RIding past people on bicycles with a Model S

RIding past people on bicycles with a Model S

Hey guys,

Random question just came to mind.. So I know how silent the model S's are, and was wondering how people riding bicycles in the road can hear you coming.. With an ICE vehicle, it's loud enough to warn them to move over to let the cars past, but since the EV cars are silent, how do you warn them? Do you honk? Just a random question that came to mind when I was out today and saw some people riding bicycles :)


Gluaisrothai | July 23, 2013

Over 15-18mph, tire and wind noise predominates and (loud exhausts excluded) an ICE is not much louder than an EV. Below that speed, honk if needed.

jackhub | July 23, 2013

I have found this to be the most challenging part of driving a Model S. I live in a quiet neighborhood where traffic is slow and where people routinely walk and jog in the streets. I am constantly reminding myself that they can't hear me coming. Working around then can be interesting.

shop | July 23, 2013

And if your AC is on full, then your car is actually pretty loud. But in general, I just treat them like pedestrians - be cautious and aware and drive safely.

brandtlings | July 23, 2013

As a cyclist, and an S owner, honking is not really a good way to warn of your approach. When possible pass as you would another car leaving lots of room (use the oncoming lane if it is safe to do so). If there is oncoming traffic give as much room as you can, hug the center line. If the cyclist doesnt appear to be aware of your presence, be patient. (I wil frequently signal the following car when it is safe to pass.) Remember, the biker has the same right to the road as you, and is proteced by the traffic laws a you are. I know in the state of Washington, you are required to give the cyclist at least 3 feet of clearance. Many cars now on the road are very quiet, but I haven't had any come up behind me without me being aware of it.

theappdeveloper | July 23, 2013

Thanks guys!

Gluaisrothai | July 23, 2013

@brandtings; like I said, honk if needed, implying don't if it's not.

But it is a great way to warn of your approach. It might not be received well, but it serves a purpose.

Tâm | July 23, 2013

Like Shop says, the AC is quite quiet once it reaches its cooling temperature, by cranking it down all the way, the AC is almost as loud as an ICE.

What about in winter? If you have the sound package, you can turn on your stereo up and let the subwoofer does all the pounding and thumping!

Otherwise, just like brandtlings says, give as much room as you can, go to the left lane if cleared.

Noisy ICE do kill pedestrians and bikers. It is not the noise that saves pedestrians and bikers, it's how attentive and thoughtful a car driver is!

brandtlings | July 23, 2013

I don't know how to say this, but some bicyclists are jerks, and when someone honks at them they lollygag in the lane just to piss off the driver behind... The other issue with honking is that some bikers will startle at the honk and may end up further out in the lane where you want to pass, or worse, off the road in the ditch. If you must honk, do it from a long way back and really keep it light.

jonlivesay | July 23, 2013

Assume they will not see you or hear you, be proactive about avoiding them. Have this problem in parking lots with peds, be patient when they finally see you they usually smile because you're not making them suck exhaust fumes.

SCCRENDO | July 23, 2013

Also a cyclist and a model S owner. As Tesla owners are people who are supposedly respecting the environment respect cyclists who are partaking in an environmentally friendly activity. While it is likely some cyclists are jerks most of us are fearful for our lives because of selfish motorists particularly those driving gas guzzling SUVs. Recommend show patience. Give the cyclist enough room and wait a few seconds for the cyclist to be aware of your presence. The last thing you want to do is give the cyclist a fright by honking your horn.

wcalvin | July 23, 2013

How about setting the a/c down to 60 if biker seems unaware?

Gluaisrothai | July 23, 2013

I must comment: I see "as a cyclist" at the start of a few posts above. Not to be overly cynical, but aren't most people cyclists? Where I grew up, just about everyone learned to ride a bike somewhere between 5 and 7, so it's not exactly an achievement nor a great qualification to start a post with. I could understand if a comment start "as an audiologist" or "as an emergency room doctor" or accident analyst etc.


Seriously, on a public road you should either equip yourself with a rear view mirror, have exquisite hearing, look over your shoulder fairly often or expect a friendly "toot" every now and then.

On the other hand, if your delicate sensibilities render you likely to fall over at a loud noise, you might be better with some training wheels.

And by the way, I can and do ride two wheeled vehicles all varieties.

Gluaisrothai | July 23, 2013

Having said the above, I drove to Lick Observatory last weekend. Bay Area bicycle nuts will know the road well. I passed ~35 riders (uphill) and not one failed to hear me and yield, and I didn't need to honk once. I didn't pass too many coming down San Antonio Valley road but I did regen ~10 miles!

GeekEV | July 23, 2013

Just keep the stereo cranked all the time! :-)

michael1800 | July 23, 2013

I recommend driving past people on bicycles instead of riding. :P As a rider, I agree honking should only be used in extreme circumstances and generally speaking, we (riders) should look before making any turn into/towards traffic, whether we hear someone or not...I always do, but there are always exceptions. Same thing for car drivers... Best idea seems to be: Slow down a bit, give us space, pay attention and pass. Other than that, business as usual.

SCCRENDO | July 23, 2013

@klevins. My cycling qualifications. 3 time half ironman, most recently 2 weeks ago, multiple century rides. Training rides at least once a week 56-80 miles, mostly on Southern California streets. Do I qualify as a cyclist???

SCCRENDO | July 23, 2013

@klevins as a physician those rear view mirrors are potentially dangerous as if one falls glass can enter the eye. Not good.

davidg11 | July 23, 2013

How about just yelling out the window: "On your left!"

SCCRENDO | July 23, 2013

@davidg: not funny. Try getting on a bicycle and riding through traffic filled streets for even 10 miles then let us know your opinion on smart-assed and obnoxious motorists. I am quite surprised at the lack of sensitivity shown by Tesla owners and possibly potential Tesla owners to cyclists. We are performing an environmentally friendly activity to stay in shape and try stay healthy. Some may be using it as a zero emission mode of transport and cyclists have the same rights as motorists. In Southern California many cities respect cyclists and go out of their way to accommodate them. The city of Irvine deserves special mention in this regard.

Gluaisrothai | July 24, 2013

"@klevins as a physician those rear view mirrors are potentially dangerous as if one falls glass can enter the eye. Not good."

- Has this EVER happened- a cyclist ending up with glass in an eye from a rear view mirror? Or just wild speculation?
- Shouldn't one in general wear eye protection when riding, especially at speed?
- The mirror does not need to be in proximity to the eye. Handlebar mounts are available but maybe that would be aesthetically or aerodynamically unfavorable.
- I gave some other options for situational awareness

Cyclists need to be situationally aware just as all other road users do; including having some awareness of traffic approaching from the rear. As I originally said, at most road speeds, i.e. above 18mph, EVs generate a similar level of road noise to ICE vehicles* so it's a non factor except on hill climbs or slow neighborhood driving.


Gluaisrothai | July 24, 2013

@SCCRENDO: Unless there's some cycling licensure process of which I'm unaware you are just as qualified a cyclist as anyone else who can ride a bike.

ChristianG | July 24, 2013

People did wish for a function like this years before the Model S was produced:

it would solve almost all problems of the car being so quiet at low speeds

SCCRENDO | July 24, 2013

@ klevins. Not personally an ophthalmologist but best friend and riding body is. His recommendation is never to use those mirrors as he has treated many eye injuries from these. Yes I do wear eye protection as well as a helmet and riding gloves every time out.
My qualifications were put up there in response to what I perceived to be a cynical comment about people calling them cyclists with relatively little or no cycling experience and expressing an opinion. It was to let you know that I believe I am qualified to express opinions as a cyclist, a driver of ICE vehicles for far too many years and now a Tesla driver.
My plea is not to be cynical and disrespectful to cyclists as they have the same rights to the road as you and are in a far vulnerable position than some of those big beasts on the road trying to swat everything out of the way as they fly down the roads they seem to think they own.

njelectric | July 24, 2013

Model S is no different than having a bus with rear engine come up behind you. It can be very startling. Do not honk. Even if a cyclist is aware your are there it is always unexpected and startling (read dangerous). Just give plenty of room and go around.

Gluaisrothai | July 24, 2013

@SCCRENDO: The google search term "eye injuries from bicycle rear view mirrors" and "eye injuries bicycle helmet mirror" failed to return a single relevant hit; not even one anecdotal report of an injury. I did find many many cycling advocate and safety pages recommending the use of mirrors.

I did also, however, find several sites which derided those who use mirrors as uncool. Possibly that's your friends motivation.

I call BS on your ophthalmologist friend unless you provide a citation.

Besides, even if there were some instances of eye damage- what about the overall safety improvement? Do you refuse to wear seatbelts in your car in case you break a rib in a crash?

J.T. | July 24, 2013

@klevins & @sccrendo

Stop it already. People will say you're in love.

SCCRENDO | July 24, 2013

maybe we are
@klevins: I accept my buddies credibility. This is objective first hand experience. We both try stay as safe as possible. This is one question I asked him early on as I thought it was a good idea. Although will gladly bring up the topic again.

This however is not the crux of the safety problem and the answer, as may have echoed above, is to be considerate of cyclists, take a few seconds for them to be made aware of your presence and don't scare them with a loud blast of the Tesla horn or some smart-ass comment like 'on your left'

davidg11 | July 24, 2013


The "on your left!" comment was a joke. If you can't handle the "stress" of cycling, maybe it isn't your thing!

I actually own an electric bike, which also shares the roads, and which usually makes cyclist purists like yourself, cringe to the core.

The electric revolution is coming. I suggest you lighten up a bit!

J.T. | July 24, 2013

@ davidg11 Have you noticed that ardent enthusiasts have little sense of humor about their hobby? Lot of that going on with the Teslaholics, too.

SCCRENDO | July 24, 2013

@davidg11: cycling is a relaxing sport and trust me I am relaxed most of the time. The downside is that we are still need to be on constant alert. Smart-ass comments and sudden distracting sounds are not helpful.

jbunn | July 24, 2013

Wish I had a muted horn sound that sounds like an old school bicycle horn. bringggg bringgggg!

I have a serious question for the cyclists out there that I never could figure out.

In Washington state on some roads we had dedicated cycle lanes about 4 or 5 feet wide. They are separated from the roadway by a solid line. Most cyclists seem to track right down the line, not the center of the lane. That puts them half way into the traffic lane, half way in the bike lane, and dangerously close to projections like vehicle mirrors.

I know as a driver, I would not be allowed to drive right down the center of lane lines. For the cyclist, it just seems dangerous to their person. It also seems like improper use of their dedicated lane.

Can anyone explain the dangerous desire to ride half way outside of the dedicated bike lane?

SCCRENDO | July 24, 2013

the cyclist should stick to the center of the cycling lane if possible but i have found at times the lane is not smooth and there are sometimes transitions to a different kind of paving material in the cycling lane. as accomplished a cyclist as one may be if you hit the ridge at a reasonable speed it can send you flying. Thus it is safer to ride further out to avoid the hazard. I have issues at times with lanes that double as left turn and straight. If I am turning left I hog the center of the lane in case someone behind goes straight when I am turning left. There is one particular place where there are two left turn lanes yet motorists often go straight from that lane. A friend was nearly hit when he turned left from the right side of the turn lane and the motorist illegally went straight.

P4768 | July 24, 2013

I try to drive on the road bumps as I approach them to make some noise.

If that fails, I keep a bicycle bell in my car. I'll open the window and give it a jingle.

Actually I use the bell to warm clueless pedestrians loading their trunks in parking lots that I'm approaching or waiting for their space.

brandtlings | July 24, 2013

@jbunn; If the Highway maintenance people would keep those lanes clean, they would be used as intended, but that's where all the glass and gravel accumulates from the road. Bicycle tires cut easily and don't like the skittish stuff so it's safer to keep closer to the line. When I hear a car approaching from the rear, I move over into the gravel anyway. Most of the bike lanes I use aren't too bad so I will use them as intended. Intersections get messier with glass and gravel so I'll encroach on the main roadway to avoid an unstable situation which would be even more unsafe.

PaceyWhitter | July 24, 2013

I really don't see this as a problem. At speeds where the MS is silent (sub 20 mph) we are talking about neighborhood streets. there is not a lot of traffic on these streets, so you can give the cyclist a wide berth.

On regular streets (30+ mph) the MS is no more silent than any other car.

Lessmog | July 24, 2013

I already mentioned this suggestion to someone, so it is probably not patentable anyway ;-) (And even more so now:)

If/when I do acquire a silent Tesla I would like it to have a gadget which makes a sound like horse-hooves on flagstones. Kind of reminiscent of olden-days' man required to walk in front of car waving a red flag in order not to scare the horses. (!) If you get my drift.

Silence can be scary. Bikes can be very scary! A mild, non-confrontative noise makes others aware of an approaching possibly harmful object, without them losing control in a panic.

Or maybe sheep braying, a dog going woof, a flock of ducks honking ... or for Patriots, a few bars of that horrible Anthem?

Hereby donated to Tesla development or any interested party. Less than half in jest, honest!

SCCRENDO | July 24, 2013

Lets keep the Tesla silent. Approach cyclists cautiously. Most will notice you and try get out of your way.

jnb | July 24, 2013

Please, whatever you do, don't honk. I was on a narrow bridge not to long ago, as far to the right as i could get, and a Prius came up behind me. I have no idea how long they were there, but the got up fairly close and honked. I almost crapped my pants and could very easily have crashed. Please just be patient. its our lives vs. a few seconds of yours.

Lcaudle | July 24, 2013

I got a bike bell for my S!

skymaster | July 24, 2013

GM has a muted pedestrian horn on the Volt...It works great.

tobi_ger | July 25, 2013

So a load "ACHTUNG!" won't help then, neither? jk!

tobi_ger | July 25, 2013


Mystery Lab | November 16, 2014

I'm late to this thread. But as my moniker notes, I am a cyclist.

A few things:

1. Bikes don't just suddenly veer off to the centre of the roadway. The practice of honking when a car is about to pass a bike is jarring, but not helpful to the cyclist.

2. A cyclist has the same rights to the lane in most jurisdictions as a car. If they are riding far from the shoulder, it is usually because there is bad pavement our other dangers near the curb.

3. 99.9% of cyclists don't want to make it harder for cars. We have enough people mad at us already.

4. Imagine that the cyclist is a farm tractor. Be patient and pass when there is plenty of room and you can clearly see ahead. Neither the cyclist nor the tractor is going to make you late for your appointment.

5. If your Tesla is so fabulous to be driving in - and it is - enjoy the ride.

tes-s | November 16, 2014

+1 @Biker. Well said.

Pungoteague_Dave | November 16, 2014

We slow to bicycle speed, open the piano roof, and call out "on the left" just as we do when passing while riding bicycles ourselves. It costs nothing to be polite and respectful of bicycles' equal right to use the road.

Long Island | November 16, 2014

In New York we sneak up behind'em and lean on the horn- "yo! I'm drivin' over here!" "Get yer toys off the road"

sule | November 16, 2014

@Canadian Biker, from a Canadian.

That is how it should be. But it is not reality. Yes, cyclists have the same rights to the lane as cars do but the vice versa is true too but is universally disrespected. Apparently cyclists believe they have the right to the lane relative to other vehicles behind them but they also think that vehicles in front of them either do not exist or are stationary objects to be bypassed from whatever side possible. In many years of driving I have not seen ONE cyclist in the Toronto area who does not behave that way.

That is not just 'annoying'. It is downright dangerous as there is no expectation by the drivers that someone is there. Rules do not account for that either so there are no "prescribed safety mechanisms" in place for that. Furthermore, it is annoying. Cyclists *are* slow. They are only fast because they disobey the rules mentioned. And when they get ahead of a fast vehicle in such a way, causing it to have to either (a) drive at slow bicycle speed, (b) look for often non-existent legal way to overtake the cyclist or (c) ignore the same rules the cyclists ignore. Then this becomes an even greater problem.

BTW, the proper way to drive around a cyclist is to pretend to drive around a car - this requires a temporary lane change. No laws/regulations require any sounds to be made. Drivers and cyclists alike are responsible to look appropriately when making certain manoeuvres so this should not be an issue. This is rarely an issue with motor vehicle drivers since they don't hear the outside world anyway. Cyclists, however, seem to believe that they do.

dborn | November 16, 2014

Cars pay registration fees which go to road maintenance. Bikes do not. In dangerous busy intersections, I do NOT insist on my right to use a turning lane. I use a pedestrian crossing. Keeps both me and cars safe.

cquail | November 16, 2014

Tesla could learn from the Volt which has a courtesy horn at the end of the turn signal which gives a few short beeps to warn cyclists and pedestrians. I only use it when I think I haven't been observed.

nolancn | November 16, 2014

Reading the posts to this thread dated November 16, 2014 illustrates a fundamental lack of knowledge with respect to traffic laws, a lack of an understanding of genuine human integrity, and lastly a complete ignorance of how public works projects (roads and bridges) are funded. First in our jurisdiction a bicyclist has the same rights (AND OBLIGATIONS) as any other vehicle on the public roadway. In our jurisdiction sounding a horn while approaching a cyclist constitutes reckless endangerment and is an infraction that is equivalent to reckless driving. Much to Motorist's chagrin riding two abreast is legal in my locale. With respect to one's integrity two wrongs do not make a right, and while cyclists frequently disobey traffic laws, (AS DO MANY MOTORISTS) this does not give the motorists the right to challenge a 20 pound bicycle with a 2 1/2 ton car. Somehow the limbic system seems to get fired up and drivers just can't help but prove the superiority of their 200+ horsepower, 3000+ pound vehicle versus the 0.25 horsepower, 20+ pound bicycle. With respect to funding road projects, most of us who drive a Tesla contribute little directly to road maintenance since we buy no gasoline to power our vehicles. Most of us however pay plenty in the way of local, sales, and state income taxes which invariably contribute to road maintenance. Finally the road maintenance required due to the use of said road by a 20 pound bicycle and a 3-5,000 pound car must be vastly different.
Civility on the road is paramount. Road rage has no place wether it be one driver challenging another driver or a driver challenging a cyclist (I have never seen a cyclist effectively challenge a driver).