Electric bicycles are a relatively new mode of transportation. They have grown in popularity in recent years as people search for ways to reduce their reliance on cars. But questions remain about safety, both for the riders and pedestrians. 

While hard data is still forthcoming, proper care and attention and strict adherence to local road and sidewalk rules can make them a safe, green, and efficient way to get around. 

What Are Electric Bicycles?

Electric bicycles, also known as e-bikes, are traditional bicycles with a battery-powered motor that assists the rider as they pedal. E-bikes can be used for various purposes, including commuting, recreation, and exercise. 

Most e-bikes have a throttle that allows the rider to choose how much assistance they need from the motor, making them ideal for long-distance rides and short trips around town. 

E-bikes’ popularity is surging due to their many benefits, which include reduced traffic congestion and carbon emissions, improved fitness and cardiovascular health, and increased independence for seniors and people with disabilities. 

Electric bikes offer a sustainable and economical alternative to driving, and given their ease of use and low cost; they are looking to become more common over the next few years.

Dangers of Electric Bicycles to Pedestrians

There are some risks that e-bikes pose to pedestrians, especially those who are not paying attention to their surroundings. E-bikes are often much quieter than traditional bicycles, so pedestrians may not hear them coming. 

E-bikes can also reach high speeds, making it difficult for pedestrians to get out of the way in time. Spaces shared between pedestrians and bikes like sidewalks or trails are generally not designed with e-bikes in mind and may become riskier. Pedestrians might not hear a rapidly approaching e-bike behind them and inadvertently move in a way that causes an accident. 

They are often heavier than traditional bicycles, which can cause more serious injuries if they collide with a pedestrian. For these reasons, pedestrians need to be aware of the risks posed by e-bikes and take steps to protect themselves.

Dangers of Electric Bicycles to Riders

Although electric bicycles are a convenient, eco-friendly way to get around, they come with some dangers. Riders of electric bicycles can travel at higher speeds than traditional bikes, but they are also at an increased risk of being involved in an accident. 

Electric bicycles are often heavier than traditional bicycles, making them more difficult to control. Many first-time riders are unaccustomed to the higher speeds or the rapid acceleration and can easily lose control. Bikes that are faster and heavier will react differently when the brakes are applied. Stopping times will be longer, and the risk of going over the handlebars or falling over will be higher.

Existing cycling infrastructure is not tailored for the higher weights or faster speeds of e-bikes. To ride safely, e-bike riders must take extra precautions, be aware of cycle path conditions, riding patterns of other riders on the trail, and maintain a reasonable speed and proper distance. 

Though electric bicycles offer many benefits, it is essential to be aware of the dangers they pose so that you can ride safely and avoid accidents.

Can I Be Seriously Hurt Riding an E-Bicycle?

While many see e-bikes as a sustainable option to get commuters out of cars and traffic off the streets, they are not without risks. Cyclists on regular bikes risk accidents or falls; with the added weight and higher speeds of an e-bike, these risks increase.  

There is some debate about the safety of e-bicycles. Some argue that the motor makes them more dangerous, while others contend that they are no different than regular bicycles and the potential for injury is roughly the same. 

A study in the journal of clinical medicine compared accidents involving e-bikes, bicycles, and motorcycles. The study found that of the three e-bikes had similar accidents to bicycles, with the main differences occurring because of age and speed.

The average age of an e-bike rider was 14 years older than a bicycle rider. This age difference makes the e-bike riders more susceptible to certain types of injuries, such as head injuries. The major difference in accidents between bicycles and e-bikes is primarily due to age, so the study concludes that riding an e-bike is roughly as dangerous as riding a bicycle. 

This means riders must wear a helmet when riding an e-bicycle, just as you would with a regular bicycle. As the top speeds of an e-bike are often closer to a motorscooter or small motorcycle than a bicycle, wearing protective clothing and a motorcycle helmet can give riders extra protection against traumatic brain injuries and road rash should they crash. 

Riders should also take special precautions when riding in crowded areas or areas with a lot of traffic. They should also obey all traffic laws, just as they would when driving a car, and give way and respect pedestrian spaces on sidewalks as they would when riding a traditional bicycle. 

Risks of Electric Bicycle Batteries

Lithium-ion batteries are the most popular type of battery used in electric bicycles. While they have many advantages, including a long lifespan and high energy density, they also come with some risks. One of the most serious risks is that of fire.

Lithium-ion batteries can catch fire if they are damaged or overcharged. To help prevent this, electric bicycles typically use Battery Management Systems to monitor and regulate the battery’s charging and discharge cycles. 

Another risk to consider is the environmental impact of lithium-ion batteries, particularly the mining process. Lithium mining is an environmentally damaging process that is both water-intensive and highly polluting. Most of the world’s lithium comes from ecologically sensitive areas like the Atacama Desert of Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina, where lithium mining has affected protected species and damaged aquifers.

E-bike batteries can continue to pose risks after their lifecycle. These batteries contain toxic chemicals in addition to lithium like nickel and lead that can leach into the soil and groundwater if not disposed of properly. 

Safe, Green, and Efficient 

Electric bicycles are a convenient, eco-friendly way to get around, but riding an e-bike can come with some risks. Increased speed, additional weight, and a potentially inflammable battery give e-bikes extra risks that traditional bikes don’t have, but still far fewer than a motorcycle or motor scooter. 

While there are risks to riding an e-bike, it remains one of the healthiest, most efficient, and greenest modes of transportation available today. They are far safer and environmentally friendly than any vehicle powered by an internal combustion engine and have enough power to get skeptical commuters out of cars and onto cycle paths. 

E-bikes might just be the next revolution in human transportation and will help bring the trusty old bicycle into the 21st century.