When looking to choose an eBike for yourself, you might find yourself wondering – are eBikes safe or dangerous?
While eBikes are among some of the best personal mobility options, they are also prone to the question of safety. If you’re someone looking to purchase an eBike but are worried about the potential risks then this guide is meant for you.
We will try to address all your concerns about eBike safety, so read on. Here’s what this guide will cover.
- Are eBikes Safe or Dangerous?
- Injuries Associated With eBikes
- eBike Safety Regulations
- eBike Risks: When are eBikes Dangerous?
- Are eBikes Safe for Seniors?
- Verdict: Are eBikes Safe or Dangerous?
- How to Ride eBikes Safely?
Are eBikes Safe or Dangerous?
Coming back to the question at hand: are electric bikes safe? Well, the short answer is, yes.
Compared to regular bicycles, eBikes come with higher standards of parts, such as frame, tires, and suspension, which ensures a smooth ride as well as better safety on all kinds of terrains and in all sorts of weather conditions.
Moreover, numerous built-in safety mechanisms (such as hydraulic brakes, speed limiters, and LED headlamps, to name a few) when paired with the safety regulations set by countries make eBikes a safe ride for everyone.
Looking at the statistics, a study published in the International Transport Forum concluded that there is no correlation between electric bikes and an increase in visits to the Emergency Department. Moreover, no studies have found eBikes to cause a rise in the total number of accidents.
The long answer is a little more complicated.
Electric bikes, like any other vehicle on the road, are prone to accidents and people can get all kinds of injuries while using them. But that doesn’t mean eBikes are dangerous, as you’ll see later in this guide.
Injuries Associated With eBikes
A study published in the Journal of Clinical Medicine in 2021 highlighted the injury comparison between eBikes, motorbikes, and bicycles, and made the following observations:
- Those who rode eBikes experienced similar injuries to those who rode bicycles as compared to those who rode motorcycles.
- eBike riders were more likely to use helmets than their bicycle riding counterparts.
- People who suffered eBike-related accidents were about 14 years older than their bicycle-using counterparts.
- Despite the use of helmets, eBike users were more likely to suffer from mild injuries related to the brain when compared to regular bicycle users.
- Injuries related to the pelvic region were more common in eBike users when compared to bicycle users.
Aside from these, injuries associated with eBikes can be of the following categories.
- Injuries related to soft tissues (tendons, muscles, and ligaments)
- Bone fractures
- Internal injuries
- Injuries to the head
- Cuts, bruises, and scrapes
It’s always best to know the risks involved while using electric bikes so that you can minimize or avoid them. But before we move on to that, let’s see the major eBike safety regulations adopted across the world.
eBike Safety Regulations
To ensure the safe usage of electric bikes, countries around the world have mandated certain design specifications.
This has led to the creation of a classification system currently used by the United States and some other countries.
According to the US federal register, eBikes are classified into three distinct classes, though they can vary from state to state:
- Class 1 eBikes: These electric bikes can provide maximum speeds up to 20 mph (about 32 km/h) with pedal assist. The motor must stop providing assistance once the maximum speed is reached.
- Class 2 eBikes: These electric bikes can provide maximum speeds up to 20 mph (about 32 km/h) without the need for pedaling, as they use throttles.
- Class 3 eBikes: These are electric bikes that can provide maximum speeds up to 28 mph (about 45 km/h) with pedal assist.
As far as the power output is concerned, eBike motors can only deliver up to 250W of nominal (continuous) power and cannot assist riders over 25 km/h (15.5 mph) in the UK, Europe, and Australia.
In the US and Canada, the power output limitation varies from state to state, with most allowing 750W (1hp) of max power.
Although eBikes don’t classify as motor vehicles, they aren’t treated the same as normal bicycles either. Each state has its own local regulations regarding whether a certain class of eBike is allowed on road or bike lanes.
Having an idea of the rules for your region should keep you safe for the most part.
eBike Risks: When are eBikes Dangerous?
The safety risks associated with electric bikes can be classified into four categories. Let’s discuss these risks along with how you can avoid them in the first place.
Risks Due to Wrong Use
The right eBike is always the safe eBike!
Electric bikes are of various types. They can have various motors, different brakes, varying load capacities, and numerous body styles. So as long as you ride an eBike that has been designed for the purpose you’re using it for, you’ll be safe!
For instance, if your commute involves long ascents, you might want to go for a mid-drive electric bike that has its center of gravity at the lowest possible position to keep you safe.
Or if you live in a remote area and your commute involves off-roading, you might want to buy a dual-motor eBike with fat all-terrain tires and a sturdy suspension.
Or if you happen to experience tricky terrains like mud, snow, or sand in your daily commute, you’ll be safe, again, with a dual-motor ebike due to its 2-wheel drive. It would be even safer if you have also got slip-resistant tires.
Likewise, if you want to haul heavy loads on cargo eBikes and you encounter long descents in your commute, you have to have regenerative brakes.
We can go on and on, but the bottom line is that you must always do your research before buying an eBike to make sure you get one that’s been made for your use case
How to Avoid?
Just buy the right eBike. Check all the specs in detail. Do adequate research to find out all available options. Shortlist a bunch of them. Check out reviews to find out if the electric bike you’re choosing is suitable for the purpose you want to use it for.
Here are some must-have safety features you must look out for in any eBike:
- Sturdy frame, with a payload capacity greater than your weight and your cargo
- Reliable brakes, preferably a hydraulic brake system with a power cut-off function
- Anti-slip and preferably puncture-resistant tires
- Suspension on at least one wheel
- Loud horn, accessible controls, and speed/ power display
- Bright front and rear lamps with wide illumination for night-time visibility
Risks Due to Lack of Care & Maintenance
eBike manufacturers work hard to make sure their products live up to their company’s standards and withstand the tests of time. Even so, excessive use when paired with lack of care and improper maintenance can lead to major accidents in the long run.
For example, Lithium batteries can get damaged due to exposure to extreme heat, frequent overcharging, or direct exposure to water. And if left undealt with for too long, damaged batteries could even result in a fire.
Although it sounds like a horrific experience to deal with, Lithium battery explosions are rare for the most part. Most eBikes nowadays are equipped with battery management systems (BMS) that are responsible for preventing damages due to temperature changes or overcharging.
Aside from battery damage, other safety issues you might encounter due to lack of maintenance include faults in bearings, damaged tires, rusted parts, worn-out brake pads, and leaked brake oil, to name a few.
How to Avoid?
eBikes aren’t a one-time purchase, they require care and maintenance like any other vehicle to make sure their components are in perfect working condition.
Here are some basic maintenance things you need to do on a regular basis:
- Regularly check your eBike for loose nuts, bolts, spokes, or broken parts
- Keep your tires properly inflated at all times
- Keep your bicycle clean and regularly lubricate the drivetrain
- Replace brake pads before they wear out, and check for leaking brake oil
- Never store your electric bicycle with a flat battery
- Use the correct charger to charge the battery and never overcharge
- In extreme cold, charge your battery only after it’s back at room temperature
- In case of any fault, always seek out the help of an expert
You must make sure that your eBike is in top shape at all times. A good rule of thumb is to always check your key components (wheels, gears, brakes, tech) for damages or faults and clean your eBike after a trip in drastic weather conditions.
Risks Due to Violation of Regulations
The dangers associated with eBikes can often be associated with violations of safety regulations. From lack of helmets to overspeeding, oftentimes the carelessness of the rider results in them getting into major accidents.
A common occurrence is applying more throttle than needed. While eBikes are designed to assist their users via pedal-assist, beginner riders can often apply more throttle than needed, resulting in unwanted acceleration and violation of local speed limits.
Among dangers that are related to riders, overspeeding is a common issue. While the eBike may not count as a motor vehicle in most places, it doesn’t mean one can ignore all rules associated with them.
Many enthusiasts often alter the speed limiter of their eBike to ‘speed unlock’ it and use it at more speed than what the manufacturer restricted it to. Trying to ride an eBike at its maximum possible speed as if it were a regular bicycle is not only unsafe, but it’s also illegal.
Unfortunately, it’s one of the major causes of eBike-related accidents as pedestrians are often unable to react in time to the eBikes coming toward them at full speed.
How to Avoid?
It’s as simple as it can get. Learn about your state laws and local regulations related to eBike safety, and adhere to them!
Make sure to comply with all traffic rules. By ensuring that you are driving your eBike in accordance with the traffic rules, you’re not only making the experience safe for yourself but also for those around you.
Also, make sure to wear a helmet. While it’s obviously necessary for your safety, it’s a legal condition to ride an eBike in many countries and US states. So if you’re not wearing a helmet in a state which mandates it, you’re in fact breaking the law.
Risks Due to Weather Conditions
eBikes are designed to operate in all kinds of weather conditions. However, excessively using an electric bike in drastic weather conditions can have some consequences.
For instance, if you’re using it in heavy rain, the lack of visibility paired with slippery roads spell the word disaster. Your front lamp fails to illuminate your path and your brakes don’t stop you in time.
Moreover, while tiny splashes of water won’t harm you, long-term usage in heavy rain and submersion of your motor or battery in water can cause significant damage to your eBike if it’s not water-resistant.
How to Avoid?
The eBike safety risks due to weather conditions can be avoided by choosing the right electric bike or equipping your existing bike with proper equipment (such as slip-resistant all-terrain tires, hydraulic brakes, etc.).
If your area experiences frequent precipitation, make sure to buy an eBike with water-resistant components.
Also, when riding in intense rain or snow, you need to exercise more caution than you usually do. Ride slowly and be aware of your surroundings, especially the pedestrians near you. And make sure to be perfectly visible and audible!
Are eBikes Safe for Seniors?
While electric bikes are generally a safe option for everyone, one might wonder how safe are eBikes for seniors?
When compared to accidents related to adults, senior citizens tend to have a higher risk of injury. A 2019 study published on ResearchGate showed that out of 357 senior citizens (aged 65 and above) who used eBikes, about 27.5% of them experienced an eBike crash.
The most prevailing reason for the eBike crash was slippery and/or uneven surfaces.
While this study might imply that eBikes are not safe for seniors, it should be noted that it was conducted on a small number of users and more research needs to be done to reach a final conclusion.
Verdict: Are eBikes Safe or Dangerous?
Now that we’ve talked about everything related to eBike safety, here is our verdict on whether electric bikes are safe or dangerous.
- Electric bikes are prone to some accidents, but they do not relate to an increase in hospital visits.
- eBikes in classes 2 and 3 have more risks associated with them due to their high speed and throttle control.
- Dangers associated with eBikes are situational, often based on terrain, weather, and lack of care by the user.
- Injuries when riding an eBike resemble those via bicycle more than those via motorcycles.
- While eBikes pose a higher risk to seniors when compared to the general populace, most of the accidents can be avoided.
By choosing the right eBike, taking good care of it, obeying safety regulations and traffic rules, and being careful on road, you can have an absolutely safe eBike experience.
How to Ride eBikes Safely?
Here are some road safety basics to minimize eBike riding risks and help you have a safe ride:
- Wear a helmet and proper safety gear
- Before riding, check tire pressure and brakes
- Ride in the designated bike lanes (or in the middle of the far lane, if not designated)
- Watch for pedestrians and other riders at all times
- Obey traffic signals
- Use back mirrors
- Look before turning
- Be predictable to those behind you
- Be visible and audible (use the horn when needed)
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Are eBikes safe in the rain?
Since eBikes are designed for all sorts of weather, they’re safe in the rain. However, it’s always best to avoid deep puddles of water. If your area experiences frequent precipitation, buy an electric bike with anti-slip tires and water-resistant components.
Are eBikes safe for seniors?
While eBikes are relatively more dangerous for seniors compared to adults, most accidents can be avoided by choosing the right kind of electric bike and by adequate practice.
Are eBikes more dangerous than bicycles?
When compared to regular bicycles, eBikes come with higher standards of parts as well as numerous built-in safety mechanisms. Though eBikes have more safety risks involved than bicycles, you can avoid all of them to be safe on the road.