This might not be the post you’re thinking it’ll be…
I watched a video yesterday about the safety of eBikes that really caught my interest. The comparison was made between the safety of motorcycles and eBikes and also looked at the jump in crashes and hospitalizations since the boom of the eBike. The video really didn’t get into the why of it. I will.
Since I got into road cycling I’ve worked at being the fastest I could be. I worked hard at it. I’ve lost count how many times I’d puked in my mouth from pushing too hard for too long. Even at 51 years-old, I’m fast enough on my road race bike that I can outpace most ebikes in their factory settings when the pedal assist cuts out at 20-ish miles per hour. On our Tuesday Night club ride, we would push even the best factory eBikes beyond their pedal assist limits. I’ve ridden fast, with fast people for more than a decade now, and we tend to be quite good at it.
And that gets us to the crux of the problem.
A few reviewers of the Tesla Model S Plaid made the point that the car is scary fast and what makes it scary is that normally one has to spend upwards of millions of Dollars, to launch as fast as you can in a $112,000 Plaid. It’s the cost that is the issue. With an owner of a hyper car, most will actually learn how to drive to protect their investment while they’re out tearing up the asphalt (or they’ll save the asphalt tearing for the track). With the Model S Plaid, hyper car speed is available to anyone who can afford a high-end Cadillac SUV. The cost for that kind of speed isn’t steep enough to keep the knuckleheads from doing knuckleheaded things with a rocket ship.
And that’s where the eBike enters this little equation. Anyone who rides a pedal bike at a pace above 20-mph, especially those who do so in a group, learns how to manage that speed. There are hundreds of nuances that a slower sidewalk rider would miss or deem non-threatening because they’re covering ten to fifteen feet per second while faster riders cover three times that distance in a second.
In order to safely ride that fast, your focus has to widen – you have to take in everything around you as you’ll be on a threat in a matter of seconds at high speeds. Developing that kind of focus and attention takes practice and, more important, time.
When you can just hop on an eBike and instantly hit 23-mph where you’d normally be riding around 10, a rider won’t be prepared for how fast things happen at that speed and they’ll make costly mistakes someone who normally rides that fast won’t. Thus, why accidents and hospitalizations have increased with the boom of eBikes.
The speed comes at a cost.
To wrap this up, sooner than later there will be fever-pitched, hyperbole driven calls by politicians, ignoramuses and authoritarians alike to throttle eBikes back to a point where they’re less dangerous. Hold on a second there, fun sponge. Don’t get your panties in a twist faster than a Specialized Creo Turbo! EBikes can be a fantastic commuting tool, especially the faster eBikes that allow cyclists to better keep pace with traffic. The rider will have to learn how to manage that speed so that they don’t hurt themselves. No politician, try as they might, has ever managed to legislate “stupid” out of anything. They have managed to suck the fun out of a lot with their often idiotic rules, though. I would never advocate for such a thing. I would implore you, my dear reader, to resist the urge as well.