Electric Bicycles: Coming Soon To A Massachusetts Roadway Near You

Electric bicycles have long been popular in Europe and Asia but, a couple weeks ago on NPR’s Science Friday With Ira Flatow, I learned about their growing popularity here in the United States. Industry experts in America predict there will shortly be one million electric bikes on the road here in the States.
An electric bicycle is essentially your typical bicycle (ideally a bicycle with a sturdy frame) that is equipped with an electric motor or battery. Pedaling the bicycle charges the battery. Cyclists can then allow the electric motor to completely power the bicycle or merely use it to get a little extra “oomph” when pedaling up steep inclines or when fatigued.
A typical electric motor, although small and noiseless, can power the bikes up to speeds of 30-40 mph on downhill runs.
Modification kits that turn a standard bicycle into an electric one cost only a few hundred dollars.
As you can see from the Youtube video, electric bikes are a lot of fun and are pretty much the ideal form of transportation for a long bicycle ride in, say, Napa Valley or on Cape Cod. But I think most personal injury lawyers considering the coming boom in electric bikes will have worries about rider safety.
One of the leading causes of motorcycle accidents is the low profile and low visibility of most bikes. Auto drivers too often don’t see bikers and accidents are the result. This problem seems even more severe with electric bikes, since most electric bike motors are placed on a fairly standard bicycle frame.
In addition, electric bicyclists cruising around at 40 mph need better head protection than the typical bicycle helmet. Using a low-impact bicycle helmet when you’re traveling at 40 mph risks serious head and brain injury. Electric bicyclists traveling at high speeds should be wearing motorcycle helmets.
Lastly, whenever a new product comes on the market, its manufacturers generally haven’t worked through all the design flaws that they inevitably discover later.
But with conversion kits so cheap and the bikes so fun to modify, I suspect we’ll be seeing a lot more of them here on the roads in Massachusetts shortly.

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