Electric bicycles, or e-bikes, have become increasingly popular in the last several years, due in part to citywide electric bike rentals and bike share services. Unfortunately, this has led to a subsequent increase in the annual rate of serious and deadly electric bicycle accidents. The latest crash statistics show staggering numbers of e-bike accidents around the globe. If you have been injured in an electric bike accident in Nebraska, contact a bicycle accident lawyer at Knowles Law Firm for legal advice.
What Is an Electric Bike?
An electric bike is a bicycle (a two-wheel vehicle propelled using pedals and controlled with handlebars) that relies on an electric motor to assist the rider while pedaling. Nebraska’s specific definition of an electric bike is one that is propelled either by pedaling or using an electric motor that has a maximum speed of 20 miles per hour and a power output of no more than 750 watts. Most states, including Nebraska, have specific rules and regulations for electric bikes compared to standard bicycles.
How Common Are Electric Bike Accidents?
The relatively new nature of electric bicycles means there is only a limited amount of research available regarding these types of accidents. However, according to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, the number of emergency room visits due to “micro mobility products,” which include e-bikes, more than doubled from 2017 to 2021. The estimated number of visits increased from 34,000 in 2017 to 77,200 and 2021.
In the same period of time, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) reported 53 fatalities from electric bicycle accidents in the US. The NTSB qualified this number by stating that it had a lack of “complete, consistent and reliable data,” which most likely led to a significant underestimation of the actual number of fatalities. One study that exclusively reviewed patients in the greater Los Angeles area found that from 2014 to 2020, 1,354 people were admitted for electric bike injuries. This included injuries to both bicyclists and pedestrians in e-bike accidents.
The NTSB also noted that the rates of e-bike accidents and related deaths are likely to increase exponentially in the coming years due to an increase in ridership. More than 900,000 electric bicycles were sold in the US in 2021 alone – almost double the number of sales from 2020. This puts e-bikes on track to outstrip the number of electric car sales in the US.
Are You More Likely to Crash an Electric Bike Than a Standard Bicycle?
Yes. While there is limited data available, it appears that higher speeds, inexperienced riders and loss of vehicle control all contribute to higher numbers of e-bike accidents compared to typical bicycle collisions. According to a Danish study, electric bicycle riders are about 57 percent more likely to get into an accident than traditional bike riders.
One Reuters study also found that e-bike riders are at an increased risk of suffering severe injuries in accidents compared to conventional bicyclists. This study found that electric bicycle accidents were more likely to result in internal injuries and concussions than traditional bicycles. E-bike accidents are also three times more likely to involve a collision with a pedestrian.
What Causes E-Bike Accidents?
Electric bikes can crash for numerous reasons – some of which are similar to traditional bicycles while others more closely resemble the top causes of motorcycle accidents. Operator error is one factor that makes electric biking more dangerous than non-electric bikes. There is more room for error on an e-bike, as it requires more skill and knowledge to safely control.
An e-bike can also be operated at a higher speed, which increases the odds of a serious accident caused by operator error. In addition to rider errors, e-bike accidents can be caused by issues with the bike’s electrical components, such as battery fires, battery malfunctions and controller defects. Other part defects could result in collisions, as well, such as tire blowouts and bearing lock-ups.
Finally, motor vehicle drivers may crash into electric bike riders, similar to traditional bicycle accidents. Drivers can be guilty of acts of negligence such as distracted, drunk and drowsy driving that increase the odds of a collision involving an electric bicycle. Drivers who aren’t paying enough attention to the road may fail to notice an oncoming e-bike and cause a devastating collision.
Are E-Bike Accidents Becoming More Frequent?
Yes. In many countries, the number of electric bicycle accidents has increased in recent years. A 2019 White Paper prepared for PeopleForBikes found that a sharp increase in e-bike crash rate occurred in 2012, corresponding to an increase in e-bike sales at the same time. The United States, Canada and many other countries have reported higher rates of electric bicycle accidents, injuries and deaths. In some cases, these increases have been significant.
For example, in the Netherlands, the number of e-bike accidents from 2017 to 2018 increased by 72 percent. Another report showed that China experienced a 41 percent increase in deaths caused by electric bicycle collisions from 2018 to 2019. In France, there was a 27 percent increase in e-bike accidents that caused injuries in the same time period, while Seoul, South Korea, experienced a 31 percent increase in the rate of traffic accidents that involved electric bicycles.
What Are the Most Common Injuries Associated With Electric Bikes?
Electric bicycles have the propensity to cause more severe collisions than standard bicycles due to higher speeds and velocities. The annual electric bicycle injury rate is approximately 1.4 injuries per 1,000 e-bikes, according to a study published in the National Library of Medicine. Sadly, many of these injuries are serious or life-threatening. Below is a breakdown of the top most common electric bicycle injury types, according to statistics gathered in 2019:
- Soft-tissue injuries: 40 percent
- Fractures: 20 percent
- Internal injuries: 17 percent
- Traumatic brain injury or concussion: 0.5 percent
Other common injuries include back and neck injuries, spinal cord injuries, road rash, lacerations, bruising, and contusions. These injuries can occur in many different types of e-bike accidents. One US study found that the majority of electric bicycle injuries (40 percent) were due to riders falling, while 32 percent were from collisions with motor vehicles. Another 8.5 percent of injuries were from crashing into fixed objects.If you have been injured in an electric bike accident in Omaha, Nebraska, contact the attorneys at Knowles Law Firm to request a free consultation about your case. You may be eligible for financial compensation from one or more parties.