It goes without saying that bicycling is an inherently dangerous sport and activity. Every time a cyclist mounts his bike to go out for a ride, the possibility exists for an unpredictable outcome. He may have a run-in with a car, get a flat, throw a chain, or even in the worst-case scenario, he might crash. E-bikes only heighten that potential, especially when placed in the hands of young, inexperienced cyclists.
This post is in response to a recent article I read on the Outside website about two girls, one aged 12, who crashed and ultimately died while riding an e-bike. The question the article raises is the bike manufacturer, as the parents plan to argue in court, to blame for delivering a defective product.
After doing a little bit of research on this topic, including a visit to the manufacturer’s website (Rad Power Bikes), I would argue that neither the parents nor Rad Power Bikes is at fault. The resulting and unfortunate crash was just a random occurrence. But I’m not a lawyer, a parent, nor am I affiliated in any way with the manufacturer, so it is not my place to write anything against the parents or the e-bike company.
I will say this, though. Firstly, e-bikes are basically one step from being a motorized scooter or moped and are not like a normal bicycle. Secondly, Rad Power Bikes is a direct-to-consumer seller, which means their liability is limited. If a consumer chooses to purchase a bike from them, he understands he is choosing to bypass professional bike mechanic support that would occur with a bike purchase at a local bike shop.
Rad Power Bikes does state on its website that its e-bikes are intended for riders at least 16 years of age. Furthermore, it states “Children under the age of 16 may lack the necessary judgment and skill to safely operate the e-bike. A parent or legal guardian should always decide whether a child should operate or ride on an electric bike or any other vehicle.”
So, does that mean the parents are to blame because they made an error in judgment? Well, maybe or maybe not. Clearly, these two girls were too young to be operating e-bikes. If these e-bikes were the first bikes they ever rode without knowledge of riding a human-powered bike, then the parents might be to blame.
But could the girl’s parents have, as they claim, received a defective product? That’s always possible because the manufacturing process for anything is far from perfect. Did they have the bike assembled at a local bike shop or do it themselves? And did they do their preliminary research before deciding to purchase an e-bike? These are all unknowns.
There are countless articles on the internet about the safety of e-bikes. Bicycling Magazine mentions accidents and deaths related to the use of e-bikes. And the magazine also mentions that these incidents occurred among riders 65 and older.
A strong point the writer makes in the article is that e-bike riders tend to choose the fastest assist on the first usage. And that is without testing the limits of what the bike can do in a safe riding situation. An experienced bicyclist may be able to compensate for any anomalies, but chances are an inexperienced rider could not.
I can’t imagine what it is like to lose a beloved child. The death of someone you love is terrible. That’s why it pays to do the research before deciding to purchase a new technology, which e-bikes definitely are. Kids should be watched and offered guidance when they first start bike riding. Safety awareness and bike knowledge both can help to avert future tragedy.