Electric bicycles (E-bikes) have quickly become one of the most popular modes of transportation and it’s here to stay. E-bike sales soared during the COVID-19 pandemic with an increase of 145% from 2019 to 2020, outpacing traditional bicycle sales by more than double. For many adopters, most of which are children and teens, this is their first opportunity to get on the road and travel longer distances thanks to the range capabilities of e-bikes and the low barrier of entry. In most states, no license is required to operate an e-bike. So, what should you know before buying your child or teen an E-bike and how can they stay safe on the road? Understand the E-bike’s capabilities and know the rules of the road.
Respect the Machine
Several models of E-bike can reach a pedal-assisted speed of 28 mph. These speeds can be easily achieved with only moderate input to the pedals. Though this number is not anywhere near the capabilities of a car or motorcycle, the dangers exist just the same. According to a study conducted by the United States Department of Transportation (DOT), the median speed of motorcycle accidents is 21.5 mph. At a max pedal assisted speed of 20mph, even the lowest class of E-bikes can nearly reach those speeds. The report also indicates that motorcycle injuries at these speeds can range from minor to fatal. Some of the more common injuries include broken bones, back and/or spinal cord injuries, and head injuries.
Though an E-bike may seem more toy-like compared to motorcycles, it should be treated with the same respect as the motorcycles it shares the road with. The best way to prevent injuries is to wear protective gear. A well-fitted bicycle helmet that is CPSC certified should be the bare minimum for your child or teen. Even better, take it a step further and get a motorcycle helmet that is certified by the DOT. You should also consider ensuring your child wears abrasion-resistant clothing to prevent road rash, and reinforced boots to protect their ankles. This protective equipment will significantly reduce the chance of injury or death in the event of an accident.
Respect the Rules of the Road
As mentioned previously, E-bikes have a very low barrier to entry. If your child knows how to ride a bike, they can legally ride an E-bike at nearly 30 mph with no license or training required in most states. For many, an E-bike is their first experience operating a motorized vehicle on the road. It would be highly beneficial for these first-time road goers to have a fundamental understanding of basic road rules. Parents can look to their local DMV for a Driver Handbook. These handbooks cover all the information needed to pass the written driver’s license test and prepare for the road ahead. Equipped with this knowledge, children and teens will know right-of-way rules, lane positioning, how to approach intersections, etc., and greatly increase their chances of staying safe and avoiding accidents. Better yet, the Motorcycle Handbook available at the DMV provides information on body positioning, braking, turning, and other important skills that translate from motorcycle to E-bike.
E-bikes are a fun and economical way to get around. However, first-time buyers should understand the risks and prepare themselves for the road to stay safe on two wheels. Wearing complete protective gear and knowing the rules of the road will greatly reduce the risk of injury.