Are E-Bikes More Dangerous than Normal Bikes?

Active young bikers with safety gears cycling on urban roadA 24-year-old electric bicycle rider was injured recently in San Diego when he was struck by a vehicle. He pulled into the path of a car after failing to yield but fortunately is expected to be okay.

This incident begs the question: are the advantages of E-bikes, namely their ability to zip along at higher-than-average speeds with little input from the rider, actually a danger to the riders?

Analyzing the Safety of E-Bikes

Because E-bikes fall in the middle ground between pedal bicycles and motorcycles, there are some unique dangers to them. Here is a short list:

  • Applying too much throttle from a dead stop, a major cause of E-bike accidents, can easily send a rider to the ground. Fortunately, because these accidents by nature occur at stops or very low speed, injuries tend to be minor.
  • E-bikes are very quiet, so a rider may activate the throttle without knowing the bike is on, leading to similar injuries as applying too much throttle from a stop.
  • Defects in the front hub motor fork can lead to a rider being thrown headfirst over the handlebars. Helmets can protect against head injuries in these cases, but neck and spine injuries are possible.
  • Mistreatment of lithium batteries can lead to fires.
  • Passing a vehicle at high speeds, on a silent e-bike, can alarm drivers and lead to accidents. That’s assuming the driver even notices the E-bike, which, since they are very quiet, they might not.
  • Riders may not realize that they are riding a motor vehicle and might disobey street signs and lights.

Despite this, there are some safety advantages to E-bikes. For starters, there is a federal law saying that E-bikes cannot travel faster than 20 mph, meaning any accident is likely to be low-speed. Furthermore, they have better brakes and can slow down quicker; they also come with features that help prevent cyclists from flying over the handlebars during a quick stop. E-bikes are also much more robust vehicles, adding to their stability.