Please don’t be a dicks out there” was the message of a tweet I was mentioned in the other day (not in an accusing way I might add). Apparently two guys had been racing one another on a bike path and nearly cleaned someone out. As it happened, I had been trying to keep up with another fast ebike rider so there was a twinge of ‘am I being a dick on my bike?’ and some thoughts of ‘what sort of ebiker behaviour is dumb?’ I won’t even get into the eMTB debate – that is best left to some heated arguments on Singletracks and other similar forums.
I had also seen many recent examples of regular cyclists being ‘dicks’ and I am growing weary of moaning from cyclists about motorists’ behaviour: “They need to learn how to drive around bikes”. Well how about cyclists learning to ride among cars, other cyclists and pedestrians? You can expect motorists to upskill and not do the same yourself – you are the one more likely to suffer injury. There is mutual responsibility out on the road, the onus isn’t all on the motorist. There are some great courses and workshops available – in Auckland these are free and provided by AT. I know that even experienced riders learn something, because often it is the experienced riders who lack self awareness… Somebody (@hypnokiwi) said: “Sadly some cyclists cycle like some drivers drive ….” This is true, but also sadly good drivers doesn’t always correlate to good cyclist.
We have bikes that can go faster than other bikes (pro peloton riders excepted), and we don’t tire easily. We can overtake other cyclists and even cars. In NZ we are lucky in that a speed limit hasn’t been imposed on ebikes, and ambiguous and unenforced power limits mean that 1000W bikes are fairly commonplace. Please let us not wreck that privilege.
So how should I behave?
One of the distributors (Juiced Bikes NZ) have made a safety sheet to go along with their fast bikes, which I thought was a good set of advice for ebikers that I quote here with permission:
- Cars don’t expect you to be travelling fast. If you aren’t dressed in lycra on a speedy looking road-bike then drivers will underestimate your speed, so:
- Keep alert
- Meet driver’s eyes
- Expect drivers to pull out or turn in front of you, especially when undertaking to the left of stationary queues
- Avoid the “door zone”, expect car doors to open without warning
- Pedestrians are the most vulnerable road users, they are top of the food chain when it comes to safety and consideration:
- Look out for pedestrians, they will underestimate your speed too
- Be extra vigilant around crossings and intersections
- Give way to pedestrians at pedestrian crossings
- Better to assume someone will step onto the road when you are unsure, slow down, you’ll soon get back up to speed
- Stick to 30 km/h in cycle lanes. Pedestrians often wander into cycle lanes. If you need to go faster then go onto the road [Ed: often that is too fast, especially when crowded or sight lines are restricted]
- When passing pedestrians on shared paths, slow down, provide plenty of space, and give a friendly hello, warning or ring your bell so you don’t startle them
- Your fellow cyclists are vulnerable too. We have the capability to keep up with traffic in many situations where they don’t so we need to ride accordingly:
- Don’t go over 30 km/h in cycle lanes, drop your [bike to a lower assist level]
- Keep a safe following distance
- Use a bell or a friendly verbal warning when overtaking, overtake on the right
- On narrow bike lanes wait until you get to the next stop light and position yourself to go in front at the next green light. Hey, you’re on a bike, you can politely ask!
- Last but certainly not least, obey all road rules, ride defensively and have yourself a whole lot of FUN!
Keep up to date on the Cyclist Road Code: https://www.nzta.govt.nz/resources/roadcode/cyclist-code/ [Ed: this is actually a great resource that all cyclists should read and note]