How to ride an e-bike safely
E-bikes are more popular than ever, with older riders driving much of the demand. Proponents tout e-bikes as a way to make cycling easier for regular people like seniors and people with disabilities, car-free families in urban environments, and anyone who might be hesitant to ride a traditional bike. .
However, as more and more riders adopt this new technology, new safety concerns have arisen. A worrying statistic from the Netherlands in 2018 sounded the alarm: between 2016 and 2017, the number of deaths from e-bikes in a country known for its bike-friendliness nearly doubled. Around 75 per cent of the victims were men aged 65 and over. Peter van der Knaap, director of the Dutch Road Safety Research Foundation, told The Guardian that many of the accidents were linked to riders failing to mount or dismount their e-bikes properly. A recent study suggests that these trends continue into 2019.
In 2019, dozens of riders were injured while riding electric Citibikes in New York City, prompting Lyft, the Citibike’s owner, to temporarily remove all of its roughly 1,000 e-bikes from the city’s streets due to safety concerns, according to the New York Times.
Of course, as e-bikes take a larger share of the bike market, they will also be involved in more collisions and rider fatalities. But riders interested in e-bikes should learn how to operate this new type of bike to ensure their safety. E-bikes are typically much heavier than regular commuter bikes, have higher top speeds, and make normally manageable curves and obstacles more dangerous. Here are six e-bike safety tips you should know.
1 Pay more attention to traffic
Every cyclist should be aware of traffic flow, but it’s even more important for e-bikes. Drivers may not expect a cyclist to hit 20 mph on the road, and this disconnect can lead to potentially dangerous situations.
Marco Dozza, a researcher at Chalmers University of Technology, wrote in a study at the International Conference on Bicycle Safety, “As e-bikes become more and more popular, other road users may need to recalibrate their expectations in order to maintain safe interactions with this new type of bicycle.” This means considering not only what you do on your bike, but also how drivers perceive you.
2 Letting yourself be seen
Part of the traffic problem is that drivers don’t know how to keep an eye out for speeding bikes with an extra 200 watts of power behind them. To make sure you’re seen, Hong Quan, founder of e-bike company Karmic Bikes, recommends equipping your bike with lights and a bell. It’s not just drivers; your speed may be too fast for pedestrians or other cyclists, who won’t hear you without a polite warning.