E-Bikes in Detroit: Risks and Advantages

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Risks and Benefits of E-Bikes in Detroit

e-bikes in detroit

Key Points of this Article:

  • E-bikes are enjoying unprecedented popularity in 2022, which is projected to continue.
  • E-bikes have many benefits in Detroit, as well as in other cities.
  • It is possible to be severely injured in an e-bike accident.

If you enjoy riding a bike in Detroit but get frustrated when you have to pedal (or walk) up steep hills, or if you want to make faster short trips, you are the perfect target audience for electric bike manufacturers. People also buy or rent e-bikes to avoid using their cars while commuting, thus saving money on gas and helping the environment. There are many strong reasons in favor of using electric bikes; however, just as with traditional pedal bikes, motorbikes, and other vehicles, there are also risks.  

Although you may have only begun noticing the prevalence of e-bikes in the past several years, they are not a new technology; the first patents for electric bicycles were issued between 1895 and 1899. In the past few years, their sales have gone through the roof. For example, between 2020 and 2021, sales of e-bikes increased by 240%. Yes, this huge jump in popularity may be partially attributed to the pandemic, but not completely; pedal bike sales increased by only 15% in the same period. It is projected that by 2023, there will be 300 million throttle and pedal-assisted electric bikes in use globally, 50% more than in 2019.

To be classed as an electric bike in Michigan, the following facts must be true:

  • There must be a seat or a saddle
  • Pedals must be fully operational (this sets e-bikes apart from mopeds or motorbikes)
  • The electric motor must not have more than 1 horsepower (750 watts)

Not all e-bikes are alike, and Michigan classifies them into 3 tiers: 

  • Class 1: The electric motor must only provide assistance when it is being pedaled (and only up to a speed of 20 mph). There is no age limit for riding Class 1 e-bikes.
  • Class 2: The electric motor can propel the bike even if the rider isn’t pedaling. However, this also only provides assistance up to 20 mph. The motor must disengage when the brakes are applied or the throttle is released. There is no age limit for riding Class 2 e-bikes.
  • Class 3: This is like class 1 in that the motor only provides assistance when the bike operator is actually pedaling. Instead of disengaging at 20 mph, it ceases to function when the bike reaches 28 mph. This class of e-bike has a speedometer. You must be at least 14 years old to operate a Class 3 e-bike.

Michigan Helmet Laws:

  • In Michigan, motorcycle riders must wear helmets unless they are at least 21, have at least $20,000 in first-party medical benefits, have held a motorcycle endorsement for at least 2 years (or have passed an approved motorcycle safety course).
  • Bike riders are not legally required to wear helmets (although it is certainly a safety recommendation).
  • E-bike riders are not required to wear helmets unless they are under the age of 18 and on a Class C electric bike. 

E-bikes in Detroit:

  • In response to a less-than-perfect public transportation system and the COVID pandemic, the City of Detroit’s Office of Mobility Innovation (OMI) and the New Urban Mobility alliance (NUMO) provided electric bikes to 60 essential workers at highly subsidized rates in 2020.
  • In May 2021, the city of Detroit launched the E-Bike Leasing Program, which allowed city employees to lease e-bikes for $15 per month.
  • Also in 2021, the city launched the Detroit Bike Challenge on a biking encouragement platform called Love to Ride. 
  • The city then created an annual Bike Summit to collect feedback. 
  • All of these initiatives were to increase the practice of commuting to work by e-bikes.
    The feedback showed a 79% satisfaction rate.  

Benefits of E-Bikes in Detroit: 

  • They save on gas money.
  • They prevent carbon emissions, thereby helping the environment.
  • They can be convenient.
  • They provide a way to keep fit, especially for those who would not necessarily be inclined to commute on regular bikes. 
  • They can allow those with physical limitations the ability to bike.

Risks and barriers mentioned in the Detroit Bike Summit survey: 

  • Physical and health limitations of the rider
  • Weather
  • Inadequate safety while commuting or running errands
  • Limited facilities for charging while at work
  • Time constraints
  • Lack of daylight hours
  • Inconvenience of carrying a laptop, coffee, etc.

Accidents and injuries:

  • A 2021 NIH study compared injury patterns between bike riders, e-bike riders, and motorbike riders. They found that although e-bike riders were twice as likely to wear helmets as bike riders, they did suffer from many more moderate traumatic brain injuries
  • They also found that the incidence of pelvic injuries was twice as high as in bike riders, who were more likely to injure their upper extremities. 
  • CBS News reported that micro-mobility products (E-bikes, electric scooters, and hoverboards) caused almost 200,000 emergency room visits in the U.S. between 2017 and 2020, an increase of 70%. 
  • At least 71 people died in e-bike accidents in the same period. 
  • According to NEISS (the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission’s National Electronic Injury Surveillance System), e-bike users were more likely to suffer internal injuries and to be hospitalized than either bike riders or electric scooter users.
  • Injured e-bike users tended to be older than e-scooter or bike riders.
  • E-bike users were 3 times more likely than the other riders to involve pedestrians in their accidents.
  • Typical injuries from e-bike-related accidents are similar to those in non-electric bike accidents: TBIs, concussions, fractures, internal injuries, pelvic injuries, dislocated shoulders, lacerations, contusions, internal injuries, and spinal cord injuries
  • However, Charles DiMaggio, co-author of the NEISS study and director of the injury research program at NYU Langone Health in NYC, concluded that “Most significantly, the study found injuries from e-bikes, in particular, were more serious.” 

If you have been injured in an e-bike accident in Detroit, you may be faced with medical bills, loss of income, and pain and suffering. The last thing you want to do while you recover is to go to battle with reluctant insurance companies. Determining fault for an e-bike accident can be difficult, but the electric bike attorneys at Lee Steinberg Law Firm can navigate the intricacies of Michigan’s laws while fighting for fair compensation for you. 

Please call Lee Free at 1-800-LEE-FREE (1-800-533-3733) or fill out the Free Case Evaluation Form.

And remember, you pay nothing until we settle your case.