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    Power up on these electric bike safety tips
    • July 10, 2024

    By Dr. Theodore Heyming

    Contributing Columnist

    Concussions. Broken arms and legs. Skull fractures. Facial contusions.

    Riding an electric bike, or e-bike, can result in injuries far worse than scraped knees and elbows.

    In fact, over the last five years (July 2019 to June 2024), a total of 160 e-bike riders required treatment at the Julia and George Argyros Emergency Department at the Children’s Hospital of Orange County for traumatic injuries.

    That’s an average of more than three a month.

    Fourteen of these riders ended up in the intensive care unit, and nine underwent surgery.

    Safety first

    Sales of e-bikes began exploding during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

    With the rising number of injuries, calls are growing for stronger age requirements for riders, as well as more rigorous state-level advocacy and policy. In this context, safety has become even more important.

    Let’s start with the obvious: helmets. An alarming 45% of CHOC patients reported they were not wearing a helmet when they got hurt. So, make sure your e-bike rider wears a helmet with the chin strap fastened (the same goes for manual bikes, scooters, etc.)

    When it comes to the ages of e-bike riders, it’s no surprise to learn that teens in the pre-driving stage account, by far, for most of those who get hurt. Of the 160 traumatic injuries reported at CHOC, 60% involved riders ages 13 to 15. Fourteen-year-olds dominated the list, at 49.

    One injured rider was less than a year old, and five were 4-year-olds – victims of injuries caused by riding on an e-bike with an adult or being struck by an e-bike while walking.

    Injury prevention tips

    So, besides helmets, what else can you do to reduce the number of e-bike injuries?

    First off, don’t ride on an e-bike with someone else. There should be no more than one rider on an e-bike at a time to reduce the risk of falling off of it.

    Also, learn how to operate an e-bike. Unfortunately, there is no formalized road safety course required to use one.

    Note that there are three different classes of e-bikes, and that there are no current age restrictions for riders of electric bikes in Classes 1 and 2 – bikes that stop providing assistance once the bicycles reach 20 mph.

    Class 3 e-bikes, which stop providing assistance when the bicycle reaches 28 mph, require the rider to be a minimum of 16 years old.

    Next, stay visible. Some drivers may take a turn in front of riders or come dangerously close to sideswiping them as they ride in the bike lane.

    Also, choose a bike with lights to remain visible after dark. And consider purchasing rearview radars (an accessory) for installation on your e-bike. These radars can sense and alert riders of vehicles approaching from behind.

    Above all, slow down!

    The biggest risk associated with e-bikes is speed. Because e-bikes can travel up to around 30 mph, speed can cause more severe injuries.

    Theodore Heyming, M.D., is medical director of emergency medicine at Children’s Hospital of Orange County.

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    ​ Orange County Register