Are E-Bikes More Dangerous?

woman buckling her bike helmet

Electric bicycles (also called e-bikes) are at the center of a growing fad among bicyclists. Like all forms of transportation, these pedal-assisted inventions offer cyclists unique benefits as well as newfound concerns. In the United States, e-bike sales have soared for riders in two distinct groups: off-road mountain bikers and urban commuters. For now, the number of e-bikers in America is relatively low, but Asia has the largest usage of power-assisted bicycles with over a hundred million riders. However, most of these riders purchased an e-bike as a personal mobility solution and not a recreational vehicle. Nonetheless, sales in urban areas, especially with campuses like the University of Florida in Gainesville, are expected to skyrocket in the coming months.

E-Bikes versus Electric Scooters

The first electric bicycles date back to the 1880s when bicycles were a common mode of affordable transportation. But, due to the lack of battery technology, these vehicles were awkward in size and did not catch on until the turn of the 21st century when technological advances for a lightweight and nimble two-wheeler became a reality. Some of the earliest e-scooters evolved from pedal scooters, which resemble a skateboard with an upright handlebar. Recently, electric scooters have become a true vehicle with scooter-size tires, a seat, and fenders. Many of these vehicles are ideal for gated communities, town centers, and campus areas. In fact, some models fold up and are easily transported to and from such areas in the trunk of a car. In general, the top speed of an e-scooter is less than that of the faster e-bike.

Does Owning an E-Bike Result in Less Exercise?

You would think the obvious answer to this question would be YES, but you would be wrong. Research studies conducted at Brigham Young University measured the heart rates of riders using regular mountain bikes as compared to those riding e-bikes. Unlike riding an e-scooter, e-bikes are pedal-assisted so the rider combines the physical intensity of pedaling with assistance from a high-watt electric motor. What researchers discovered was almost equal increases in heart rates from both groups, which allowed them to conclude that the pedal-assisted bikes provided the same cardiovascular (aerobic) benefits as conventional bicycles. One big difference was the fact that e-bikers were able to ride for longer periods without needing to rest. Moreover, e-bike participants said they had more fun and would likely ride more often.

Dangers and Disadvantages of Riding E-Bikes

It is true that any type of vehicle has its unique dangers and disadvantages, and e-bikes are no exception. However, if you understand these, you can make better choices and take steps to avoid the negatives. Listed below are some of the early findings, such as:

  • E-bikes may not prove to be more dangerous than bicycles or motorbikes, but the risk is believed to increase in people 60 years of age and older. This is due to the rider's decrease in strength and agility combined with the higher speeds that e-bikes can attain.
  • Hospital admissions from conventional bicycle riders, e-bikers, and scooter operators suggest e-bikers had slightly higher rates of internal injuries following a crash when compared to conventional cyclists and e-scooter riders were more susceptible to concussions and head injuries due to primarily riding their vehicles on roadways.
  • Since most electric scooters and e-bikes use Lithium batteries, there is a risk of a battery catching fire. However, this is most common where the batteries have been subjected to careless treatment, poor maintenance, and other forms of abuse. Overall, e-vehicles are considered safe to use.
  • Most e-bike road accidents with injuries are not due to any inherent fault in manufacturing or design. People who choose e-bikes and electric scooters as an affordable mode of transportation for commuting must “learn and obey” traffic rules for their community. If a rider isn’t paying attention, they are creating a dangerous situation and may be considered negligent.

After more than a century of being little more than a passing idea, electric bicycles are becoming mainstream as a personal mobility vehicle. Whether used off-road on hiking trails or ridden in shared spaces on urban roadways, e-bikes will be involved in their fair share of vehicular and pedestrian-related accidents, and some incidences will involve personal injuries and property damage. If you or a loved one are involved in an accident with a human-powered, pedal-assisted, or electric-powered cyclist, contact a personal injury attorney at Schackow & Mercadante to discuss the details of your accident injuries.