Electric bikes have become increasingly popular in the past decade. Before buying an e-bike, you may be wondering, are electric bikes safe?
The answer is yes. Electric bikes are perfectly safe if you take some basic precautions to avoid battery fires while charging, learn how to ride properly, and wear the right safety gear to protect yourself during a crash.
In this guide, we’ll compare the safety of e-bikes with regular bikes. We’ll also discuss some potential dangers of riding electric bikes including traffic, rider error, malfunctions, component failures, and more. In addition, we’ll talk about how to safely charge your ebike to avoid dangerous battery fires.
I’ve been riding e-bikes for the past 10 years and have never had any serious safety issues. I’ve charged my e-bikes thousands of times and ridden thousands of miles. In this guide, I’ll share my experience. Hopefully, this guide helps you make an informed decision about whether or not riding an e-bike is safe enough for you.
Electric bikes are safe. The biggest dangers of electric bikes are battery fires and the faster speeds that ebikes can achieve.
You can reduce the risk of battery fires by using a quality battery and charger and only charging in a safe location when you are awake. Never charge a damaged battery. Use the correct charger for your battery. Monitor your battery to make sure it doesn’t overheat.
Before riding, you should inspect the bike to make sure the throttle doesn’t stick and that the brakes are in good condition. Also, ride within your ability. E-bikes are faster than regular bikes. Take some time to learn how to control the bike and wear a good helmet.
What are the Dangers of Electric Bikes?
Electric bikes are safe to ride. That said, there are some risks to consider. Statistically, e-bikes are slightly more dangerous than traditional bicycles. There are also some risks you don’t have to worry about with regular bikes.
A few of the main dangers include:
- Battery fires
- Accidents due to the increased speed and rider error
- Component failures and malfunctions
Most of these risks can be reduced if you ride safely and take the proper precautions. In the following sections, we’ll address some of the biggest dangers of riding an electric bike.
E-bike Battery Fires
E-bike batteries can be a fire hazard. According to this article from ABC News, “At least 19 people died in the United States in 2022 because of fires or overheating incidents related to battery-powered products such as e-bikes, scooters, and hoverboards, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission said this week.”
Fires are usually caused by ebike batteries that are poorly made, overused, damaged, or overcharged. Batteries usually catch fire due to overheating. Lithium batteries contain an electrolyte. This is a highly combustible fluid. If it gets hot enough, it ignites. Ebike battery fires have burned down homes. These fires are difficult to extinguish because they are chemical fires. People have been seriously injured and killed by ebike fires.
A few ways to reduce the likelihood of e-bike battery fires include:
- Only ride a quality e-bike from a reputable manufacturer. The e-bike should come with UL 2849 certification. This is a fire safety certification. Most e-bike battery fires are caused by cheap, poorly made batteries that aren’t certified.
- Only use a charger that is approved by the battery manufacturer. If you use a charger that supplies too much power, the battery can overheat. This increases the risk of a fire.
- Don’t store your e-bike inside your house while it’s charging. If possible, store your e-bike outdoors. This way, if the battery catches fire, it will be easier to extinguish. It will also be less likely to catch something else on fire.
- Charge your battery in a fire-safe bag. A number of companies offer fire-resistant bags that are specifically designed for charging e-bike batteries. If your battery catches fire, the bag contains the fire and prevents it from spreading. This is a great option if you charge your battery indoors.
- Keep an eye on your e-bike battery while it’s charging. Don’g charge overnight. Don’t leave your battery charging while you’re not at home. Lithium batteries usually give some advance warning signs before they catch fire or explode. The battery may let off a puff of smoke. It may start to bulge. It could change color. Sometimes overheating batteries will make a hissing sound. If you notice any of these signs, stop charging the battery immediately and call the fire department.
- Never leave your e-bike battery in direct sunlight. This can cause the battery to overheat. Of course, you can ride your e-bike in sunny weather. Avoid parking it in the sun for too long.
- Replace your battery if it’s damaged, old, or bulging. Damaged batteries are more likely to catch fire. When you dispose of an old lithium battery, don’t throw it in the trash. Take it to a recycling center for safe disposal. For more info, check out my guide: How Long Do Electric Bike Batteries Last?
- Avoid using second-hand batteries. You don’t know the quality of the battery or how it was treated by its previous owner. If you buy a used e-bike, consider buying a new battery, just to be safe.
Electric Bikes and Speed
Electric bikes are significantly faster than regular bikes. You’re likely to suffer a more severe injury if you crash while riding at a higher speed. This is one of the biggest dangers of ebikes.
An average class 1 or class 2 e-bike is capable of maintaining speeds of 20 mph or 32 km/h. Class 3 e-bikes are capable of reaching speeds of up to 28 mph. There are also some high-powered e-bikes on the market that can reach speeds of 40-60 mph. To compare, the average speed of a non-powered bike is around 15 mph or 25 km/h.
Crashing at a higher speed is more likely to cause a serious injury than crashing at a lower speed. Head and neck injuries and broken bones are more likely when you crash an e-bike. When you crash a normal bike at lower speeds, severe injury is less likely. You might just suffer some road rash.
Speed makes ebikes more dangerous because it makes the bike more difficult to control. Controlling a bike at 20 mph is harder than controlling a bike at 10 mph. You don’t have as much time to react to obstacles on the road when you’re traveling faster. Cornering is also more difficult.
Some riders lack the skill to safely control a fast e-bike. Riding an e-bike at 20+ mph is more difficult than riding a non-powered bike at low speeds. An unskilled rider riding an e-bike at high speeds is dangerous. You could ride off your line and hit a pedestrian or ride into the path of a vehicle.
The best way to reduce the risk of crashing is to ride within your skill level. You don’t have to ride your e-bike fast. You could use a low level of pedal assist and cruise along at 10-15 mph.
Ebikes and Traffic
Traffic is more dangerous when you ride an e-bike. One major reason is that drivers don’t expect bikes to move so fast. When a driver sees a bike, they expect it to move at 10-15 mph. E-bikes can travel at 20-30 mph. Drivers don’t have as much time to react to fast-moving e-bikes. This makes e-bike accidents involving cars more common.
E-bikes also lack safety features. Many e-bikes don’t have headlights, taillights, or blinkers. This makes it more difficult for drivers to see you and know what you’re planning to do. To increase safety, you can instal lights on your bike. Some high-speed e-bikes come with lights and blinkers pre-installed.
Typical Cycling Gear May Not Provide Enough Protection
According to this interesting article from Helmets.org, “Under US standards bike helmets are tested in 2 meter drops that achieve about 14 miles per hour (22.5 kph) on the flat anvil.”
This means bike helmets are only made to handle impacts at speeds up to around 14 mph. Bike helmets work fine for riding regular bikes. Most cyclists reach a maximum speed of around 15 mph. A standard bike helmet doesn’t provide much protection the 20+ mph speeds that ebikes reach. They are designed for low speed crashes.
E-bikes riders regularly cruise along at 20-30 mph. A regular bike helmet may not provide enough protection while riding a fast e-bike. If you crash head-first while riding at 20 mph, your helmet may split open. You could still suffer a head injury.
While riding a fast e-bike, it’s a good idea to wear a full-faced motorcycle helmet with DOT and Snell approval. These helmets have been rated for much harder impacts than bike helmets. They are designed for use at freeway speeds. They are also held to higher standards than bicycle helmets.
While riding an e-bike, you might also consider wearing some additional safety gear. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to wear a thick jacket and pants to provide some protection from road rash if you crash. You should also wear gloves to protect your hands.
Fork Failure or Rear Dropout Failure on Hub Motor E-bikes
A front hub motor can cause the fork to weaken over time. This is because the motor’s torque causes the fork blades to flex every time you accelerate. This flexing can cause the fork to fatigue and wear out faster than it normally would. Eventually, the fork can fail.
Rear dropouts can also fail. A powerful hub motor could pry the dropouts apart and cause the axle to start spinning. If this happens, the rear wheel could fall out. This same type of failure can also happen with the fork.
A fork or dropout failure is extremely dangerous. Imagine cruising down the road at 20 mph when your fork suddenly breaks under you and sends you flying toward the ground head first. A rear dropout failure isn’t quite as dangerous but it could still cause a serious crash. A crash at speed can cause severe injury.
There are a few ways to reduce the likelihood of fork failure or rear dropout failure. You should always install a torque arm on your hub motor e-bike. A torque arm is a steel brace that prevents the axle from rotating in the dropouts. The torque arm transfers some of the force from the axle to a stronger point on the frame or fork. Without a torque arm, the motor can pry the dropouts open. The wheel could also fall out.
It’s also a good idea to regularly inspect your e-bike’s frame and fork. Look for cracks, dents, or crimping in the fork arms, seat stays, chainstays, and dropouts. Check all of the welds. Inspect the dropouts for signs of damage.
In most cases, a frame or fork won’t fail catastrophically without notice. Usually, there will be some advance warning signs. The frame could begin creaking if the material begins to weaken. If you notice anything off about the bike, take it to a bike shop to get it checked out by a professional.
A sticking throttle is another dangerous issue that you could encounter. This can cause uncontrolled acceleration, which could cause an accident
There are a number of potential causes of a sticking throttle. If the grip is too close to the throttle, the grip can prevent the throttle from springing back when you let go. The throttle can get stuck open.
The ground wire can also cause throttle issues. If the ground wire breaks or gets damaged, you may get full throttle unexpectedly. If the wiring gets wet, the throttle could also turn on in some situations.
To prevent this, always make sure to keep the throttle clean and dry. Test the throttle before you ride. If your throttle does stick or come on unexpectedly, you can turn it off by using the brakes. Ebike brakes are designed to automatically cut off the motor. You can also turn the electric bike off.
Electric Bike Accidents Involving Pedestrians
Accidents involving pedestrians are more common with e-bikes than with regular bikes. This is probably due to the faster speed of e-bikes. You also have less time to react if a pedestrian accidentally steps into your path. Pedestrians have less time to get out of the way. If you ride too fast, you could accidentally hit someone.
Hitting a pedestrian with an e-bike can cause serious injury or death. Pedestrians have been killed by e-bikes. This article outlines a case in the U.K. where a woman was hit by an e-biker while crossing the road. Unfortunately, she died.
E-bikes cause more harm than regular bikes if you hit someone because they are heavier. An average e-bike weighs 20-30 kg while a non-powered bike typically weighs 10-12 kg. Hitting a pedestrian with a heavy e-bike can cause a lot of damage.
Studies show that electric bike injuries involving pedestrians are more likely. According to this article, “e-bike injuries were more than three times as likely to involve a collision with a pedestrian than either a scooter or conventional bike based on research reported in the journal Injury Prevention.”
Electric Bikes Vs Regular Bikes: The Increased Risk of Injury Associated with E-Bikes
According to this Danish study, e-bike riders are about 57% more likely to be involved in an accident than regular bike riders. This study from New York University Langone Medical Center found that people riding e-bikes were more likely to suffer internal injuries and require hospitalization than people riding regular bicycles. Ebike injuries were also three times as likely to involve a pedestrian. Electric bike injuries have also increased among the elderly in recent years.
Electric bikes may be more dangerous than traditional bikes due to their higher speed. Hitting something at higher speeds is more likely to cause serious injury. Electric bikes may also be more dangerous due to their weight. On average, an e-bike weighs around 10 kg more than a pedal bike. You can do a lot more damage when you hit something with a heavier bike.
What are the Chances of Injuries while Riding an Ebike?
According to this article from Reuters, “17% of e-bike accident victims suffered internal injuries compared to about 7.5% for both powered scooters and pedal bikes.” Interestingly, 83.3% of all electric e-bike accident victims are male.
In addition, according to the same article, “E-bike injuries were also more than three times as likely to involve a collision with a pedestrian than either scooter or traditional bike injuries, the researchers report in the journal Injury Prevention.” Also, people who ride e-bikes were more likely to be hospitalized.
The chances of sustaining an injury while riding an e-bike depend on how experienced you are, the road conditions, and the type of ebike you’re riding. To stay safe, make sure to always wear a helmet and other protective gear.
In addition, be sure to follow the rules of the road. Ride on the road or on bike lanes instead of sidewalks. Don’t ride over the speed limit. Use your turn signals or signal with your hand before turning. Don’t run traffic lights or stop signs. Obey the speed limits. Also, don’t ride beyond your skill level.
What Types of Injuries are Common in E-bike Riders?
The most common types of injuries for ebike riders are head and neck injuries including concussion. Broken leg bones (specifically the tibia and femur), arm fractures, joint dislocations, lower spinal cord injuries, pelvis fractures, and road rash are also common. These injuries are very similar to the types of injuries found on regular bike riders.
So, Are Electric Bikes Dangerous?
No, electric bikes are not dangerous. Millions of people ride e-bikes every day all over the world. Accidents are surprisingly rare. As long as you take proper bike safety precautions, such as wearing a helmet, not riding too fast, and following the traffic rules, you can ride your electric bike safely.
Having said that, accidents involving electric bikes are more common than accidents involving traditional bikes. Injuries also tend to be more severe. E-bike riders are more likely to end up in the emergency room after an accident. Internal injuries and broken bones are more common. There are risks to riding electric bicycles.
How To Improve Safety On While Riding an Electric Bike
- Always wear a helmet while riding your ebike. There are ebike specific helmets. For even more protection, you could wear a full-faced motorcycle helmet. A standard bike helmet may not offer enough protection for a fast ebike but it’s better than nothing.
- Follow the rules of the road. While riding, obey all traffic signs. Follow the speed limit. Always yield to pedestrians. Stop at stop signs and lights.
- Be visible. Wear bright clothing so that drivers can see you. Consider wearing a high-vis jacket or vest while riding. You should also install front and rear lights on your bike so that you can be seen at night. Many e-bikes come with built-in lights. Consider installing turn signals if you ride on the road in traffic often.
- Know your bike. Familiarize yourself with the controls and features of your bike, such as how to adjust the pedal assist and how to use the throttle.
- Perform a safety check before every ride. Make sure that your tires are properly inflated. Test the brakes and throttle to make sure they work.
- Ride within your skill level. When you first start riding an ebike, you should take it easy. Don’t ride at maximum speed. Use a low level of pedal assist. Give yourself some time to get the feel for it. New riders are more likely to have accidents than experienced riders.
- Choose a low-powered ebike. Lower-powered e-bikes are safer than high-powered e-bikes because they are slower. For most riders, a 250W motor is sufficient. A 1200W motor may be too much power if you’re a new rider.
FAQ About E-bike Safety
Are Electric Bikes Safe for Older People?
Yes. Electric bikes can be a great way for older people to stay active and enjoy the outdoors. Many people in their 60s, 70s, and even 80s, enjoy riding e-bikes.
Having said that, electric bike related injuries have been increasing among the elderly. Older people may be more likely to be involved in an accident due to their slower reaction time. Accidents may also cause more severe injuries due to age-related loss of muscle mass and bone density.
If you’re an older rider, be sure to take proper bike safety precautions. Wear protective gear and don’t ride beyond your limits. If you take proper precautions, you can safely ride an e-bike well into old age.
Are Electric Bikes Safe for Kids?
Yes, electric bikes can be safe for kids. For most kids, a traditional bike is the safer choice until they’re around 16.
If you allow your kids to ride an ebike, it’s important to take some safety precautions. To keep your kids safe, make sure you buy them the right ebike for their age and teach them how to ride safely. Kids should always wear helmets and other protective gear while riding. In addition, parents should make sure that the bike is well-maintained and safe for their kids to ride. Check for any damage, loose parts, or malfunctioning brakes before you allow your child to ride.
Younger riders should only use bikes with power levels suitable for their age. Young kids should only ride class 1 e-bikes with pedal assist. Older kids may be able to handle an ebike with a throttle. Many electric bikes have built-in speed limiters that help regulate the speed of the bike.
Parents should also teach their children about road safety. Teach them how to ride in bike lanes and on bike paths. Young kids should only ride with adult supervision.
It’s also important to check your local laws regarding e-bikes. In some cities, it’s illegal for young kids to ride e-bikes. In many cities, there is a minimum age of 16. If you allow your underage child to ride an ebike, you could be ticketed.
Are Electric Bikes More Dangerous Than Motorcycles?
Some people claim that electric bikes are more dangerous than motorcycles. Others claim that electric bikes are far safer.Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find any evidence proving either of these claims. It’s possible to argue either side.
One of the biggest differences between e-bikes and motorcycles is speed. Electric bikes have much lower top speed than motorcycles. Electric bikes may be able to reach speeds of around 20 mph. Motorcycles are designed to travel at highway speeds. Most models can easily reach 100 mph.
The higher speed allows motorcycles to keep up with traffic. This makes them less likely to get rear-ended. When you ride an ebike on the side of a busy road, you will have a stream of cars constantly whizzing past you. This makes you more likely to get hit, even if you’re riding in the bike lanes. Some argue that class 3 e-bikes are safer for city commuting because they can reach high enough speeds to keep up with traffic.
The faster speed of motorcycles can make them more dangerous in the event of a crash. You’re less likely to get injured in a crash at 20 mph on an ebike than crash at 60 mph on a motorcycle. Motorcycle accidents are often deadly.
Another reason motorcycles may be safer is that motorcycle riders typically wear more safety gear than e-bike riders. Most motorcycle riders wear a full-face helmet, a motorcycle jacket, armored gloves, motorcycle pants, and sturdy boots. To compare, most e-bike riders only wear a simple bike helmet. This isn’t enough protection.
Some also argue that electric bicycles are less visible than motorcycles because they are smaller. I don’t really buy this argument. E-bikes and motorcycles both have poor visibility. Drivers regularly claim that they didn’t see motorcyclists after an accident.
Most people consider electric bikes to be safer than motorcycles due to their slower speeds. Personally, I do not believe electric bicycles are more dangerous than motorcycles.
For more info on the dangers of e-bikes vs motorcycles, check out this interesting article.
What are the Traffic Rules for Electric Bikes?
To stay safe, it’s important to understand the laws and regulations surrounding e-bikes. You’re far less likely to have an accident when you follow the rules of the road.
Generally, e-bike riders must follow the same rules as those riding standard bikes. You must ride in the bike lane, on designated bike paths, or on the road with cars. Ebikes can’t be ridden on sidewalks. Riders must also obey all traffic signals, just as they would while driving a car. In many cities, helmets are legally required.
In addition, certain paths or roads may have restrictions. For example, some bike paths or trails prohibit e-bikes. On some bike paths, only class 1, class 2 e-bikes are allowed but faster class 3 e-bikes aren’t.
Are Electric Bikes a Fire Hazard?
E-bikes can be a fire hazard. There are documented cases of e-bike battery fires causing injuries and deaths. They have also caused buildings to burn down. Some apartment complexes actually ban e-bikes out of fear of battery fires.
Generally, e-bikes have low fire risk due to the design of their battery packs. Most modern electric bike batteries use lithium-ion cells that are built with multiple safety features such as built-in sensors. Many also have a fire safety certification. In order to obtain this certification, manufacturers must follow a strict set of guidelines.
It’s always a good idea to take some precautions when charging and storing your bike’s battery. You should always charge in an area away from combustible materials. The battery should be kept out of direct sunlight. You should never leave your electric bike charging unattended. If the battery gets too hot it could pose a fire danger.
Electric bikes are safe to ride. They may be slightly more dangerous than traditional bicycles because they are faster and heavier. To stay safe, it’s important to wear the right bike safety gear and make sure that the bike itself is well-maintained and in good working condition. In addition, you should should always respect the traffic rules. E-bikes are considered motor vehicles. They’re treated the same as cars. You should also keep an eye on the battery while charging to avoid battery fires. Hopefully, this guide helps you stay safe while riding your ebike.
Do you feel safe riding an electric bike? Share your experience in the comments below.
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More from Where The Road Forks
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- Electric Bike Touring
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- Electric Bike Range: How Far Can an E-bike Go On a Single Charge?
- Electric Bike Weight Limit
- Types of Electric Bikes
Zachary Friedman is an accomplished travel writer and professional blogger. Since 2011, he has traveled to 66 countries and 6 continents. He founded ‘Where The Road Forks’ in 2017 to provide readers with information and insights based on his travel and outdoor recreation experience and expertise. Zachary is also an avid cyclist and hiker. Living as a digital nomad, Zachary balances his professional life with his passions for hiking, camping, cycling, and worldwide exploration. For a deeper dive into his journey and background, visit the About page. For inquiries and collaborations, please reach out through the Contact page. You can also follow him on Facebook.