The growth in popularity of e-bikes over the last several years has been remarkable. They have opened up cycling to many who would not typically ride a traditional bike. We’re all familiar by now with the advantages they bring in terms of easier operation on all sorts of terrains and eco-friendly, faster commute times.
But, with this increasing use, statistics also show a rising number of accidents and injuries involving e-bikes. These unfortunate occurrences come in a variety of forms: collisions with cars, pedestrians, or other cyclists, injuries involving failure to observe basic traffic rules, riding at speeds beyond one’s capability (up to 28 mph on flat surfaces), unfamiliarity with safe riding techniques, and rare but potentially dangerous lithium battery fires.
Types of E-bike Injuries
A major study by NEISS (United States Consumer product Safety Commission’s National Electronic Injury Surveillance System) conducted between 2000 and 2017 found that people injured while riding e-bikes were more likely to suffer internal injuries and be hospitalized compared to traditional pedal bike riders. As one doctor put it, “A fall at 4–5 mph is much different than falling off at 15–20 mph. Forces are multiplied going a lot faster. The bike adds velocity and power that you wouldn’t normally have.”
Data from a National Trauma Registry between January 2014 and December 2015 analyzed 549 e-bike injuries and found that 65 percent of patients sustained orthopedic injuries, the majority of which were lower extremity fractures and/or breaks requiring surgery, hospital stays, and lengthy recovery times. Some examples are:
- Tibia, femur, and other leg bone fractures from being thrown from or falling off an e-bike at speed
- Lower spinal cord injuries sustained especially in collisions involving vehicles
- Pelvis fractures that may require extensive physical therapy for complete healing
- Arm fractures and dislocations (hand, wrist, elbow, shoulder) that can happen even when impact is at low speeds
- Head, neck, face injuries, including lacerations and abrasions that may leave significant scarring
- Abdominal injuries resulting in internal bleeding and the need for immediate surgical procedures
A July 2021 article published by the Journal of Clinical Medicine revealed that e-bikes are increasingly involved in traffic accidents and collisions with pedestrians. And though the injury pattern was found to be similar to that of cyclists, e-bike victims tended to be older with increased cerebral trauma.
When Is a Claim Possible?
Who can be held accountable and liable in an e-bike crash? It depends on the circumstances of course, but generally speaking, the at fault vehicle driver, another cyclist, or pedestrian may be held responsible. Claims may be made for injuries suffered in collisions caused by a car, another bike rider, or a pedestrian based on the negligence or carelessness of the person at fault. An injured e-bike rider may recover compensation for hospital bills, medical expenses, lost wages and lost ability to work, as well as physical and emotional pain and suffering resulting from injuries received.
Common Sense Safety Precautions
While it’s good to be aware of the potential dangers of riding e-bikes, they are widely considered to be safe when properly maintained and operated. Here are a few general tips to keep in mind: always wear a bicycle helmet regardless of your age (preferably one with advanced safety features like MIPS, Wavecel, or others); wear bright neon colors to make you more visible to inattentive drivers; know and follow basic traffic safety rules; become familiar with your bike before venturing into traffic; brake earlier; pay close attention to traffic; check your speed; take care while mounting and dismounting [the heavier weight of an e-bike is a factor]; and learn how to be as visible as possible at all times in traffic.