Electric bikes a safety risk as some cyclists flout regs

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Ross
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Electric bikes a safety risk as some cyclists flout regs

Postby Ross » Sun Mar 06, 2016 4:37 pm

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-03-06/e ... ys/7224270

A new cycling revolution is hitting Australian streets, but a prominent road safety expert* has sounded a warning about the rise of electric bikes.
Key points:

It comes as more powerful e-bikes are released on the Australian market, capable of travelling at 80 kilometres an hour.

Road safety advocate Don Aitkin expects to see e-bike numbers rapidly increase in the coming years, along with the incidence of serious injury.

"That's serious speed — and if you hit a pedestrian at that speed, you'll do him or her great injury," Professor Aitkin said.


The bikes look like normal pedal-powered bicycles but have the assistance of a battery-powered motor on either the front or rear hub, or through the crankshaft.

They do not need to be registered, nor do their riders need to be licensed.

Under Australian road regulations, bikes sold for on-road use are limited to 250 watts and capped at 25 kilometres an hour, but the ABC has discovered it is easy to exploit loopholes in the legislation and travel much faster.

Some commuters are using bikes designed for off-road use, or heavily modifying their own cycles — and there is little current laws can do about it.

Retailer Trevor Rix said electric bikes were becoming a popular option for cyclists looking for a bit of battery-powered assistance uphill.

"They might feel that they're more like a motorbike, they might feel that they'll not be able to handle them, but ... when you ride them, they are fantastic, just like a normal bike," he said.

Mr Rix said most e-bikes sold in Australia cost between $3,000 and $7,000, about the cost of a trendy Italian scooter.

However, the internet is full of examples of e-bikes being ridden faster and dangerously in heavy traffic on Australian streets, than the legislation is designed to allow.

Online videos feature electric bikes capable of producing 1,000 watts or more, designed for off-road use, being used to keep up with cars on the open road at speeds of up to 80 kilometres an hour.

And Canberra retailer Simone Annis said some riders were making dangerous modifications using imported components to create their own 'Frankenstein' electric bikes.

"We see people all the time with bikes which are just hideous bikes, with not very nice kits on them, which they've bought over the internet," Ms Annis said.

"Obviously we wouldn't encourage that, and it could be highly dangerous riding a really, really fast bike with brakes that don't work properly and so forth."

Mr Rix agreed it was impossible to police what people did in their own home workshops.

"So you have a reasonably low-quality bike, with poor brakes and poor handling capability, with a 1,000 watt engine on it ... it could be a recipe for disaster," he said.
Regulators caught flat-footed by e-bike trend

The same governments that are urging commuters to ditch their cars in favour of bikes, are now being accused of being left behind by rapidly changing e-bike technology.

Professor Aitkin, who is chair of the NRMA-ACT Road Safety Trust, said governments needed to decide where e-bikes belong.

"I think it is a very awkward fit. The assumption has always been for a hundred years that bicycles fitted this kind of area, and motorcycles that kind of area, and cars the big road," Professor Aitkin said.

"I think all of that is changing.

"This is a step-jump technological change, nothing like it has occurred for a hundred years in this area, and we're going to have to get used to it."

ACT Road Safety Minister and keen cyclist, Shane Rattenbury, agreed it was a political challenge.

"The technology is constantly evolving ... and government across the board is, I think, at times having to play a bit of catch-up on technology, and that is a challenge for us," he said.

"But certainly the ability for increasing speed and power is a challenge, and will present safety issues down the line if people are being reckless."

The lycra set may sneer at what they consider e-bike 'cheaters', but many of those who ride them, swear by them.

And that includes Canberra security guard, Carl Tallar, who was convinced to try an e-bike for his daily commute.

Seriously overweight, Mr Tallar purchased an electric bike three years ago to use riding to work.

He has commuted 30 kilometres a day to work since.

"I've actually lost something like 35 kilos," he said.

"I was 170 kilos when I first started, and to be honest with you I think to myself that I might not even be here if I didn't start riding.

"It's made me a lot happier person - my children have noticed."



* Aitkin is an Honorary Ambassador for the ACT, the Chairman of the NRMA/ACT Road Safety Trust - so no expertise in bicycles (electric or otherwise) or indeed road safety

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AlexHuggs
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Re: Electric bikes a safety risk as some cyclists flout regs

Postby AlexHuggs » Sun Mar 06, 2016 7:34 pm

Seems to me to be a non-issue. The law is clear and compliant ebikes a boon IMO (don't ride one) but people flout the law in all kinds of ways. We don't ban cars because people speed. Confiscate illegally modified ebikes. Simple.

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AlexHuggs
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Re: Electric bikes a safety risk as some cyclists flout regs

Postby AlexHuggs » Sun Mar 06, 2016 7:35 pm

Oh, and the RACWA certainly has no issue with them.

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ABC - Electric bikes a safety risk

Postby AUbicycles » Sun Mar 06, 2016 8:51 pm

Edit - posted as a new topic, until I spotted a thread already up - so this is merged.



The ABC has posted an article titled: Electric bikes a safety risk as some cyclists flout regulations

They reference 'Road safety advocate Don Aitkin,' "That's serious speed — and if you hit a pedestrian at that speed, you'll do him or her great injury."

It acknowledges the 250 watt and 25kmh limit - doesn't explain the pedal-assist functionality but does concentrate on the hobbiest who modify their e-bikes, or others, as Aitkin notes "So you have a reasonably low-quality bike, with poor brakes and poor handling capability, with a 1,000 watt engine on it ... it could be a recipe for disaster."

I feel the article is going for scare tactics and ignores the fact that the majority of e-bike sold are complete e-bikes and that it would only be a very tiny percentage of people who would consider modifying a bike to manipulate cut-off / speed.

Link: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-03-06/e ... ys/7224270

ianganderton
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Re: Electric bikes a safety risk as some cyclists flout regs

Postby ianganderton » Mon Mar 07, 2016 10:45 am

I find this topic and articles like this quite frustrating
I'm new to Australia but my understanding is that the legislation is quite clear. 250W pedelecs restricted to assistance only up to 25km/h are legal in the same places unpowered bicycles are, everything more powerful is not.

The problem is not the law. It's the enforcement of the law. Very simple
I watched a POV video on YouTube the other day of a guy riding a stealth electric motorbike at 78km/h on a shared cycle way near paramatta with kids and dogs on it. What a tool. The police should nail him for this. Surely the video including voice commentary would provide clear evidence.

But

I actually asked about this at my local police station and they said I needed to directly witness it myself
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softy
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Re: Electric bikes a safety risk as some cyclists flout regs

Postby softy » Mon Mar 07, 2016 5:30 pm

This is just so much a bet up!

I see quite often motorbikes, ie trailbikes motocross etc, doing 80 to 100km on cycle paths to keep out of the police eye. If these are buzzing around, big deal about a ebike.

I personally have never seen an ebike doing 80km. Yes about 60km which is still pretty fast.

I don't believe ebikes doing anything up to 40-45km a biggy as roadbikes can get to these speeds quite easily. So not really adding any more danger than a fast cyclist. Once they are doing 60+ then yeah arrest them. And it is pretty easy for cops to detect these.

zebee
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Re: Electric bikes a safety risk as some cyclists flout regs

Postby zebee » Fri Apr 08, 2016 8:49 am

One difference I see between ebikes and a fast cyclist.

The nut holding the handlebars...

If you can hold 40kmh on the flat you are going to be an experienced rider. You are going to be able to handle the bike in all conditions and have some experience at swerving and emergency stops.

With luck you might even have enough road time to have fairly good intuition about the situation ahead and what you should do when you get there. Whether you obey it or just power on through cos Strava tells you to is a different thing but I think most fast riders are not quite so egodriven as that.

But a fast ebike is something that only needs money. Someone who buys one is fundamentally different to someone who has got to the point of a 40kmh steady speed. The fast illegal ebike rider does it for the easy thrill, and can do it as soon as getting on the bike. The fast legal ebike rider might not be as thrill driven but can still do the speed without any of the skill.

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Re: Electric bikes a safety risk as some cyclists flout regs

Postby eldavo » Fri Apr 08, 2016 12:18 pm

Some holes there, but agree with the gist.
In getting people out of cars, ebikes will get them onto bike paths. Hearing anecdotes from Europeans, dedicated cyclists don't like that change, a new mass of sheep as legal 25kph moving roadblocks or illegal higher speed than them like cars.

As for the nut on the handlebars, you don't even have to do significant speed to be deadly. Wrong side of lane around blind bends or crests to hit oncoming riders was the most common and riskiest part of my commute on 99% shared path for 25km trip. Thanks to our low cycle rates, it's only pure luck that someone isn't oncoming at the wrong time, but the near misses I've witnessed plenty, and footage to document some. Oncoming means impact of combined speed, so try riding into a pole at 40kph feels like, and then view you and your 20kph oncoming leisure riders differently.

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