The Pros & Cons of Riding an E-Bike

Video Transcription:

Hi, it's Jim Dodson, The Florida Bike Guy. So, what are the risks and benefits of e-bikes? You know, this is the easy part talking about the benefits. You know e-bikes are fun. I don't know anybody who has been on an e-bike they didn't, you know, they just say they put a smile on your face, and that's been my experience as well.

But I think that beyond them just being fun, you know, a lot of people, a lot of real active cyclists get an e-bike simply to get on a bike after they've done their serious ride, to have a fun, you know, a ride in the morning, ride the e-bike in the afternoon, or keep the e-bike around for running errands.

You know, I could, I live three miles from the office. I could easily ride an e-bike over here on days when I'm not seeing somebody. So, they've got a lot of applications like that, and you know, I had a story that Kati pulled for me this week about a guy who lost 105 pounds totally changed his life, using an e-bike.

Remember, I've talked before about the fact that they have an apparent, they're apparently they appear to be to other people, less difficult to ride. So, they have a lower barrier of entry for people to start exercise. So, that's a really, really good benefit. Some studies are showing that maybe their heart rate is 8% lower than someone who is on a bike on average.

Just saw a study today on that. Still people who are riding them are typically in the moderate level of exercise. So that's a very good thing. Particularly someone who is otherwise not exercising at all. They definitely have advantages over a barrier of entry, rather in terms of getting, getting people on a bicycle, which I think is great.

You know, they definitely aid in our carbon footprint. I saw data that 2018 was the worst year on record for carbon emissions, and I really believe and hopeful, honestly, that e-bikes will change our habits in terms of getting around. Wouldn't it be great if the United States was Denmark in terms of the availability and use of e-bikes and bicycles? So, all of those automobile trips would be eliminated. Millions and millions of automobile trips replaced by bicycles and e-bikes. It would be unbelievable and have a tremendous impact on our environment, which we critically need right now.

So, let me see, weight loss, you know, the thing that, that, what e-bikes do, you know, there's a lot of use for them, for people who, you know, maybe they've gotten dinged with a health issue. They can't keep up with their buds or their friends or their spouse, and they want to ride together. They're concerned they might not make it back on the length of a long ride. All those things are positives and are reasons why you e-bikes continue to be hot sellers.

So looking now at some of the risks, and let me preface my comments by this, I am an e-bikes supporter. So, I don't want anyone to ever misinterpret something that I say as being critical of e-bikes or being critical of riders. I'm not. I had a comment recently someone said, now you're blaming the rider and I said, never I do that. So just put that in into its context, but you know, the bicycling on an e-bike is different than riding on a regular bike, and there are some things to keep in mind.  

I think one of the things I had a comment this week from someone who is a follower of our program sent me a message saying, hey, listen, what he had observed riding his e-bike was that it's the drivers in his view weren't aware of how quickly he was closing on them. So the classic example is a driver passes you, they're in the car, you're doing 18 or 20 mph, and they don't realize you're doing that fast. They want to turn right and suddenly you're on them again. Drivers misinterpret how fast we're going, and I think this is complicated by the fact that many people on e-bikes are riding in a pretty upright position. They've got like the regular bicycle look, not a carbon fiber type, serious cycling bike, and when you watch their pedal motion it's very slow, very moderate in terms of how fast they're going.

I've been going, you know, 18 miles an hour on Gulf Boulevard here and get passed by this nice little lady on an e-bike, and she's doing 20 mph. It looks like she's doing 10 mph the way she's pedaling, but she just goes on by. I think that can contribute to drivers not recognizing that a person riding in that position pedaling at that pedal speed is going 20 miles an hour, or perhaps, you know, class threes are legal, 28 miles an hour. Okay. So, it's just something that we need to keep in mind is that driver recognize how quickly I'm approaching or how I'm going to approach them and they pass me. Just keep that always in mind. You know, we have to be hypervigilant about these things. Do they know I'm here? Do they expect me to be there?

I think one of the issues in terms of e-bikes too is you have a lot of people, particularly right now, this is being broadcast during the COVID issue. Bikes are selling like crazy and that includes e-bikes, and you have people who really are not cyclists, buying e-bikes. So, you take a person who is not an experienced bicycle rider, and you give them an e-bike that goes 20 miles an hour. Well, if you were to buy a standard, road bike as a non-cyclist, non-exerciser, or you're not going to ride 20 miles an hour out of the shoot for most people. They're going to work up to it. It takes exercise, your size and time and energy to progress to in 15, 17, 18, 19, 20 mph. You don't just get on the bike and zoom, you're doing 20 mph.

So things happen more quickly at 20 mph than they do at 14 mph, and I wonder if inexperienced riders appreciate what to anticipate in terms of things that are occurring on the road around them. You know, you're approaching an intersection much more quickly. The person coming out on the right there, you're coming upon them much more quickly. Things are in the road that you're going to have to avoid at 20 mph potentially rather than going 14 mph. So, I think there's that issue and that's just, I guess I would call it lack of experience, lack of having been through the ins and outs of the things we run into on the road day in and day out that a person may experience on an e-bike doing 20 miles an hour, that they simply may not be prepared for. So, you have to keep that in mind.

The other thing is that e-bikes on  sidewalks. We've talked about this once before, but that definitely is an issue. E-bikes commonly weigh 50 pounds, 60 pounds. Most bicycles weigh a third or half of that, and that's definitely something to keep in mind in the presence of pedestrians because more mass equals more injury if you hang with someone who happens to get in your way. So, that's something that we have to be constantly aware of. I've actually seen some pretty good data that indicates that cyclists on an e-bike are not riding faster on sidewalks then they were before which is one of the things that we expressed some concern about in the past.

You know, all of this comes down to the one person doing the one thing at the one time and a crash happens, but in general, the data I've seen so far is that e-bike riders are not riding more quickly than they would be. I think I have seen data that sort of in general, e-bike riders ride three or four miles an hour faster from point A to point B but part of that is because when they get to a hill, if they're doing 18 mph, they can go up the hill at 18 mph. You know, they're not slowing down to six mph or eight mph or something. So, they get to the end destination more quickly even though they may not be riding faster the entire way which is a very interesting thing.

I don't know if you've been going up a hill and be passed by an e-bike rider but it is very interesting how little effort they seem to be exerting if you're going up in my area, going over a bridge, or up in the central part of the state one at these hills, and how they just kind of come floating past you, you know. It's kind of cool.

I saw something very fascinating having to do with issues with e-bikes and older riders, and that was what they were calling dismount injuries. There is an issue with some older riders losing their balance getting on and off the e-bike. I don't understand. They didn't give the particulars of why that is or how the injuries occur other than the bike being 50 or 60 pounds and maybe falling on them or them hitting the ground with the bike, falling on them as well. So something that I'll be on the lookout for, but something to keep in mind for people if you're selecting an e-bike. I've talked before about the experience that I've had with bike shop owners who talk about older riders, very incapacitated riders, coming in, getting an e-bike and totally changing their life by  just getting out, getting active, getting more active and having a life that they haven't had since they were unable to drive.

I think that one of the things, you know, e-bikes are being purchased by people who don't have a history of cycling. Like I said before, and they may not be aware of the visibility issues. You know, what I talk about all the time. Are you wearing high visibility clothing? Are you wearing a helmet? The other thing is lane position--so critical. It's a bicycle you're going to ride in the road, lane position, taking the lane. When do you do it? When is it safe to do it? Riding as far to the right as practical does not mean hugging the curb. You know, it means being far enough off the curb so that the vehicles see you and have to go around you somewhat. So, these are things that I hope that e-bike riders will come to understand, get information from, from CyclingSavvy or other people who have it, our own website to understand the critical importance of lane position in terms of riding any bike safely, not to mention lights and helmets and those kinds of things.

I had one thing I'll mention I'm a little unsure whether to mention it, and I'm going to say it because Kati pulled a study, and it was a very short page and a half just had it this week by the largest insurance company in Europe. I haven't seen any other data like this. The data that I have seen from Europe and the United States is really, there is no significant difference between e-bike injuries versus bicycle injuries, but this is sort of an outlier. This is from the largest health insurance company in Europe, and they're saying there's a three fold increase in deaths by riders of e-bikes, but they don't understand, they don't explain why. They don't give us enough data to understand it. So I'm only gonna, I'm only gonna mention it in passing. I don't know much more than that. I'm certainly not certifying or trying to imply that it's accurate. Most of it still comes down to, you know, our responsibility, the driver's responsibility and us being super careful as we are always called to be.

So, you know, I'm looking to buy e-bike. I want to ride one. I'm taking my time. I've got other issues I'm dealing with right now. So, but I'm sort of scanning the horizon of what I will end up getting, and I'll be happy to talk about that. I think maybe we'll do a program one time about what are the choices out there? What are the pros and cons?

You know, there's a huge variety right now from a thousand dollars, you know, to the super expensive e-bikes. So, what are you getting with increased cost? You know, what are the trade offs? I think that'd be an interesting conversation. So, I hope you found this interesting. I'm Jim Dodson, The Florida Bike Guy, e-bikes supporter, bike supporter. I represent cyclists across Florida, whether you've been injured in a bike crash, or as a passenger or driver in an automobile. If you need me, call me. I'll be there for you! I'll talk to you next time. Thanks. Take care. Bye.

Jim Dodson
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A Florida injury lawyer, family man and avid cyclist who clients have trusted for over 25 years.