You are probably wondering whether e-bikes are dangerous, especially after hearing confusing information about e-bike accidents. Concerns are heightened even more when you hear that a well-known person has been severely injured, such as what happened with celebrity Simon Cowell who required back surgery after a fall.
So, it’s important to gather all of the correct information you can before deciding that riding an e-bike is for you.
Electric bikes are generally as safe as regular bikes but do have some added risks because of their electric power. However, there are simple safety tips to follow that’ll remove any potential increase in danger.
If you take the time to learn safe riding techniques, follow distinct road rules, check your equipment regularly, and use the appropriate gear, you’ll be just as safe as riding a regular bike. So if you’re wondering… are electric bikes dangerous… you’d better read on!
How to Ride an E-Bike Safely
In many ways, riding an electric bike is just like riding a normal bicycle. You need to balance yourself while pedaling, make turns, apply the brakes when needed, and watch for cars and pedestrians. However, there are a few concerns that are unique to riding on an e-bike, primarily having to do with its increased speed and power.
But fortunately, there are easy ways of minimizing these risks. Just follow these tips!
Don’t Start Off Too Fast!
One of the biggest mistakes new e-bike riders make is to hop on and head off too fast. This is so easy to do since your e-bike is typically defaulted to pedal assist level 1. And if you’ve never felt what it’s like to have pedal assistance, you can end up taking off a little too fast, especially if you’re starting on even a small downhill.
Instead, try to start on a flat surface in a safe place that isn’t headed directly into the street. And make sure you’re starting at the lowest level of assistance (check your pedal assist gear level before riding). This becomes even more important because once you’re moving, stopping may not happen as quickly.
Additionally, if you have a throttle, you can take off unexpectedly. You might not be prepared for this sudden lurch forward and attempt to stop immediately, which will be harder after your unexpected burst of speed.
So, try out the throttle for the first time somewhere quiet and safe, an empty parking lot perhaps. And apply the throttle slowly (this is not a motorcycle after all!). Once you get a feel for it, you’ll know how much effort to give it to get you started at a reasonable speed.
Understand The Power of Your E-Bike
Many e-bikes can go up to 20-30 mph, depending on the battery and motor power, as well as your weight, and wind, and road factors. A regular bike just won’t move at this speed for average riders. So, this is something new to get used to and the only way to get comfortable with the speed is practice, practice, practice.
So try out different levels of pedal assist and gear shifts while you’re in an uncrowded place. Although you’re probably excited to ride new places, I promise that you’ll have tons of time to ride everywhere you want to go later.
Further, to stay safe while riding such a powerful e-bike, you should consider other factors such as the type of terrain you’re riding on, the number of pedestrians around, and automobile traffic.
Always match your speed with your surroundings, slowing down when approaching pedestrians and moving as far around them as possible, or riding with the speed of traffic.
Watch Your Turns!
In general, electric bikes are bulkier and heavier than regular bikes. This tends to make them less agile and reduces the ability to take tight or fast turns. Compare this to driving a large SUV instead of a small sports car… you need to take turns slower in an SUV or risk it flipping over, while you can really hug the corners with the sports car.
I’ve actually fallen on my e-bike when trying to make a tight turn and not slowing down enough first. So be prepared to slow down before heading into a turn.
Use Your Rear-View Mirror
When you’re riding at a higher speed, which is easy to do with an e-bike, you’ll need to maneuver it quickly when presented with turns, lane changes, and stops at intersections or to avoid hitting someone or something.
A rear-view mirror can really help with this when you need to make fast decisions. This is one of the top items on our Recommended Gear list! And many e-bikes don’t come with them when you buy. However, they’re inexpensive and you should have one right away. They’re easy to clip onto your handlebar, but just make sure you find one with a clip size that fits your e-bike.
E-Bike Road Rules & Safety Tips
E-Bikes can move faster than regular bikes, pedestrians, and even possibly cars (especially when in cities with traffic) which can increase the chance of accidents. So, aren’t electric bikes dangerous then?
Fortunately, most e-bikes only go up to 20-30 mph at their top speed. You’ll want to understand how fast your bike can go and what the implications of that are before you head too far from home. In other words, take these tips seriously!
Ride With the Traffic
Just like riding a traditional bike, you should always ride with traffic, not against it.
However, the concern with an e-bike is that you may be riding too fast, thanks to your motor assistance, and actually passing traffic. This can be unsafe if a car doesn’t see you. Will a car be expecting a bicyclist to come up extra fast on their right when they’re moving over to take a turn? Probably not. And will you be able to slow down fast enough when you see a car moving into the same lane just in front of you? Maybe not.
Further, you’ll be expected not to surpass the posted, legal speed limit, and an electric bike can easily do that in school or construction zones not to mention residential streets.
The way to stay safe on an e-bike just might be to restrict your use of pedal assistance in these key places.
Always use a bell or warning when passing or riding close to other people. They could move into your path unexpectedly or get frightened or annoyed when you whiz on past. And since you could be moving at a faster speed than a normal bike, every time you pass someone is a potential accident waiting to happen.
So, not only will you and they be safer by giving a warning that you’re near, a pedestrian will be happier to share the space with you, which will make your ride more pleasant as well.
Just be respectful. Use your bell and/or let someone know you’re passing using a friendly call such as “On your left… Thank you” or “Excuse me”. It’s also much safer to slow down when you pass, especially if it’s a child, dog, or elderly person who may suddenly move or sway out in front of you.
Use Extreme Caution Riding Near Other Moving Vehicles
Unfortunately, cars don’t always realize how fast you may be riding, especially on an electric bike. So, when they turn left in front of you, it’s probably because they’ve assumed that you won’t get across the street before they do.
However, on an e-bike, with the assistance of a motor and throttle, you’re likely to get across the street in a couple of seconds, ending up meeting the car in the intersection.
Therefore, you never want to assume that you’re safe to go just because you have the right of way. Instead, proceed with caution and make eye contact with the driver before crossing the intersection.
Use Your Hand Signals
There are four basic hand signals you might already know from the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). They’re almost the same as if you were driving a car without working turn signals. Take a look at the image below from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Warning: You just might want to slow your e-bike down a bit to be comfortable letting go of the handlebar before making your signal.
Don’t Take the Right of Way!
Yes, you might legally have the right-of-way on your e-bike when crossing at an intersection. However, that doesn’t mean it’s safe to take it!
You will always lose the battle against a two-ton hunk of metal. So, even if you think you can beat a car through an intersection by using your throttle or speeding up your electric gears, you might just let the car go first in some cases. For example, let the car win if you haven’t made eye contact with the driver, if the driver keeps moving forward (even slowly) or if you can see the driver is speeding or acting recklessly.
Restrict Your Power and Speed
When riding around pedestrians or cars, make sure your speed keeps the safety of yourself and others in mind. If you’re using electric power assistance, keep it one level lower than you would under other circumstances. This’ll slow you down a little and make it easier to stop quickly.
Just like driving a car, your speed shouldn’t go over what is safe in any given situation. In other words, don’t zip down the bike lane at 30 mph when the cars around you are only going 15 mph!
Complete an Equipment Safety Checklist Before Riding
If you’re still concerned that e-bikes are unsafe, you’ll feel better knowing that your e-bike’s equipment is in good shape. Because electric bikes cost more than regular bikes, you’ll be happier with your investment if you take better care of it than you ever would’ve with a normal bike.
So, learn more about the e-bike’s expensive parts than you planned on. And always complete an equipment safety checklist before you ride.
|Equipment Safety Checklist: Check Off All 4 Before Each Ride|
|Tire Inflation and Wear|
Take Care of Your Electric Bike Battery: Here’s How
Your battery may very well be the most expensive part of your e-bike. So, taking care of it is essential. Further, lithium batteries have been known to catch on fire. Therefore, protecting your battery could actually keep you safe.
How to do it: First, always keep your battery pack above freezing and let it warm up even more if you can before charging it. Charge it fully before each ride so that you don’t get stuck without electric power, especially if you’re far from home.
Also, make sure it’s securely attached to your e-bike… do this by checking that the lock’s in the correct position and tugging on the battery gently to see if it’s loose.
Check Your Tires: Here’s How
Keeping your tires inflated properly and watching for worn-out tread will make your ride easier and safer, especially on an e-bike with its extra weight and higher than typical speed. Proper tire inflation will give you a smooth ride instead of a bumpy or sluggish ride, which will keep you in your lane and out of the way of others.
And, as a bonus, you’ll save money from having to replace the tires too frequently.
How to do it: easy to use a traditional hand air pump with the correct valve (check to see if your e-bike requires a Schrader Valve or a Presta Valve) to fill your tire tubes. Get one with a pressure gauge directly on it to make it easier to fill and check the pressure.
However, if you have bigger than normal tires on your electric bike, such as extra-wide “fat” tires, you may need a more powerful version. In that case, you might need to get a pump made for a mountain bike with an “oversized barrel” (I use the Topeak Joe Blow Mountain pump from Amazon to fill my fat tires).
Lube Your Chain: Here’s How
Apply a lightweight, waterproof lube to your chain before riding if it moves clunky or you hear a lot of noise coming from it. Find one that is specialized for bikes (usually called “Bike Lube”).
So, don’t just use WD-40 because you have some in the house. WD-40 actually has its own “Bike Chain Lube”. You can also get “Muc-Up DRY Bike Lubricant” on Amazon.
How to do it: Leave a drop of lube on top of each chain link and use your hand to backpedal a few full revolutions. This will help distribute the lube everywhere it needs to be. Then, wipe off any excess lubrication so that dirt particles aren’t attracted to it.
Keep Brakes in Check: Here’s How
Check your brakes before each ride to make certain they’re tight and will stop you fast if needed.
How to do it: Roll your bike slowly forward as you squeeze both hand brakes. You should feel them tighten and the bike should easily stop.
Personal Safety Gear
Although similar gear is needed for an e-bike rider as compared to a normal bike rider, the reasons you need this gear while riding an electric bike make them even more important.
|Do You Have These Items Ready to Go?|
|Helmet- Perfectly fitted to your head size|
|Electric lights attached to e-bike|
|Rear-View Mirror securely attached|
|Reflective and bright clothing on your body|
Wear a Bike Helmet
As far as safety goes, every bike rider should make wearing a helmet top priority! Not only will you protect the most important part of your body, helmets are a great place to add more reflectors so that you’ll be easier to see as well.
And on an e-bike, when you’re riding even faster than on a regular bike, a high-quality helmet (like these MIPS helmets on Amazon) becomes even more essential!
Use the Electric Lights
Here’s another great thing about e-bikes… they can have lights powered by electricity! So you’ll know that your lights always work when your electric bike does, without worrying about it giving out at the wrong time like a battery-operated light would (and just a small reflector will never be enough).
Don’t Forget the Mirror
As mentioned earlier, this is the very first cool accessory my husband and I bought for our e-bikes (since thankfully, our bikes came with electric lights). We knew after our first ride down the street that we weren’t comfortable riding at a high speed without one.
A mirror can be added on one or both handlebars to make it easier to see if a car or another (faster) bicyclist is coming up on the side. You can even see if a car is following close behind or if your riding partner is keeping up with you!
Wear Reflective or Bright Clothing
Being seen is even more important while riding a fast e-bike. There’s simply less time for another moving vehicle to see you. So always wear a reflective vest or have a couple of tops or jackets that are fluorescent or brightly colored.
Are E-Bikes Safe for Seniors?
Although electric bikes are generally considered safe if you follow the tips above, there are somewhat greater risks for people over the age of 65.
First, an e-bike can be pretty heavy. So as an older person, you’re more likely to hurt your back or obtain other injuries by trying to lift it… even if it’s just to get it over a curb. You might also go to catch it as it falls over or you might need to push it home if it accidentally runs out of battery charge, both of which increase the chance of injury. Performing anything physical with an e-bike can present a greater risk due to typical muscle loss as the body ages.
Then, of course, if you fall when riding, not only might you incur the usual injuries, the extra weight of the e-bike might also cause more damage.
Finally, because of the speed, it’s easy to find yourself going faster than planned. This means that you might need to stop quicker than planned as well and, depending on age and general health, your reflexes could be slower as a senior.
But here’s the good news about seniors staying safe while riding an e-bike. Reuters Health, who reviewed seventeen years worth of emergency room data, noted that the biggest group of people involved in accidents with e-bikes were aged 18-44 and 45-64, not seniors over 65!
This is likely due to the fact that people over 65 are more cautious on e-bikes, riding slower and in safer places (and not through cities on a daily commute).
Safe E-Bike Riding in Summary
Although there are risks associated with riding an electric bike, you can see that they can be as safe as other riding traditional bikes if you follow a few rules and safety checklists.
Make sure you follow the safety tips for riding which include using safe electric bike riding techniques, following road rules, checking your equipment regularly, and wearing or bringing along important safety gear. Doing these things will minimize the added risks that come from power and speed on an e-bike.