Should We Be Worried About E-Bikes?

E-Bikes in PittsburghLast year, Pittsburgh’s bikeshare program underwent a rebrand. Now known as “POGOH,” the program upgraded its fleet to include electric bicycles, or e-bikes. For a fee, you can use one of POGOH’s bikes almost anywhere in the city. Given the congestion we face from commuters, residents, and college students (plus all the hills), this is a pretty good deal.

According to POGOH’s website, however, you need to be at least 14 years old to rent a bike – any bike, including e-bikes. You’re “encouraged” to wear a helmet (required only for riders up to age 14), but they are not provided by the company. While the site doesn’t say what class the e-bikes are – the class determines the maximum speed the e-bike can travel – we did learn that they weigh about 60lbs.

Should we be worried about e-bikes? In short, yes. They are fast and they are everywhere, and there are very few rules for their operation.

How many people have been injured on e-bikes?

According to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), between 2017 through 2021, 53 people died in incidents involving e-bikes. There is no data about how many total injuries occurred in this time period, but a 2023 article published in Surgery Open Science, available through Science Direct, identified 3,945 e-bike injuries between 2011 and 2020.

Based on their data, the group most likely to sustain injury in an e-bike accident is children. PEr their findings, “The age group most commonly affected by e-bike injury (44.3 %) was 10–13 years old. The proportion of injuries requiring hospitalization was significantly higher for e-bikes (11.5 %), compared to moped and bicycle (7.0 and 4.8 %, respectively).”

What are the dangers for kids on e-bikes?

Recklessness often accompanies youth, and when kids are allowed to operate e-bikes without licenses or proper safety training the risk of harm and fatalities becomes substantial. The greatest risk to children from e-bikes is their speed. An August 2023 New York Times article highlights that certain e-bikes can be easily modified to reach speeds of up to 70 mph by merely clipping a wire, bypassing the 20 mph speed governor.

However, even with the speed governor in place, 20 mph collisions can be devastating for a bike rider of any age, with or without a helmet. The other risks include:

  1. Collisions with motor vehicles (cars, trucks)
  2. Collisions with other cyclists (e-bike or traditional)
  3. Collisions with pedestrians
  4. E-bike defects or manufacturing issues

There are many reasons why children face greater dangers than adults. First, they are physically smaller, and may be less visible from the inside of an SUV or pickup, let alone a commercial vehicle.

Second, they lack experience traveling at speed. Most children can only reach speeds of up to nine miles per hour – just about half the speed of a Class 1 e-bike. A child who crashes his or her bike at nine miles per hour may know what to do, but that can change when you are traveling at 17 miles per hour.

Third, and perhaps most important, is that physical trauma compounds in children. Breaks to their growth plates can affect their development. Brain trauma can get worse as they age.

What injuries are common to e-bike accidents?

In a retrospective study, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) notes that e-bike accidents often result in bone fractures and breaks. These injuries require ongoing care and attention, often requiring physical therapy to aid in a full recovery. Other likely injuries include:

  • Road rash
  • Burn injuries (from exploding batteries)
  • Muscle, tissue, and ligament damage to the legs
  • Rotator cuff tears (from bracing at the point of impact with a car or the ground)
  • Joint damage
  • Internal injuries
  • Limb loss

A potentially more perilous and common injury associated with Pittsburgh bicycle accidents are traumatic brain injuries (TBIs).

In March 2023, a car traveling on Route 356 hit the back tire of a moving e-bike, resulting in the e-biker being thrown from the vehicle. While the victim was in stable condition, he was brought to Butler Memorial Hospital, with symptoms consistent with a primary TBI.

In a separate report, the NIH traffic accidents are the most common cause of TBI.. A direct head impact, often seen in cycling accidents, and whiplash motion can both trigger TBI. These injuries disrupt the brain’s delicate mechanisms, resulting in a wide range of chronic symptoms.

Chronic symptoms of traumatic brain injuries

Traumatic brain injury is a condition that requires life-long monitoring. Some symptoms that may manifest include:

Cognitive symptoms: TBI often leads to cognitive issues, encompassing memory deficits, diminished attention, reduced concentration, and impaired problem-solving skills. These cognitive challenges may be accompanied by slower processing speed and communication impairments.

Emotional symptoms: TBI’s lifelong repercussions can significantly impact emotional well-being. Individuals with TBI may experience mood swings, irritability, depression, anxiety, and increased aggression, which can have lasting emotional consequences.

Physical symptoms: TBI can result in chronic physical problems, including pain, seizures, balance issues, and motor control difficulties, substantially affecting mobility and independence.

Financial implications of chronic TBI effects

Managing the long-term consequences of TBI brings substantial financial burdens. Medical treatments, rehabilitation, assistive technology, and ongoing physical, occupational and emotional therapy expenses accumulate rapidly. Furthermore, cognitive and physical impairments may limit employment opportunities, compounding the financial strain for individuals and their families.

Determining whether to file a lawsuit for your e-bike accident

If you’ve suffered an injury due to an e-bike accident, you have legal options. If it is your child who sustained the injuries, we recommend you call us quickly; pediatric injuries can have long-term repercussions outside of the immediate medical bills. For example, you may need to hire a tutor to help your child pursue his or her education. You may need specialized nurses or caregivers to help you in your home. If your child loses a limb, he or she may need prosthetics – and they will need to be replaced often.

The Pittsburgh e-bike injury lawyers of Carmody and Ging can help. We have helped families throughout Western Pennsylvania seek compensation on behalf of their children. We have also handled countless vehicle accident cases, securing significant verdicts and settlements on behalf of our clients. We have the resources to handle complex litigation, which means if there are multiple liable parties, we can help.

To protect your rights and enhance your chances of recovery, consult with Carmody and Ging, Attorneys at Law. We can assess your case, gather evidence, and pursue legal action against the liable party. Call or contact us today for a free consultation.