E-Bike Accidents on the Rise are Causing Personal Injuries
The Recent Proliferation of E-Bikes
Since 2021, e-bike and e-scooter sales have skyrocketed, and these motorized vehicles are commonly ridden around the South Bay. The law regarding electric bikes is in its infancy, relative to the explosion in usage of the number of electric bikes and other electrified vehicles. For both affordability and environmental reasons, people are turning to e-bikes for transportation. Mohammad Seraj, friend to Baker, Burton & Lundy, and owner of The Old Bicycle Shop in Hermosa Beach, California, can attest to this phenomenon.
Mohammad has seen a 20% rise in the shop’s electric bike sales in the past year, and this number is only rising; saying, “these bicycles are the future of the biking industry.” Keeping riders’ safety in mind, he notes the importance of only adults operating electric-powered bikes as the risks are high.
What are the issues with e-bikes?
Unfortunately, accidents and injuries involving e-bikes compared to regular bikes are increasing, as seen in the Los Angeles Times article on January 15, 2023, which reported on the challenges faced by Orange County cities in tackling the issue of e-bike usage on boardwalks. There is mounting public frustration with reckless e-bike riders. While e-bikes have become an increasingly popular mode of transportation, the risks associated with them must be addressed to protect both riders and pedestrians. Of particular concern is that many of the riders of electrical bikes appear well under the required age of 16.
Understanding these risks, the Consumer Product Safety Commission regulates these products to protect cyclists and pedestrians from the dangers of electric bicycle injuries, one example being the requirement for e-bikes to have a maximum speed of 20 miles per hour when using power assist. This regulation is in place to protect riders from the potential dangers of e-bikes traveling at higher speeds. For more information, visit the CPSC website.
When are you at risk of an accident?
With e-bikes becoming increasingly more popular, so are accidents. Many individuals have experienced the dangers of e-bikes going over the speed limit and disregarding stop signs, putting them and their passengers at risk.
Often, it is a minor illegally operating the e-bike or e-scooter who may not understand the risks involved. In the event of a collision between an e-bike or e-scooter and an automobile, the drivers are often not looking out for them in the first place – when a 4,000-pound vehicle is against a 20-pound bicycle, the bicycle is always going to be the loser.
Beyond that, occasionally e-bikes or e-scooters may malfunction, causing them to drive uncontrollably, possibly even into oncoming traffic. These risks place an additional burden on the legal system.
How common are electric bike accidents?
In most instances, riding an e-bike is three times more likely to result in an accident than a regular bike. Bicycle Retailer reports, in California, only two e-bikes were involved in the 30 bike accidents that occurred in 2019, While in 2022, e-bikes were involved in 32 out of 57 accidents. According to NBC, even cities such as Carlsbad, California, are taking legal action for e-bike safety after experiencing a 233% rise in e-bike accidents resulting in injuries and deaths in the past three years.
What can be done to make e-bike riding safer?
It’s no doubt that e-bicycles will continue to be a part of our lives. To make e-bike riding safer, required licensing and testing for operating an e-bike will ensure riders get proper training. There are many young riders who do not understand right-of-way or signaling, and many do not stop for stop signs. Developing a program to license e-bike riders would help educate the population and encourage more responsible riding. Obviously, it won’t be perfect – just as people with driver’s licenses are not always responsible drivers. But it will be an important step toward responsible riding, and losing a license could be a consequence of improperly operating an electric bike.
What are the types of e-bikes?
E-bikes are classified into three categories: Class 1, Class 2, and Class 3.
- Class 1: E-bikes have a motor that only assists the rider when the rider is pedaling and ceases to provide assistance when the bike reaches a speed of 20 mph.
- Class 2: E-bikes have a motor that can be used to propel the bike without pedaling, but with a top speed of 20 mph.
- Class 3: E-bikes have a motor that assists the rider while pedaling and ceases to provide assistance when the bike reaches a speed of 28 mph.
What are the current laws to prevent e-bike injuries?
In California, electric bikes are regulated by state law and local ordinances however this area of the law is just beginning to evolve. Here are some key points to keep in mind:
1. E-bikes are generally allowed on bike paths and bike lanes, but local ordinances may have different rules. It is important to check the laws in your specific city or county.
2. E-bikes are not allowed on sidewalks unless specifically permitted by local ordinances.
3. E-bikers are subject to the same rules of the road as regular bike riders, including the requirement to stop at stop signs and traffic signals and to use hand signals when turning.
4. E-bike riders must be at least 16 years old and are required to wear a helmet if under 18 years of age.
To read more regarding the laws set in California to prevent e-bike injuries, please visit the websites of the DMV or the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute.
Who may be at fault in an accident?
If injuries occur, determining who may be at fault depends on the specific circumstances of the accident. Similar responsibilities are held in the event of electric scooter accidents. Some potential parties who may be at fault include the rider, the manufacturer, the owner, the person or entity responsible for maintaining the e-bike, or another driver.
For example, just because a car may have a green light, once someone enters the intersection, they could have right of way depending on how far in they are. Beyond that, electric bikes are typically not covered by insurance; your home insurance policy may have this exclusion. Check your insurance policies – it is unlikely that an e-bike accident will be covered by your auto insurance. You must specifically request to add motorized vehicles to your policy. It is very important to contact a personal injury attorney if you or one of your family members is involved in an accident with an e-bike or e-scooter.
The Future of E-Bikes
In conclusion, e-bikes have taken the transportation world by storm, but with their growing popularity, we must also consider the potential risks associated with them. The Consumer Product Safety Commission has put regulations in place to protect riders and pedestrians, but it’s crucial for riders to take personal responsibility for their own safety as well. Unfortunately, accidents involving e-bikes are on the rise, with a significant number of these caused by minors operating them illegally without understanding the risks.
Let’s work together to make sure that e-bikes continue to be a convenient and eco-friendly mode of transportation while also keeping everyone safe on the roads. Remember, safety should always be the top priority when it comes to e-bikes. Stay informed, follow the rules and regulations, and let’s make the streets a safer place for the South Bay.
Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute, Bicycle Retailer, CPSC, DMV, Los Angeles Times, NBC, The Old Bike Shop
Please Note: This document does not constitute legal advice. Please consult an attorney for legal advice on what to do in a particular situation.