Some Bunch families mostly travel on peaceful bike trails and quiet side streets - enjoying a Sunday afternoon family ride, a picnic or a beach cruise.
For others - myself included - the bike is truly a car replacement. We bike our daily school commute as well as errands, doctor appointments, grocery runs, playdates, activities, and all the rest!
Safe infrastructure makes a world of difference. We use protected bikeways wherever we can. But the reality of life in a US city is that we're interacting with cars on a daily basis, too.
Most are happy to "share the road," at least in theory, but the behaviors that would keep bikers safe aren't widely known or practiced. How many drivers do you know who always check for bikes before opening a car door or making a right turn? I didn't even know to take these precautions myself until I was biking - and learning from other bike advocates on Twitter and other social media.
Just by virtue of its size and visibility, the Bunch Bike makes it easier to "take the lane" while riding. Cars tend to give it a lot more space than they would a regular two-wheeled bike. And if you do get doored in a Bunch Bike - that car door might take some damage - but you're a lot less likely to take a spill!
Still, we're passionate about advocating for better infrastructure. And in the meantime - city cyclists learn quickly to look out for our own safety.
Toward that end, we're now offering several new tools geared specifically for city riders - to help you communicate in "car language" and be seen, heard, and respected by drivers.
BRAND NEW! Our Bunch fam has been asking for a HONK HONK horn for a long time. Existing horn options don't really work on the Bunch - because a handlebar-mounted horn would be very loud for little ears in the cargo area!
We're now proud to offer a custom-wired horn + alarm system designed specifically for the Bunch Bike.
The horn button goes on your handlebar - I like mine on the edge of my foam grip, where I can easily reach it with my thumb. (I do still also have a separate bell - for when I'm communicating with pedestrians or other bikes!)
The horn itself is positioned on the underside of your cargo box, in front, next to the headlamp - so it's clearly audible to cars, but away from little ears!
In its alarm mode, the system also offers an additional layer of deterrence to would-be thieves, with three levels of adjustable sensitivity.
The included remote control allows you to lock the bike (alarm mode) or unlock it (horn mode.) It also has a "find me" button for remote horn activation, like on a car remote - although it's kind of hard to lose your Bunch Bike in a parking lot!
The wires for the horn run through your wire loom and underneath the cargo box. It's best for us to install this system on your new bike at the warehouse, of course - but we will also offer detailed installation instructions to those who wish to add it to an existing Bunch Bike!
I lived without this for my first 16,000 Bunch miles... but I've been testing it for a month and I don't think I'll ever go back. Being able to warn off drivers who are about to turn into the bike lane without looking makes my family safer. (They are usually pretty surprised when they figure out the honking came from the bike...) Honestly, I think it's better for my kids than listening to me angrily shout "HEY!" in a futile attempt to get a driver to hear me.
I do still use and love my bell for communicating with pedestrians and other bike riders. They serve different purposes!
Another awesome dual-purpose safety tool.
The helmet itself is a comfortable, quality build with top-of-the-line MIPS impact protection as well as a nifty magnetic buckle, adjustable-fit knob and high-tech ventilation system.
But what's so smart about it?
It doubles as a turn signal and brake light!
The remote installs on your handlebars - again, the edge of your foam grip is a handy spot. Pressing L or R triggers a bright, flashing turn signal.
It's easy for drivers to understand, and it doesn't require taking your hands off the handlebar or brake - both disadvantages to the traditional cyclist hand signals, which frequently get misinterpreted as just saying hi! They're less likely to try zooming around you if they realize that you're slowing down to take a turn.
Motion sensors in the helmet trigger automatic brake lights when you slow or stop - again making it easier for drivers to understand your intentions and your rights on the road.
Even when you're just going straight ahead, the helmet offers 500 lumens of all-around illumination to add to your visibility on the road. A phone app allows you to select from a range of lighting patterns which will also automatically adjust based on your lighting and weather conditions. (Your Bunch Bike also comes with a built-in headlight and taillight... and many owners have already added LED lights to the box... but more is better!)
Like the horn, these "car-style" lights seem to cue drivers to treat your vehicle with respect, as an equal member of the community with an equal right to travel safely.
The final feature is one we hope you'll never need. Your City Safe helmet automatically detects a crash and sends a notification to your phone. If it doesn't receive an "I'm fine" confirmation from you within five minutes - it notifies your designated emergency contact, with a GPS location marker.
We tested several smart helmet brands and chose this offering from Unit 1 Gear as the best combination of safety, comfort, style, and (most important) truly visible signaling.
3. A dashcam system
We've tested a couple of fancy options but found ourselves preferring the dashcam.bike approach of turning your existing cell phone into a safety camera.
Most drivers do their best - their errors come from ignorance, not intention. But filming your ride can be an effective way to deter that small minority who might be intentionally reckless or aggressive.
Ride footage makes it easy to flag infrastructure issues or dangerous driving in your community. Plus, it's fun to share!
The dashcam.bike app is super easy to operate while you're riding. It runs in low power, screen off mode, automatically recording your entire ride and matching it to your GPS route. You can tap on the screen to bookmark a particular moment and easily export clips or screenshots when your ride is done.
In a handful of cities, there's also a single-click "Report to 311" button for addressing infrastructure issues along the way!
Dashcam.bike offers their own phone mount, but it only fits slim phones in slim cases, so we prefer our X Grip mount. You'll want to angle your phone camera so that the horizon is about 1/3 of the way from the top of your screen.
Our City Smart Commuter Package comes with three months of Dashcam.bike access - free! The free version of the app is robust and user-friendly too.
Easy peasy! We've bundled together your horn and alarm, brake lights and turn signal to save you effort and money. Outfit your bike with everything you need to be seen and heard on the road!
Not directly a safety device - but if you commute in the city, and your city bike lanes are anything like mine - you're facing broken glass, discarded hardware, and stray construction debris on a daily basis. It's harder to avoid with three wheels than with two!
Tannus Tire Armour places a layer of foam between your tire and your tube. It does a great job of protecting you from most puncture flats!
If you do get a not-too-severe flat tire while you're out, the armour also offers cushioning for your rim so you're more likely to be able to roll home safely.
We also strongly recommend checking your tire pressure every 2-3 weeks.
That's because the most common flat tire on a Bunch Bike is a pinch flat - caused when an underinflated tire squishes down during your ride, pinching your tube against the rim.
The heavier your bike, the more likely it is to squish down in this way - so keeping your tires fully inflated is a must!
Properly inflated tires can handle even the gnarliest potholes without pinching.
Advocating for safer infrastructure
If you live in an area that doesn't have great bikeways yet - don't despair. Once families start biking - the infrastructure will follow!
Many of our Bunch Squad members find that once they're biking regularly, they get invested in helping their community create more bike lanes and trails, as well as implement other "safe street" practices.
Your area may have a local bike advocacy group already. If not, the Bike League is a fantastic nationwide advocacy organization that can help you figure out where to start!
Horns and lights can help keep your family safe when you're interacting with drivers given what we've got on our roadways today. But in the long term, slower streets, safer intersections, and protected bikeways are even better - because they make the road safer for everybody!