If you think you’ve noticed an increase in the number of bicycles on the road with motors, your eyes are not deceiving you. Estimates by Navigant Research place U.S. sales of electronic and motorized bicycles, known as “e-bikes,” at around 50,000 per year. Whether seeking to save the environment, or their own wallet, consumers are increasingly looking to e-bikes as an affordable and environmentally conscious form of transportation. But along with the aforementioned benefits, the rise of e-bikes is not without some dangers and risks to public safety.
Popular transportation remains largely unregulated
According to the owner of a new e-bike store in Denver’s Bonnie Brae neighborhood, the city recently opened an Office of Sustainability to encourage cycling as an alternate form of commuting, in addition to creating the infrastructure necessary to facilitate cycling. Under the law, e-bike owners are not required to register their cycles with the DMV, do not need to pass road tests, and can ride their motorized two-wheelers on bike paths and anywhere else a regular bike can go. This can actually be dangerous since these bikes travel at speeds of up to 20 miles per hour, which is certainly fast enough to cause severe injuries in collisions with pedestrians and other cyclists.
Serious injuries and death
If Coloradans want to see a worst-case scenario with regard to the downside of e-bikes, they take a peek at what’s occurred in Asia, where this mode of transportation is already extremely popular. In China, for instance, where an estimated 200 million residents ride e-bikes, Peking University researchers demonstrated that these bicycles were implicated in 57% of serious nonfatal road accidents in the study, with 36% of injured riders suffering from traumatic brain injuries. E-bikes have also been linked to thousands of bicycle deaths in China each year.
E-bike accident victims have rights
While the local and state governments in Colorado may not be heavily regulating e-bikes yet, people that are injured in accidents have rights under the law. Individuals that operate these bicycles recklessly or carelessly are liable to compensate the victims they harm. In addition to riders, there may be other liable parties in e-bike accidents, from bicycle manufacturers to individuals that contribute to the conditions that cause accidents.