Summer is here and traffic has increased noticeably around town. With the great weather, the number of bikes has multiplied, along with the emergence of a new mode of transportation: e-bikes (electric-powered). Riding a bike is a healthy alternative to getting around town. Staying safe on a bike starts with being courteous and aware of pedestrians and motorists and going with the flow.
Whitefish has a number of shared-use paths around town, however there are times bikes need to be on streets to reach their destination. This requires bike and e-bike riders to know how to share both paths and streets by mentally “shifting gears” to consider other users and ride in a manner that keeps everyone safe.
When riding on streets and roads, bikes need to follow the same rules as cars. Bikes must ride in the same direction as traffic. Also, because bikes are not as visible; it is good to assume that drivers may not see bikes, use extra caution at intersections, and obey traffic rules.
On shared paths, pedestrians have the right-of-way. Bikes, especially e-bikes, are faster than pedestrians and should slow down when in areas that may have more people. Pedestrians may not hear or see a bike approaching from behind, or around a blind corner, bike bells are a wonderful way to notify pedestrians.
Bikers should avoid riding on busy sidewalks such as the ones downtown where there are more pedestrians. Once downtown, bikers can park on one of the bike racks and walk to their destination.
E-bikes have an electric pedal-assist motor that gives the rider an extra boost making it easier to climb hilly terrain and reduce travel time. These bikes may look like regular bikes, yet they are much heavier and take practice to get accustomed to, especially when accelerating and stopping. Inexperienced bikers may be at a higher risk for injury.
With the emergence of e-bikes, there have been accidents landing people in Logan Health’s emergency departments in Whitefish and Kalispell.
“A lot of people don’t realize they are going much faster on electric bikes,” said Joy Fortin, trauma program manager at Logan Health Medical Center. “When riding an e-bike, be aware that you will be going at a higher speed. Always wear a helmet, and make sure you know how to use the bike properly before going out and trying it for the first time.”
Whether on an e-bike or a traditional bike, going with the flow is the safest way to go.
Bike/E-bike safety tips:
- Always wear a helmet
- Only ride bikes that are in working condition (especially brakes!)
- Ride within your ability
- Ride a bike that fits you
When riding on streets:
- Remember bikes are vehicles!
- NEVER ride against traffic
- Obey traffic signals
- Use hand signals when turning
- Use lights & wear reflective materials at night
When riding on shared paths:
- Remember bikes are faster!
- Slow down in congested areas such as parks
- Slow down when riding on blind corners
- Always yield to pedestrians
- Use a bell or call out when passing someone from behind