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How Safe Are E-Bikes?

Young woman doing a split while riding an e-bike
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Over the weekend, entertainment mogul Simon Cowell reportedly broke his back while testing out an e-bike in his driveway. E-bikes, or electric bicycles, are increasingly popular in metropolitan areas. They’re a relatively cheap, easy way to get around without increasing the carbon footprint. But are they safe?

Cowell had to undergo six hours of emergency surgery and have a metal rod placed in his back following his accident. That sounds pretty serious, but anyone can be injured in a bicycle crash, right?

Bicycles, E-Bikes, and Motorcycles

Many consumers don’t draw much distinction between bicycles and e-bikes, but in truth, the electric-powered vehicles are more like motorcycles. They can reach speeds over 60 mph with no effort from the rider, making them much more dangerous in the event of a crash than their traditional counterparts.

In addition, many areas lack the infrastructure to support e-bikes. Riders may improperly use bike lanes or simply ride on the sidewalk, making pedestrian collisions much more likely.

Safety Precautions

As Simon Cowell himself stated on Twitter following his surgery, “If you buy an electric trail bike, read the manual before you ride it for the first time.”

E-bikes vary greatly between manufacturers. Some are more powerful or require a different setup, and it’s important to read the manual before taking it for a spin.

You should also always wear a helmet. Although concussions are statistically more likely while riding electric scooters than e-bikes, helmets are nonetheless a critical piece of gear.

Finally, you should make sure that no part of your clothing could get caught in the bike’s chain. That’s true of pedal bicycles as well, but the e-bike’s speed reduces your time to react to a shoelace or pant cuff getting stuck.

Expanding Popularity Means E-Bikes Are Here to Stay

E-bikes are one of the fastest-growing consumer transportation products on the market. Even as sales of traditional bikes slowed, e-bikes continued to be a major hit for manufacturers like Trek. As an alternative to crowded public transportation or ride-sharing, e-bikes are certainly appealing.

Citi Bike promised to increase the number of e-bikes available for rent throughout major cities.

“Pedal-assist bikes have proven incredibly popular, and we are working hard to keep up with demand both on a daily basis as well as by increasing our fleet,” a spokesperson for the company said. “We are on track to add hundreds more throughout the rest of the summer and more on top of that this year.”

However, Citi Bike experienced a setback in 2019 when their bikes proved to have a serious–and dangerous–issue with the brakes. Other companies have rushed to fill the gap in big cities and minor metro areas. If you decide to try out an e-bike for yourself, make sure to proceed with caution.

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