Electric Bikes

Should E-Bikes Be Banned? (The Truth)

Should e-bikes be banned?

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If you follow the news or have recently spent time in a city center, you might be concerned about e-bikes.

After all, they’re no joke. With their power, speed, and ready availability, it’s no surprise they’re being labeled as potentially dangerous.

Let’s take a closer look at whether e-bikes should be banned outright or whether they deserve a closer examination.

The Problems

E-bikes have enjoyed an explosion in popularity. According to ecycles, Europe’s e-bike market grew 500% between 2009 and 2018. The UK is no exception, having seen e-bike sales triple between 2017 and 2021, according to ebiketips

Since their widespread adoption, we’ve seen some major problems.

First, there have been numerous reports of dodgy batteries, where explosions and fires seem commonplace. According to the London Fire Brigade, the BBC reports that 77% of e-bike-related fires were caused by the battery, with 40% of them being caused by self-installed conversion kits. 

Internal issues aside, they’ve also proven to be a bit of a nuisance. Writing for the Telegraph, Bryony Gordon spoke about her experience with e-bikes being parked irresponsibly and inconsiderately. As she points out, they can present themselves as a hazard to anyone, especially the visually impaired.

But the worst is their speed. High-speed e-motorbikes, the Standard reports, are not only illegal in and of themselves when ridden on the roads but can also be used to commit further crimes. 

Pedestrians become easy targets for assault and theft as these e-bikes become the perfect getaway vehicle in a congested city, frequently being used by so-called ‘e-bike gangs’ in a concerning crime development. 

e-bike rider

The Facts

While we seem bombarded with all the negatives of e-bikes, it’s time to separate the facts from the fiction.

No one’s denying that there have been issues with bad batteries and personal e-bike conversion kits, but there is a clear problem: regulation. 

When sold as complete bikes, e-bikes have to follow strict guidelines in most countries, with the EU, UK, and US having their own sets of checks. 

However, these regulations don’t currently extend to conversion kits. In practice, there are few limits to stop you from ordering and assembling a dodgy conversion kit, posing a massive incendiary risk. Tackling this will require both more regulations and better enforcement of trading standards, argues one article by the Financial Times.

On top of this, like all batteries, they require supervision whilst being charged. They also shouldn’t be meddled with, especially by people who don’t know what they’re doing.

When it comes to their speed, there are already measures in place to stop them from going too fast. The UK is on the stricter side of things, where electrical assistance must not exceed 15.5 MPH. In the US, however, some e-bikes are permitted to travel as fast as 28 MPH.

Once again, while e-bikes must be sold to meet these standards, it’s all too easy to remove limiters or modify one to make it capable of much greater speeds. Unfortunately, this is common, considering it is illegal in many countries.

And when it comes to responsible and considerate use, we get it. We’ve all seen piles of e-bikes and e-scooters in places where they shouldn’t be, blocking the way for pedestrians and other road users. But the fact is, in most locations, there just isn’t enough infrastructure.

There is rarely enough on-street parking, and the roads and bike lanes are often woefully unsuitable for these newer, faster micro-mobiles. Cities need to change to adapt to the widespread use of e-bikes, but they also need time.

e-bike rider

The Stats

Did you know that of the 3,700 people killed on roads daily, more than half of them are considered vulnerable road users, the UN reports. In fact, road traffic injuries are the leading killer of people aged 5-29.

According to the US Department for Transport, 98% of pedestrian injuries on the road are caused by motor vehicles, with just 2% being caused by bikes and e-bikes.

More alarmingly, over 99% of pedestrian fatalities were caused by a collision with a motor vehicle, which is 150 times the number caused by bikes and e-bikes combined, Bakers Solicitors reports

In the UK, the Met Police disclosed that between 2019 and 2022, there was only one reported pedestrian fatality involving a collision with an e-bike in 2021. 

According to Statista, on average, 430 pedestrians are killed on British roads each year, meaning that only 1 of the roughly 1,700 pedestrian deaths was due to an e-bike. 

The same Met report shows that only 10 of the more than 3,800 pedestrian casualties were caused by an e-bike, just 0.26%, as shown by a recent TFL report

Living in a car society, we frequently excuse them for their downfalls. But all vehicles on the road should be used responsibly, period. There’s clearly an elephant in the room. When an e-bike is ridden badly, it’s the fault of the vehicle, but when a car is driven badly, it’s the driver’s fault.

There are always bad apples, but that doesn’t mean electric bikes are as dangerous as cars. Considering the additional impact pollution from cars has on pedestrians, it’s not even close.

Understandably, they’ve received a lot of negative publicity, but can you imagine if cars were blamed every time someone was injured or killed by one? It would be hard to justify having them around at all!

e-bike rider fast

The Verdict?

Despite the misleading headlines you’re likely to see, e-bikes can and will play a vital role in the future of our urban environments.

They can not only transform mobility, but have so many advantages over cars. They’re cleaner, quieter, safer, cheaper, and more sustainable, so why would banning them make any sense?

While there will always be anecdotes about poorly parked e-bikes or riders abusing speed limits, the fact remains: we have to change how we live.

To tackle the challenges we face, especially regarding the environment, overpopulation, and health, we must redefine our relationship with cars, and e-bikes are in a prime position to take over some of their responsibilities in urban environments.

Banning them outright would be ludicrous. As with all new technologies, there are still significant developments to be made, but they’re a sustainable, alternative device that offers a potential fix and are here to stay. 

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