Fortnine study: Are electric bikes more dangerous than motorcycles?

J.R.

Well-Known Member
Region
USA
When I taught MC safety in the 90's one of the stat lines we showed in the classroom was lower power scooter and moped riders had more accidents than motorcycles. When you dig deeper the stats show a variety of reasons why. Part of the reason is the lack of power to maneuver and avoid situations that cause accidents. But more casual riders with less training and experience will often ride scooters and mopeds. Vacation rentals also contribute to the stats. Like most things the reasons are many and varied. One cannot just say this is safer than that. It's actually easier to evaluate a rider for safety than the vehicle.
 

Gordon71

Well-Known Member
What exactly do you mean by that? that bicyles should not be in the lane at all?
No but they should stay as close to the right (in the USA) as they can to allow cars to pass safely. For me that even sometimes means slowing way down and getting off the road if a safe turnout or driveway presents itself. I'll do that sometimes when I'm in a series of curves where the car behind me is stuck with little vision of oncoming traffic. It's safer than having the car do something stupid rather than slowing way down to stay behind me until they can see far enough ahead to pass safely.
 

troehrkasse

EBR Webmaster
Staff member
Region
USA
City
Fort Collins
When I taught MC safety in the 90's one of the stat lines we showed in the classroom was lower power scooter and moped riders had more accidents than motorcycles. When you dig deeper the stats show a variety of reasons why. Part of the reason is the lack of power to maneuver and avoid situations that cause accidents. But more casual riders with less training and experience will often ride scooters and mopeds. Vacation rentals also contribute to the stats. Like most things the reasons are many and varied. One cannot just say this is safer than that. It's actually easier to evaluate a rider for safety than the vehicle.
I completely agree. What keeps you safe is awareness, reaction time, and skill on your two-wheeled vehicle of choice. I know many people who were seriously injured on regular old bicycles because they weren't paying attention, riding without any gear, didn't know how to fall safely, etc. Very few injuries among my motorcycle friends because they are well trained and careful about it.
 

Catalyzt

Well-Known Member
Region
USA
The headline seems a bit click-baity, but IMHO it's a valid question, and I salute Stout for wearing moto body armor-- but of course I'd say that, because I do as well. I'm on blood thinners, so a hit that might be a scratch to someone else would send me to the ER, and a hit that would send someone else to the ER could send me to the morgue, biggest danger is internal bleeding, so I'm happy to have a little extra padding.

--> For someone with more experience riding motorcycles than bicycles, it may well be that e-bikes are more dangerous. Doesn't seem like a nutty idea, I'd never thought about it.

I cannot speak for elevated risk relative to motorcycles. I've only ridden a motorcycle exactly once (Yamaha 850 or so) across the street to park it (in NYC where it wouldn't be towed) when my friend was too drunk to drive. Quite a spectacle, me wobbling back and forth riding the clutch as I careened across the street and my drunk friend stumbling besides me screaming instructions. (We should have just let it get towed.)

I'm veering slightly OT, mostly to join Stout in advocating for armor. Those of us who don't ride motorcycles are more likely to wonder, "How much more dangerous are e-bikes than bicycles?" This question has been asked and answered a lot here, but where I ride, I think there are two main vectors for accidents, and maybe a third minor one, I think:

1) People in traffic they wouldn't normally be in with an acoustic bike.
2) People on trails they wouldn't normally be on with an acoustic bike
3) Slight increase in speed for e-bikes relative to acoustic bikes

For Stout, who is used to having a bike that corner harder, and also having enough power to pull himself out of some hairy situations, I can see why he'd wind up in some very unfamiliar situations where his instincts are less helpful, and relearning new habits would be a challenge.

For the rest of us, we'd do well to remember that the increase in speed may be small, but unwise to ignore. My top speed on the Motobecane is 37.6 MPH downhill; none of my other bikes could top 30-32 on that stretch of road. The Motobecane is also far more stable at speed than any bike I've ridden before, but it's a little twitchy and floaty above 35, same as my road bike was above 30, and an accident at 35 is more likely to cause injury than an accident at 30. Many people here report top speeds in the low to mid-40s.

This is why I say YES to armor. It also makes me look like less of a target for bike thieves and thugs in the city, though I do frighten young children and those who don't understand the difference between moto armor and military armor!
 

mjeds

Active Member
Region
USA
I have commuted over 6,000 miles in the last 8 months on my e-bike without any issues. I have been riding motorcycles for 35 years.

pretty simple. USE COMMON SENSE.

follow the rules of the road as if you were in a car or on a motorcycle that means STOP for stop signs, STOP for red lights, stay as far to the right as you safely can if no bike lane.
use turn signals if you don't have them use hand signals.

I pedal 9 miles on a riverbed bike path, I have an electric toot horn to alert others on the path if they are in my way especially people walking that are in groups that are cluttering the path walking abreast of each other,
I always address "ON YOUR LEFT" when passing another bike and I toot the horn.
I Stop at every red light and stop sign, FULL STOP, I do not roll through, there is no reason not to stop, with an e-bike you can throttle up back to speed quickly so you aren't really breaking stride.
I signal EVERY turn, my helmet has built in LED turn signals with a blue-tooth remote on the handlebars (Lumos Matrix MIPS Helmet). It also has a brake light using your phone accelerometer so it flashes a big red LED when I slow rapidly.

my daily commute is 52 miles round trip, 9 miles on a river bed, 17 on city streets through Los Angeles and L.A. Suburbs. I work in East L.A. I commute from Long Beach, CA.

use common sense, ride as if you are invisible, pay attention to everything around you and predict that every cager is going to do something stupid, obey the traffic laws, and don't act like you own the flipping road even if it has a bike lane.

--

all that being said, I have been pulled over twice on my e-bike for going too fast, no ticket, but I was doing 30-35mph on a 25mph residential street, in both cases I think the officer was more interested in how I was moving so fast rather than the fact I was speeding. Both were cool and asked tons of questions about the bike and just warned me to slow down while on the residential streets.
 

john peck

Well-Known Member
Cars are far more dangerous than bikes. The death toll of those slain having been hit by a bicycle
is somehow less signifigant. Yet riding a bike is dangerous, but should not be. Cycling infrastructure
would be considerably cheaper than 4 lane overpasses & off ramps. Why should we be required to
travel 60 mph in a bumper to bumper mass migration each day at outrageous operative costs just
to reach a job that never seems to make headway??? Why can´t a pleasant ride on quiet path be
the norm & not the exception?
 

st0ut

Member
Region
USA
Cars are far more dangerous than bikes. The death toll of those slain having been hit by a bicycle
is somehow less signifigant. Yet riding a bike is dangerous, but should not be. Cycling infrastructure
would be considerably cheaper than 4 lane overpasses & off ramps. Why should we be required to
travel 60 mph in a bumper to bumper mass migration each day at outrageous operative costs just
to reach a job that never seems to make headway??? Why can´t a pleasant ride on quiet path be
the norm & not the exception?
Well I look at this not only from the cyclist persepective of injury but also for the one that have not riddden a bike (moto or other ) for 40 years. Now they hop on that park bike path and are at a speed the are mentally unprepared for when things go wrong...

Pedestrians, kids on kids bike veering because they are kids etc..
 

mjeds

Active Member
Region
USA
Well I look at this not only from the cyclist persepective of injury but also for the one that have not riddden a bike (moto or other ) for 40 years. Now they hop on that park bike path and are at a speed the are mentally unprepared for when things go wrong...

Pedestrians, kids on kids bike veering because they are kids etc..

yeah I have come up on teens on the bike path and "yelled on your left" and they freak out and move left. if I say "move to the right" they go left or stop.

and some are driving age, which scares the hell out of me because they might be also driving cars with this complete lack of awareness.
 

RunForTheHills

Well-Known Member
Region
USA
I think that bikes are mostly dangerous because of cars. While cyclists need to be more aware and ride defensively, that doesn't always work. I have been hit by a car while crossing an intersection with a green light. The driver that hit me was making a left turn and tagged the back of my bike (he hit my pannier with his front bumper). He then took off and didn't bother to stop. Fortunately I neither I or the bike was hurt, not that the driver cared. That isn't to say that cyclists can't be at fault. I have seen a few cyclists running red lights and doing other crazy stunts in traffic. I personally haven't seen any accidents on MUPs caused by cyclists. I am sure that it happens, it is just a lot more rare than a car hitting a cyclist.
 

john peck

Well-Known Member
Well I look at this not only from the cyclist persepective of injury but also for the one that have not riddden a bike (moto or other ) for 40 years. Now they hop on that park bike path and are at a speed the are mentally unprepared for when things go wrong...

Pedestrians, kids on kids bike veering because they are kids etc..
Kids are kids, sure, but I ride courteous & slow for peds yielding if necessary. I think anyone who
hasn´t ridden in 40 years would naturally be inclined to caution. Get training wheels if you need them.
What newbee is gonna hop on & ride WOT?
 

troehrkasse

EBR Webmaster
Staff member
Region
USA
City
Fort Collins
yeah I have come up on teens on the bike path and "yelled on your left" and they freak out and move left. if I say "move to the right" they go left or stop.
Ugh, this stuff bothers me to no end! The worst is groups of teens walking and taking up the whole path, call out "on your left" (or anything) and they all turn and look, confused, then everyone goes in different directions.
some are driving age, which scares the hell out of me because they might be also driving cars with this complete lack of awareness.
I got my drivers license at 16 and I remember being shocked with how easy the test was. Granted, I don't live in a big city and back then traffic was mild at worst... but still, they didn't even ask me to parallel park. Looking back I feel quite fortunate that I was never involved in any accidents!

The motorcycle license test, on the other hand, was quite comprehensive and tested a lot of crucial skills. Many motorcyclists also begin with a one or two week class and learn from an actual professional.
 

john peck

Well-Known Member
Survival needs to be a cyclist´s ultimate concern, but yes, cars can still get ya. I´ve been hit a
total of 4 times, only once with serious injury. Not once was it my fault. I just missed getting kilt a
few days ago making a left turn. I signalled a good 50 yds. in advance, & this idiot passed me on the
left just as I initiated my turn. They just don´t give a damn cuz they don´t feel threatened by a bike.
He´d never have done that if I were in a car.
 

Asher

Well-Known Member
I think that bikes are mostly dangerous because of cars.

There are deaths from solo bike crashes, but it's usually among road cyclists going very fast or people going downhill. Wear a helmet, don't pedal down steep hills, and exercise caution on roads new to you (because it's hard to notice potholes in time if you're going fast). And slow down in inclement weather.

Just mentioning because a lot of bike riders get so angry about cars (deservedly) that they minimize the non-car risks, risks which are mostly avoidable.
 

6zfshdb

Well-Known Member
No, ride as if everyone can see you and you have a big target on your back and they win a million dollars if they run you over.
When I bought my first motorcycle at age 17, I met an old seasoned Harley biker who told me "kid, ride like everyone else is trying to run you over on purpose." He was one of the few biker friends I knew who died of natural causes not related to motorcycles. I never forgot what he said and rode that way until I gave up my motorcycles. I still try and ride my e-bike with that philosophy in mind to this day.
 

Elkman

Member
The big difference in safety is that a motorcycle is driven in a normal traffic lane and no worries about someone suddenly opening a car door in front and having to avoid a collision. I started serious bicycling in southern California and spend a great deal of time riding in traffic and when cities started putting in Class II bike lanes that did not separate bicyclists from automobiles or even dumber (as with Palo Alto CA) when bicyclists were forced to ride on sidewalks in town, the problems were predictable.

This has been an issue for the past 50 years in the USA where cars are king and cyclists and pedestrians are expendible peons. Very different in Europe and in Germany the German is going so far as to actively promote e-bikes as they believe they are the future of urban transportation.

The potential advantage of an e-bike is enabling a rider to move at the speed of automobiles on city streets. Often cities have the lights set so that if one drives at 25 mph they will never need to stop, assuming no one is stopped in front of them. Not difficult if fit to maintain that speed with a standard road bike and even easier with an electric motor assisted bike. The problem at this time is that the power assist is programmed to shut off when the bike reaches 20 mph and some will actually cut power at 18 mph.

There is a fundamental disconnect between e-bike restrictions that do no distinguish between the bike used sometimes on a bike path and sometimes one the open road and sometimes on city streets. I had a diesel pickup and when the computer thought the diesel exhaust fluid was not being provided to the emissions control components it would restrict the top speed to 55 mph. More than a little scary to try to merge with tractor trailer rigs going at 70 mph on the freeway while you are going only 55 mph. I understand why the feds forced car makers to do this but it made the vehicles very dangerous to drive, which is why I came to sell the diesel pickup and replace it with a gas powered SUV.

On congested city streets I would much prefer to ride a regular road bike and it will be interesting to see which segments of those using a bicycle to make deliveries will make the switch to e-bikes.