Keep Safety In Mind While Riding An E-Bike

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There is no denying the increasing popularity of e-bikes. These power-assisted bicycles were once considered a novelty in North America but that changed during the pandemic.
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There is no denying the increasing popularity of e-bikes. These power-assisted bicycles were once considered a novelty in North America but that changed during the pandemic.

It is reported sales of e-bikes in the United States rose 269 per cent between 2019 and 2022. While global automotive sales declined nearly 20 per cent in 2020 due to the outbreak of COVID-19 the demand for e-bikes soared, according to Canadian researchers.

Precedence Research reports that the global e-bike market was valued at US$17.56 billion in 2021 and is projected to be worth around US$40.98 billion by 2030.

Not only are e-bikes an economical mode of transportation but, like other electric vehicles (EV) they have had a positive effect on the environment. It was reported that there were more than 20 million electric vehicles and 1.3 million commercial EVs including trucks, delivery vans and buses on the road worldwide in 2022.

But that was a drop in the bucket compared to more than 280 million electric mopeds, scooters, motorcycles and three-wheelers that were in use. It is estimated these vehicles cut demand for oil by a million barrels of oil a day, or about one per cent of the world's total oil demand.

E-bikes are also fun. However, bicycle safety experts warn that without the right training, e-bike users face a greater risk of injury or death than those riding regular bicycles.

"They can go much faster, and this may create risk for hitting pedestrians who can't get out of the way in time, or with motor vehicles, whose drivers do not anticipate a bike moving so fast," says Dr. Walter Biffl, a trauma surgeon at the Scripps Clinic. "There's also more momentum and the stopping distance will be much greater."

Rules of the Road.

When operating any motorized conveyance, there are laws that must be followed and e-bikes are no exception. In Ontario, e-bikes can be ridden on most roads and highways where conventional bicycles are permitted but there are some exceptions.

You cannot ride an e-bike on:

  • certain provincial controlled access highways, such as the 400 series, the Queen Elizabeth Way, the Queensway in Ottawa or the Kitchener-Waterloo Expressway;
  • municipal roads, including sidewalks, where bicycles are banned under municipal bylaws; and
  • municipal roads, sidewalks, bike paths, bike trails or bike lanes where e-bikes are prohibited

Municipalities have their own bylaws when it comes to bicycles and e-bikes. Toronto, for example, bans all bicycles, whether powered by people or batteries, on sidewalks. The only exception is children 14 and under if their bike has wheels under 61 centimetres. There is a $60 fine for riding a bicycle or e-bike on a sidewalk.

It is also important to note that you must be at least 16 years old to operate an e-bike and you must wear a helmet.

According to the Ontario government, an e-bike must have:

  • a maximum assisted speed of 32 km/h;
  • a maximum weight of 120 kg (including the weight of the bike and battery);
  • an electric motor not exceeding 500 watts;
  • no modifications to the motor to allow it to exceed a power output greater than 500 watts and an assisted speed greater than 32 km/h;
  • a battery and electric motor securely fastened to the bicycle frame to prevent them from moving while the e-bike is operating;
  • properly insulated electrical terminals;
  • a minimum wheel width of 35 mm and minimum diameter of 350 mm; and
  • two independent braking systems that apply force to each wheel and are capable of bringing the e-bike, while being operated at a speed of 30 km/h, to a full stop within nine metres, on a level asphalt surface from the point at which the brakes were applied

Removing the pedals makes the e-bike a motor vehicle, which requires a licence, insurance and registration to operate, the government states.

E-Bike Safety Concerns.

Riding any type of bike can be risky. Since e-bikes are able to travel faster than regular bicycles, injuries suffered in an accident can be more serious. While there are no definitive accident statistics available, injuries have continued to surge in recent years.

In the United States, there were an estimated 360,800 emergency department visits related to all micro-mobility devices, which includes e-bikes, e-scooters and hoverboards, between 2017 and 2022. Fractures, followed by contusions/abrasions, are the two most commonly reported injuries.

During that same time, helmet use dropped by almost six percent each year according to NPR. It was reported that the number of e-bike riders with head trauma seeking hospital care rose 49 per cent to nearly 8,000 in 2022.

Recently, there have also been increasing reports of e-bike fires.

Health Canada states lithium-ion batteries in e-bikes are more powerful than those used on smaller products such as power tools and could lead to "thermal runaway."

"Thermal runaway can occur when too much heat builds up inside the battery due to damage, malfunction or misuse. This excessive heat, in combination with the highly flammable contents of the lithium-ion battery, can lead to explosions or fires that are extremely difficult to extinguish," Health Canada states.

After an e-bike fire on a TTC subway station earlier this year, Toronto Fire Chief Matthew Pegg told CBC that people should only use batteries and charging cords that are designed and approved by the device manufacturer and avoid overcharging the device.

The batteries should be stored away from anything that can catch fire and should not be used if there is any odour coming from it, if the colour or shape has changed, if there is leaking or noise coming from the batteries or if there are abnormal amounts of heat emitting from it.

Call Our Personal Injury Law Firm if You Have Been in an Accident.

Because an e-bike has pedals, it is not considered a motorized vehicle and automobile insurance is not required. So what happens if you are hurt in an accident? That depends on the circumstances.

If you have been struck by an e-bike you might be able to file a claim through the operator's home insurance policy if they are covered.

If you were injured in a collision with a car while riding your e-bike, you would be covered by the driver's auto policy. Even if an automobile was not involved in your bicycle accident, you may be able to file a tort claim for damages if you were not at fault or only partially at fault for the accident and seriously injured.

You may be facing months of rehabilitation following an e-bike accident and you may not know where to turn. Personal injury law is complex and there are deadlines that could affect your claim.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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