E-BIKE SAFETY: IS AN E-BIKE SAFE?
Statistically, e-bikes cause more accidents than regular bicycles. With the right sensors, however, e-bikes should be as safe as regular bicycles.
Physical activity on an e-bike is definitely a health benefit due to increases in the number and distance of bike trips at the expense of car trips. However, when regarding health, e-bikes do cause concern about safety.
The enhanced accelerating power and different braking system make motor-assisted bicycles behave differently from regular bikes. Speed and handling may differ from what both riders and other road users expect.
So, are e-bikes safe? Will the risk of injuries increase, when changing your normal bicycle to an electrical bike? And what can be done to improve e-bike safety?
E-bike safety: Speed and balance issues
There is no doubt that injuries due to riding a bike have increased as the number of e-bikes on the streets has grown. And when looking at statistics, the frequency of accidents on e-bikes is higher compared to conventional bikes. The type of accidents also differs, being more severe among e-bike riders.
The question is why e-bike safety seems to be more challenging? So far research shows that the most frequent causes of e-bike accidents are:
- Other road users underestimate the speed of the electrical bike.
- Riders struggle to regulate speed/braking on an e-bike.
- Problems with balance among older cyclists, especially due to the weight of the e-bike.
How can an e-bike be safe?
Regulating speed and keeping balance are well-known issues when it comes to e-bike safety. A situation that is described quite commonly is when the electric motor starts unexpectedly or continues even though the rider has stopped pedaling.
When using a motor to support, there will be a slightly lagging motor response when pedaling. This is especially noticeable during start/stop and when cornering.
The lag causes a delay from when the brain expects an acceleration to the bike actually does accelerate. Most riders have a subconsciously counterproductive response, and that causes unexpected jerks and balance issues.
The solution is an accurate sensor in the crank/hub, the torque sensor, that can measure the pressure put on the pedals and tell the motor to regulate. Done right there will be no noticeable lag between what happens in the pedals and in the motor. This makes for a much more natural ride-feeling and better predictability.
What sensors improve predictability on an e-bike?
The sensors that will make the ride smooth and predictable should be able to measure two things: Torque and cadence.
A torque sensor determines the power put onto the pedals. When climbing a hill, you will push harder on the pedals, and the torque sensor will tell the motor to increase the output immediately.
A cadence sensor measures how fast the pedaling is. This helps keep the e-bike safe by making sure the motor does not run unless you are actually pedaling. In many places, this is required by law. Having a good resolution on the cadence sensor makes this function respond fast. Exactly as you expect.