For some people, electric bikes or e-bikes are a form of entertainment. Teenagers and tourists alike may hop on an e-bike that they rented as a means of turning a normal afternoon into an adventure. Others view e-bikes as an alternative source of reliable transportation.
In fact, they have received support from the government as an alternate means of getting people to work and other necessary appointments. Recently, California approved $10 million in funds to operate an e-bike rebate program. Individuals who meet certain income requirements can receive a $750 voucher for a basic e-bike and $1,500 for one that can carry cargo.
Could this program potentially put cyclists on human-powered bikes at greater risk?
More e-bikes might mean more collisions
In theory, e-bikes are subject to many of the same risks as traditional bicycles. They are smaller and lighter than enclosed vehicles, so they offer very little protection in the event of a crash. They are also easy for drivers in enclosed vehicles to overlook.
However, while e-bikes may look a lot like other bicycles, they are heavier and often faster. The people operating them may also have less respect for the rules of the road in some cases. Communities with a high number of e-bikes have seen an increase in collisions between e-bikes and cyclists, as well as situations where e-bikes strike pedestrians.
With millions of dollars potentially going to incentivize more people to purchase and ride e-bikes, the risk is there for many more cyclists in California to suffer injuries because of this well-intentioned program.
Cyclists must acknowledge their risks to protect themselves
Those who love cycling for sports, exercise or transportation should not have to give up their hobby for safety’s sake. It is possible to safely share the road with e-bikes, just says cyclists endeavor to safely share the road with four-wheeled vehicles.
Defensive biking techniques that place importance on constant vigilance and the assumption that other people will make unsafe choices can potentially help cyclists reduce the collision risk they have related to the increasing presence of e-bikes on California roads. Learning about and watching for known bicycle collision risk factors will help keep cyclists a bit safer on the road.