With back to school season in full swing, many students and their parents are thinking about eBikes. Perhaps you or your family will be bringing an eBike to a college campus this Fall, or riding to a local school from home. Before you purchase an eBike for back to school, let's take a look at some important things you should know.
In this article, I'll use one of the most bicycle-friendly college campuses in the USA - the University of California, Davis. UC Davis is a great example of how bikes can transform transportation in a community, and was named a Bicycle Friendly University at the Platinum level by the League of American Bicyclists on multiple occasions - they know how to do bikes! Similar rules, regulations, and tips apply at other college and high school campuses as well.
#1 - Make sure you know where to park
Bicycle parking doesn't seem like much of a problem on the surface - but some college campuses restrict where you can, and can't, park your eBike. Make sure you understand the rules before you park.
Consider UC Davis for example, one of the most popular campuses where bicycles rule! Due to the overwhelming use of bikes around campus, they've had to implement some parking rules - you can only park your bike in the designated places specifically labeled for bikes. Don't worry - there are plenty! Bikes parked outside these areas can create a trip and fall hazard, or damage property. Your college or high school campus likely has similar designated spots for bicycle parking, so make sure to use them.
Planning to keep your eBike in a dorm room or residence hall? Check the details first. Some permit it, while others want you to use the designated parking outside and don't permit bikes in student housing.
Bike lockers are also popular for keeping your expensive investment out of the weather. Lockers typically have a monthly or annual rental fee for their use. Check locally to see if your campus offers bike lockers.
#2 - Take steps to prevent theft
Unfortunately, bike theft is common on some college and high school campuses. You can reduce the risk by making your eBike a less attractive target:
- Use two bicycle locks - a sturdy U-Lock, at minimum, that passes through the bike rack and the frame of the bike, plus a cable lock that secures the front and rear wheel. OnGuard's Pitbull combo is one such lock that includes both a U-Lock and a cable.
- Use the PIN code, if your eBike is equipped with one. A PIN lock prevents the eBike motor from turning on until the PIN code is entered, like your ATM card.
- Lock your bike in public, visible locations. High traffic spots are more secure, since there are more witnesses.
- If you bring an eBike to campus, remove the battery from the eBike and bring it with you when you're not riding.
#3 - Have a recovery strategy in the event your eBike is stolen
When you arrive, take a few moments to setup a basic strategy for recovering a stolen bike, before you lock it up on campus
- Make sure to record the serial number.
- Photocopy and laminate an ID and hide it on the bike, inside the frame (such as down the seat tube) - this could help prove ownership if needed in the future.
- Consider using a digital tracker, like an Apple AirTag. While the AirTag is intended for finding misplaced personal items and is not marketed as an anti-theft solution, some users have successfully used AirTags to track and recover stolen bikes.
Some schools ask you to register your bike when you arrive and give you a registration sticker to put on the frame. These programs are sometimes run by campus police departments. Take advantage of this type of program if offered. If your bike is stolen, these programs can help reunite the bike and lawful owner in the event of a theft.
#4 - Use lights
Late nights at the library, or early morning classes - you may find yourself riding in dim or dark conditions. Any bike you buy should include reflectors, and you should install and use them. Reflectors aren't a substitute for real lights, however.
Battery powered lights help you both see, and be seen. You can retrofit rechargeable, battery powered headlights and taillights onto any bikes, like the Blackburn Dayblazer combo series. Some eBikes also include integrated lights, powered by the eBike battery - one less device to remember to charge.
#5 - Wear a helmet every time
When you're in a rush, it's tempting to grab your bike and go. Take the extra few seconds to grab your helmet as well. Not only can a helmet significantly reduce injury risk (increasing your safety), but it might also be the law, depending on your age and location, and the school you attend.
Modern helmets from Thousand, Bell, or Giro are sleek, fashionable, and look great. The Thousand Heritage helmet is very popular with students, and even includes a "PopLock" so you can lock up your helmet when you lock your bike - no need to carry the helmet with you.
#6 - Follow the rules of the road
Campuses can be crowded and busy with car and truck traffic, bicycles, skateboards, pedestrians, and more. You should know, and follow, the rules of the road:
- Know and follow the local vehicle code.
- Ride with traffic (to the right, in the United States.)
- Obey all traffic signals like lights, yield, and stop signs.
- Stay sober - if you drink, don't drink and ride, call a designated driver or Uber instead. You can get a DUI on a bike, just like when you operate a car.
- Control your speed, especially if you ride on sidewalks between buildings. Make sure you know the rules on your campus.
#7 - Carry cargo safely
It's tempting to simply hold food, textbooks, mobile phone, and notebooks in your hands, but resist the temptation to ride one-handed. Use a rear rack with bag, panniers, or a handlebar bag to properly carry cargo, leaving both hands free to balance, steer, and brake.
You can also use a backpack if you prefer to carry the weight on your body instead of on your bike, but with the weight of textbooks, it's nice to not have to have those on your back!
Some eBikes include a rear rack, or you can retrofit a rear rack to just about any bike that doesn't include one.