While e-bikes are just catching on in the United States, close to 30 million were sold worldwide in 2012. E-bikes look like conventional bicycles, except that they are outfitted with an integrated electric motor that propels the rider when pedaling becomes too exhausting, or inclines prove too steep. Not to be confused with mopeds or traditional motorbikes, e-bikes can be pedaled with or without help from the motor and generally do not reach top speeds greater than 20 miles per hour.
In the United States alone, more than 50,000 e-bikes are purchased each year, some of which are manufactured by the Florida-based company EVantage. As an incentive to riders, EVantage models include a carbon footprint savings function that calculates the pounds of CO2 the rider saves by riding an e-bike instead of driving a gas-powered car.
A bike by any other name
In Florida, e-bikes do not need to be registered with the DMV and may be operated without a license by any person 16 years of age or older, if the bike does not travel faster than 20 mph on level ground. With that being said, e-bike riders on Florida’s roads must obey motor vehicle laws and should also keep in mind that they are operating a motorized vehicle that can and will cause damage if they collide with a pedestrian or object. In addition, e-bikes should never be operated while the rider is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, as serious injuries can still be sustained at speeds under 20 miles per hour.
In China, where there are an estimated 120 million e-bikes on the roads, the new technology is already causing thousands of deaths each year. Critics blame reckless riders who ignore pedestrians and flout traffic laws for this rash of injuries and fatalities. As e-bikes gain popularity in the States, riders must place a premium on safety and remember to always operate the bikes in a conscientious manner.
When e-bikes are involved in collisions and injuries occur, it is time to speak with competent legal counsel to determine liability in the accident and identify the responsible parties.