Prioritize safety when buying, using high-powered bikes

Accidents involving electric bicycles are increasing. Users need to exercise care in selecting and riding these bicycles, making sure to use them properly.

Electric bicycles have a motor that boosts the power when riders pedal, making it easy for riders to travel up inclines. They are widely used by elderly people and parents with small children, as well as in commuting, bicycle sharing and delivery services.

Shipments grew from about 410,000 units in 2011 to nearly 800,000 in 2021. Users will likely continue to increase with the graying of the population.

As electric bicycles have become more common, the number of accidents involving them has about doubled over the last 10 years.

Because they are heavier than ordinary bicycles, it is easier for users to lose their balance when setting off or when the level of the surface underneath the bike changes. Some people have been hurt when they were trapped under an electric bike.

Elderly people and women have difficulty picking up such bicycles after they have fallen over. People should make sure at the time of purchase that they can pick up such a bike on their own. They should not be overconfident that they would never fall.

As electric bicycles can easily reach a high speed, there is a high risk of collisions with automobiles and serious accidents involving people nearby.

Particular attention should be paid to bicycles that do not meet the standards set by the government.

The Road Traffic Law stipulates that the assist function from the motor must stop when the bike’s speed reaches 24 kph or more. However, some bicycles do not meet these specifications, and many people reportedly buy them for their low price.

Earlier this month, the Bicycle Association issued a warning to retailers and consumers out of concern about accidents caused by such bicycles.

Bicycles that meet the standards bear a mark indicating this. Customers should look for this mark when making a purchase, and retailers should not sell bicycles that do not have it.

When elderly people give up driving automobiles and switch to electric bicycles, local governments should not only help them change their means of transportation, but also boost safety education for them.

The city of Ise, Mie Prefecture, partially subsidizes the purchase of electric bicycles for people aged 65 or older, on the condition that they participate in safety lectures organized by the city.

It is hoped that other local governments will also cooperate with police, manufacturers and retailers to ensure thorough safety education for users.

If a cyclist hits a pedestrian, he or she may be required to pay a large amount of compensation. Car drivers are obliged to purchase automobile insurance, but the acquisition of bicycle insurance is voluntary.

An increasing number of local governments have issued ordinances requiring people to buy bicycle insurance. It is vital to purchase such insurance, to protect ourselves and our loved ones.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 28, 2022)