It is becoming quite common to read a newspaper and find out about accidents happened to people riding an ebike. We think this comes down to two factors:
- Having more ebikes on the streets makes it more likely that they are involved in an accident.
- Ebikes are trendy now: this means that while an accident happened to someone riding a “normal” bike goes easily ignored by the media, the same accident involving an ebike often finds its way to the pages of a newspaper.
Actually, we think there are many reasons why an ebike can be intrinsically safer than a normal bicycle. We are referring mainly to those kinds of ebikes that can reach an average speed not much higher than that of a normal bicycle. If you decide to ride a (probably illegal) high-powered ebike at 50 mph you obviously do it at your own risk, and the points that follow do not apply. Moreover, the person riding the ebike, his/her attitude towards other road users, and his/her respect of the laws, are much more important factors than the actual vehicle used.
Having said that, here are a few reasons why we think that an ebike can be safer than a normal bicycle. In order:
- Choosing safer routes: on a normal bicycle you often tend to avoid uphill routes, trying to stay on the same altitude as much as you can. Because road planners think in the same way, these flat routes tend to be larger, to carry more traffic and to be therefore more dangerous. With an ebike you can have less fear of some uphill or slightly longer sections, choosing secondary routes that tend to have less traffic and be therefore safer.
- If, on the other hand, you choose or are forced to ride on some high-traffic roads, an ebike can give you the confidence to position yourself in a safer part of the road, that is the middle of the lane. Many cyclists, because of fear or inexperience, tend to ride on the right section of the lane (left section if you’re in Britain or Japan), where they are however less visible, and more exposed to dangers such as the sudden opening of a parked car’s door. Moreover, the side of the road is often more littered, and has more potholes or manholes. A cyclist on an ebike, thanks to its better acceleration, can more easily ride in the middle of the lane, because he/she can keep up much better with the flow of traffic (in heavy traffic, cars can rarely drive much faster than an ebike).
- For the same reason (better acceleration) you also tend to ride in a more cautious way. How many times, in order not to lose the momentum on a regular bike, have we decided not to slow down enough at a crossroads, or have we squeezed in a narrow passage between two cars, without waiting for the road to clear? With an ebike you can be more cautious and brake more often (when you need to), knowing that, in just a few metres and with no great effort, you will soon reach a high speed again.
- Less fatigue = more alertness. Yes, on an ebike you still have to put some effort in pedalling (especially uphill), but you never reach those peaks of effort that you reach with a normal bike. A great effort leads to a better oxygenation of the muscles; the brain however pays the price with a state of reduced alertness, which can be very dangerous, even if it lasts for just a few seconds.
- Those who spend a lot of money for an ebike (let’s face it, they do not come cheap) tend to keep it in a high state of efficiency. Many producers, in order to keep the warranty active, require the ebike to go through a series of regular checks every 6 months. An efficent bike is a safer one, because it makes it less likely that some critical components (brakes, handlebar bolts, spokes…) fail or break down.
What’s your opinion? Have you noticed something similar in your use of an ebike? Or do you feel bolder with a motor pushing you along, taking more risks? Write it down in the comment box below!