September 15, 2020
Electric bikes have taken the country by storm, as casual and serious cyclists alike look for new methods of recreation during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Because e-bikes offer pedal assistance, they are also especially well-suited for people seeking new ways to commute and avoid mass transit.
Yet the experience of riding an e-bike differs in many ways from conventional bike riding — and cyclists need to bear this in mind in order to stay safe on the road.
Unfortunately, some research shows that not everyone is heeding this advice.
Let’s take a closer look at the factors at play behind the safe use of e-bikes.
Electric bikes typically come in three classes and can travel anywhere from 20 to 30 miles per hour, based on the size of the accompanying motor.
According to the New York Times, e-bike sales have soared by 70% since the beginning of the pandemic. The Times also took a look at how users are interacting with e-bikes, and whether they are associated with greater injury.
The first study was published in July in The International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. According to the Times, the study:
“Involved 101 healthy adult men and women in Hamburg, Germany, who agreed to alternate riding either a standard bicycle or an e-bike over two separate two-week periods. Each volunteer chose his or her preferred e-bike model, with most picking road bikes having top assisted speeds of about 20 miles per hour. To compensate for the novelty factor, participants spent a couple of weeks getting used to their e-bikes before the study period. The researchers also provided their volunteers with activity monitors, heart rate monitors and a specialized phone app where the riders could record their trips, distance and how physically draining each ride had felt.
The scientists found that electric assistance altered riding habits. According to the Times:
“In general, the men and women rode more often during the two weeks with e-bikes, averaging about five rides a week then, versus three a week with the standard cycles. Interestingly, the distances of most people’s rides did not budge, whichever type of bike they rode; their rides were not lengthier on the e-bikes, but they were more frequent.
Their heart rates also differed. In general, people’s heart rates were about 8 percent lower when they pedaled e-bikes, but still consistently hovered within the range considered moderate exercise. As a result, during the two weeks when the volunteers rode e-bikes, they accumulated sufficient minutes of moderate physical activity to meet the standard exercise recommendation of 150 minutes of moderate activity. When they rode the standard bikes, they did not.”
The study did not reveal whether injuries with e-bikes were more common. However, a second study from NYU’s School of Medicine found that e-bike injuries are more severe than conventional bike injuries and more likely to cause hospitalization.
Researchers in that study combed through emergency room records dating from 2000 to 2017 to find relevant data.
Experts interviewed by The New York Times speculate that speed is the likely culprit behind the more severe injuries.
To ride safely, experts encourage new e-bike users to wear a helmet, ride slowly, practice braking — and wear a mask to help limit exposure to COVID-19.
Gary Brustin is a lifelong cyclist and a specialist in bicycle accident law. In fact, these are the only types of cases that he will accept. If you’ve been injured in a collision or have suffered from the negligence of another, we urge you to contact Gary for a complimentary consultation.