E-bikes and e-scooters continue to become an emerging safety concern on the roads in the UK. Their safety testing is now coming under scrutiny.

A recent report by the Mail Online  has flagged that 22,000 e-bikes have been recalled due to the risk of the batteries they hold exploding.  

The Ancheer e-Bike, sold at major retailers has been recalled by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).  The e-bikes were understood to be sold between January 2016 and June 2022 for up to $930 - around £830.  

The CPSC has warned customers that the batteries are known to ignite, explode or spark, posing a serious risk to the consumers. 

The CPSC has now been collecting data.  It has found that 48 people died last year from e-bikes, e-scooters and hoverboards. This has risen from 2017 when there were only five reported deaths. There's no doubt that this is linked to the rise in their popularity over the recent years. In addition, the CPSC has found there has been an increase in visits to emergency departments due to e-scooters, e-bikes and hoverboards.  It was reported that more than 77,000 injuries were treated, which were related to the devices in 2021.  This is more than double the amount in 2017.

The law in the UK 

In the UK, e-bikes are legal if the rider is over 14-years-old, however, the bike does need to meet certain requirements and be registered as an electrically assisted pedal cycle (EAPC).  

An EAPC must have pedals that can be used to propel it, and must show either the power output or the manufacturer of the motor.  It must also show either the battery’s voltage or the maximum speed of the bike.  

Its electric motor must have a maximum power output of 250 watts and the motor should not be able to propel the bike when it’s travelling more than 15.5mph. As long as the bike meets the EAPC requirements, it's classed as a “normal pedal bike” and can be ridden on cycle paths and anywhere else pedal bikes are allowed. 

While there are some clear safeguards in place, it's concerning that the law remains that it's not illegal to own an e-bike not confirming to the above standards, or to ride it off a public highway. E-bikes that don't confirm to the regulations can still be ridden on private land where the public doesn't have access, with the permission of the landowner.

Data in the UK

We are yet to see any independent data being reported with regards to e-bikes specifically and their safety on the roads, as the Department for Transport data covers all cycles and not just e-bikes. However, it's important to remain safe when using any type of bicycle, whether that be electronic or not, as it is noted that an average of two pedal cyclists die, and 83 are injured every week. 

Despite the lack of data in the UK, a study in Holland found that e-bike collisions tended to be more severe than regular bicycles; which of course adds to the growing concerns over the safety of e-bikes in the UK. 

How to remain safe 

Despite the recent safety concerns, e-bikes are showing no sign of slowing down in sales and popularity, with the European market forecast expected to triple in the next five years.

In order to stay safe, use of a helmet and staying away from busy roads is advised. You should always check your e-bike confirms to the Government standard and they hold the CE conformity mark, to confirm the product has passed the relevant tests and conforms to the European market. 

The e-bike should be fitting with a notice or sticker, displaying the manufacturers name. The power output should also default to the “off” setting, so that there will be no power assistance without pedalling. Taking the same precautions when riding a regular bicycle on the road is a good way to increase safety and visibility, and to reduce the chances of being involved in an accident.

Find out more about e-bikes and bicycles, the law and how Irwin Mitchell supports cyclist following an accident at our dedicated cycling accident claims section