E-Bike Safety Discussion

During our March 2023 districtwide engineering concern meeting, we discussed the history of the CTSP and the importance of addressing roadway concerns. This led to issues regarding micromobility, specifically electric bicycles, electric scooters, electric unicycles, and golf carts. We held an e-bike/scooter/unicycle safety discussion for our districtwide meeting in April. Our next districtwide discussion will cover golf cart safety. Undoubtedly, tackling these topics will take a group effort.

Safety Concerns for E-Bicycles, E-Scooters, and E-Unicycles

In 2022, we created a presentation on micromobility, discussing terms, usage, and safety challenges nationally and in Northeast Florida. This general information is a great starting point for our e-devices safety discussion. Please take a moment to review the resource links below. Check out input from CTST member Brian Benwick of the North Florida Bicycle Club. Also, please read the approach to safety written by CTST member Antonia Donnelly.

Reference Materials for the E-Bike/Scooter/Unicycle Safety Discussion –

Amid growing popularity of electric devices, some university campuses are banning e-bikes and e-scooters due to safety concerns – primarily fire hazards and collisions with pedestrians.

E-Bike Insurance by Brian Benwick –

First, one of the main issues involving e-bike use and ownership should be mentioned… LITTLE OR NO INSURANCE. Click here for the Bicycle Floaters Chart. The liabilities arising from at-fault bicycle accidents can be covered automatically under one’s homeowner policy. However, they are not automatically covered if riding an e-bike. Neither the bike shops, parents, nor the kids who ride e-bikes are familiar with this issue. Generally, this makes e-micromobility somewhat of a public nuisance.

Updated 11/29/23: Markel’s specialty program, described in the chart, now has up to $300,000 maximum liability limit. This is good news because now, with the $300,000 limit chosen, your personal umbrella liability policy may recognize the underlying coverage and “dovetail” the e-bike cyclists’ coverage into your excess liability limits, albeit for an extra charge. You will probably need to submit a change application for approval first so that usage, driver information, e-bike policy number, limits and effective dates, along with a description of your e-bike with the serial number can all be reviewed by the personal umbrella underwriter.

Additional Points by Brian Benwick –

Secondly, we must consider the other types of micromobility before we can single out e-bikes for usage restrictions. Among bikes alone are road, mountain, gravel, cargo, commuter, unicycle, recumbent, elliptical, trikes, and more. And each of these categories more than likely has an e-bike version.  Hoverboards, skateboards, golf carts, scooters, segways, roller skates, wheelchairs, and others would also need to be considered.

Helmet requirements are another concern, as head injuries are devastating. Though not required by law, our club (NFBC) requires them for all participating riders, young or old. But I understand the hygiene issues involved in sharing helmets; we all don’t carry helmets with us wherever we go.

Having owned a class 1 and a class 3 e-bike for four years, I’d like to share a few observations:
  • E-bikes are heavy (ranging from 35 -60 pounds or more). This is too heavy for some young kids who cannot manage that kind of weight. So, when they fall on you, they do hurt more.
  • The cheaper brands have components that have not been engineered to withstand the higher torque. They also have rear hub-mounted motors that provide 100% power to the wheel(s), making their acceleration unpredictable.
  • Mid-mounted frame motors usually have torque sensors that are managed by the rider, allowing a greater benefit from the gearing and being more predictable.
  • E-bikes are much more expensive to maintain and repair. The point here being electrifying a bike that uses old and cheap technology is an engineering recipe for disaster when components fail during a ride. (Batteries have burned down apartment buildings in NY, and Raad e-bike bad front brakes have killed the e-bike occupants.)
  • In group rides with pacelines, e-bikes can be helpful when leading the group. They can make drafting easier for those who follow them when confronting wind and hills.
More thoughts about E-Bikes to consider:
  • The more expensive e-bikes have safer and better batteries with smart technology and “blow up” less frequently. But, if they are equipped with traditional drivetrains, they are much more expensive to maintain. Even more than motor vehicles per mile.
  • With a 20-mph maximum for classes 1 & 2, the e-bike rider will get dropped on a group ride where the more athletic non-e-bikers will reach and sustain 22-25+ mph. Getting dropped takes the fun out of the experience for those who bought the e-bike for recovery or are older.
  • Europe adopted e-bikes before the US, and they limit their e-bikes to 15 mph as a standard. I don’t recommend this for the road, but I favor a speed limit for sidewalks.
  • Many e-bikes have 3-5 power levels. Most have motor wattage ratings of 250 watts (1/3 of a horsepower). Some have 500-watt motors and up to but not including 750 watts to fall within the law allowance. To reach a range of 20-40 miles, most will have to limit the power level to avoid a battery discharge. Charging a fully discharged e-bike battery takes 3-4 hours, depending on the charging rate. Batteries can be $750 to $1,500 to replace.

An Approach to E-Bike Safety by Antonia Donnelly –

Problem Statement:

Obviously, the e-bicycle situation is a hot topic. As professionals in the industry, we must take a step back and consider how to improve it. That must start with education. But it’s not just the community’s education – it is educating ourselves on the history, background, purpose, and advocacy. Like it or not, we need to understand and accept all society’s aspects of this mode of transportation.

The laws haven’t been formalized because lawmakers don’t know what they are dealing with. However, check any bicycle injury attorney website; they have already included e-bicycle injury in their portfolios. We can create promotional materials about safety and explain the rules we know about. Specifically the age restriction, speeds, and where the e-bicycle is allowed.

Background:

I have been a triathlete for nearly 16 years and someone who rides a non-powered bicycle in traffic. I learned the things necessary to ensure I don’t get hit by cars, golf carts, etc.  My “ah-ha” moment came after I was knocked off my bicycle while riding in the bike lane of SR 13 in St. Johns County. I was knocked unconscious and had no idea where I was or what had happened. The police report said, ‘I fell off my bicycle’ because no one came forward to say something had happened. 

Of course, kids getting on the e-bicycles have no such history or experience. They don’t understand that cars entering the roads at driveways or intersections can’t often see them. Sometimes, the motorist is hurrying and can misjudge the time it takes the bicycle to close the gap. Especially in Florida, we are constantly mixing users of various machines in the same travel corridors. We all must be more aware of our surroundings. This awareness applies to pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists – we all value life, safety, and property.

Subject Information:

I found some helpful information that can guide us. This is a starting point for the e-bike safety discussion and promotional materials.

The following tips are from the website EbikeSchool.com Electric Bicycle Safety Tips:  
  1. Wear a helmet.
  2. Use your lights. At least front white light and rear red LED light on your e-bike.
  3. Use warning devices (horns, bells).
  4. Ride on the right side of the road, with traffic not against it.
  5. Take the lane and watch for parked car doors opening ahead of you.
  6. Keep your tires properly inflated.
  7. Be a defensive driver – don’t expect traffic to anticipate your movements – slow down in questionable situations.
Safety tips from the North Florida Bicycle Club
  1. Ride predictably.
  2. Watch for road hazards (i.e., wet pavement, objects in the path, pedestrians, or other path users).
  3. Obey traffic laws.
  4. In Florida, the bicycle is legally defined as a vehicle. Bicyclists using a public roadway are considered operators of vehicles and are responsible for observing traffic laws. It is up to motorists and bicyclists to treat each other with care and respect. Adherence to the law is the foundation of respect.
And finally, here are some general guidelines:
  1. Understand where e-bicycles are allowed (sidewalks, multi-use paths, or bike lanes).
  2. Share the space with other users (pedestrians, cars, and other bicycles).
  3. Keep speeds within the limits of the path/roadway.
  4. Know and use hand signals to help traffic know what you are doing (especially when turning).

One thing is for sure; we cannot restrict the sale or use of e-bicycles and e-scooters. Additionally, we cannot task police officers to create enforcement rules about improper use because nothing is written on the matter. At this time, all we can do is come up with safety materials to help parents, students, and other users. Education of the dangers may help limit the number of accidents that could occur.


Click here for Florida Legislation statutes regarding electric bicycles (PDF file).

Micromobility

Micromobility usage is on the rise nationally and in Florida. The FDOT District Two’s Community Traffic Safety Program examined what Micromobility currently looks like in Northeast Florida. In this presentation, we will discuss what micromobility is—and isn’t. We will look at the increased popularity of micromobility nationally and its use in Northeast Florida and consider some of the safety challenges associated with the increased use of micromobility devices while keeping in mind the goal of ZERO fatalities on our roadways.

Watch the Micromobility video presentation:

How micromobility is defined is important because the functional and legal definitions determine the rights and responsibilities of micromobility device users operating on public streets and, accordingly, how law enforcement, public safety educators, and transportation planners and engineers can work to help improve safety outcomes.

From an industry perspective, they must be:

  • fully or partially electrically powered.
  • lightweight, under 500 pounds.
  • relatively low-speed—under 30 miles per hour.
Micromobility Device Examples

Examples include powered bicycles, also known as “E-bikes,” standing scooters, seated scooters, self-balancing boards like “Segways” and some “Hoverboards,” non-self-balancing boards, powered skates, and a range of other similar devices.

We highlight Florida Statutes and how micromobility is defined in Florida law. We discuss local regulation and Florida’s “Home Rule” principle. As a result, local governments can prohibit use on trails and sidewalks and regulate “for-hire” devices up to and including prohibition.

Flip through the presentation slides:

In five years, from 2016 to 2019, the use of shared, for-hire devices has increased more than seven-fold. Use accelerates as fleets of scooters and e-bikes are deployed in more cities.

While electric devices differ from “Active Transportation” modes like walking and pedaling a bike, the safety and infrastructure focus are similar. Micromobility devices are treated the same as traditional bicycles from a legal perspective because they generally have similar speed, maneuverability, and weight. Accordingly, strategies to enhance bicyclist safety, as well as strategies to make streets safer for pedestrians, will generally benefit micromobility users as well.

Micromobility Infrastructure Needs
Micromobility Docks, Corrals, Dockless

The infrastructure options to make micromobilty safe and effective are similar to those for cycling —namely, lower-stress facilities. Accordingly, networks that include low-stress facilities such as protected bike lanes, shared-use paths, bike boulevards, and cycle tracks will be more appealing to and improve the safety outcomes of a broader group of conventional bicycle and micromobility users.

Shared micromobility services are not currently as common in Northeast Florida as in other parts of the state. To date, three communities have active contracts with micromobility providers.

Micromobility in Gainesville
Micromobility in Jacksonville
Micromobility in St Augustine

Safety challenges are similar to bicycles. However, an E-bike or powered scooter can attain relatively high speeds faster and with little effort. Lack of experience is another critical factor.

Safety strategies include applying bicycle and pedestrian countermeasures. These include pedestrian safe crossings, low-stress bike infrastructure, and encouraging the use of helmets and safety equipment.

Our Community Traffic Safety Team members play an essential role in developing and implementing strategies to address these safety challenges. This includes working with local governments to include best-practice provisions in micromobility vendor contracts concerning geofencing and management of the public right-of-way; planning, designing, and construction of low-stress bicycle infrastructure to provide for overall mobility advantages; and working with businesses, chambers of commerce, and local law enforcement to provide educational material to tourists and other potentially inexperienced micromobility users.

We hope you take this opportunity to learn about Micromobility. Additionally, check out bicycle and pedestrian safety resources and tips.

Micromobility news and resources:

“E-scooters, which were a novelty just a few years ago, are here to stay. Everyone deserves to feel safe on the road, and we must do more to prioritize safety for this growing mode of travel.”

GHSA Executive Director Jonathan Adkins

Get Out and Move for Safety!

The FDOT District Two Community Traffic Safety Program (CTSP) held a successful virtual bike/walk/run challenge during the week of April 23-30, 2022. The purpose was to share traffic safety tips and promote pedestrian and bicyclist safety in Northeast Florida.

The inaugural Traffic Safety Spring Bike/Walk/Run Virtual 5K was a great community outreach event encouraging everyone to get out and move for safety! The event helped educate motorists and vulnerable road users on safe habits while on the road. We reached over 1,400 social media impressions, interactions, and blog views. We also created a four-part message campaign that included over 4,000 emails sent to team members with traffic safety education and information.

In total, 43 participants registered and completed an individual 5K (3.1 miles) by cycling, walking, jogging, or running. Once completed, participants could upload their results to their race roster participant dashboard, download their finisher certificate, and receive a digital medal. The first 10 participants to upload their results received a Traffic Safety Team hat.

Virtual race logo

The event was held to promote safety tips for pedestrians and bicyclists:

  • Wear bright colors. Increase your visibility and use bike lights/reflectors.
  • See and be seen. Make eye contact with drivers when crossing streets.
  • Be predictable. Cross streets where it is legal to do so.
  • Stop! Look left, right, and left for traffic.
  • Be prepared for the unexpected.

Let’s MOVE for SAFETY all year long! As you enjoy outdoor activities this summer, please stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water, wear sunscreen and a hat, watch for signs of heat exhaustion, take plenty of breaks from the heat, and cool off by heading into a cooled space. Wherever you drive, for work, a long road trip, the neighborhood pool, or the beach, make sure to drive safe and share the road.

Tips for Motorists, Bicyclists and Pedestrians

Share the Road

Motorists:

  • Share the road with bicyclists.
  • Stop for pedestrians crossing at every intersection.
  • Stop before turning right on red.
  • Passing bicyclists too closely is dangerous and illegal.
  • Focus on the road. 
  • Avoid aggressive driving.
  • Obey the traffic laws, signals, and speed limits.
  • Look in all directions before making a turn. 
  • Do not pass a vehicle that is stopping for pedestrians.

Bicyclists: Wear a helmet when biking. If a rider or passenger is under 16, they must wear a properly fitted helmet that securely fastens to the passenger’s head by a strap. Ride on the right side of the road, with traffic flow. Use bike lanes when available. Use hand signals when turning and obey all traffic signs and signals.

Walkers and Runners: Always cross the street at corners or crosswalks. Walk or run on the far left off the side of the road, facing traffic. Use sidewalks when available. Pay attention. Constantly look and listen for vehicles.


For more information on the event or about your FDOT District Two CTSP, please email us at TrafficSafetyTeam@dot.state.fl.us.

VIRTUAL Traffic Safety Spring Bike/Walk/Run

FREE VIRTUAL EVENT
April 23, 2022 – April 30, 2022
Get out and move for safety!

FDOT District 2 Community Traffic Safety Program invites you to join the traffic safety movement with this fun bike, walk or run challenge – our first ever VIRTUAL Traffic Safety Spring Bike/Walk/Run!

We created this event to raise awareness about the importance of traffic, pedestrian and bicycle safety. In 2021, there were 875 pedestrian-related crashes in our Northeast Florida counties; 92 of those were fatalities. There were 500 bike-related crashes in 2021, which includes 13 fatalities. By working together, we can reduce injuries and save lives on our roadways! 

VIRTUAL Traffic Safety Spring Bike/Walk/Run Rules

Complete your own 5K – that’s 3.1 miles and a great distance for beginners or exercise regulars. You can choose to cycle or two-foot it by walking, jogging, or running. If you choose to cycle, please be sure to wear a helmet! You may finish your 5K on any day, at any time, and from any location – starting on Saturday, April 23 and ending on Saturday, April 30.

Important: This event is virtual only. The registration page and emails you receive will note that the event is taking place in Jacksonville, however, there is no in-person race. 

REGISTER HERE for the VIRTUAL Traffic Safety Spring Bike/Walk/Run

Invite your family and friends to join the Traffic Safety Spring Bike/Walk/Run. Be one of the FIRST 10 PARTICIPANTS to upload their results to the dashboard and WIN a FREE Traffic Safety Team hat! Everyone is a winner and will receive a FINISHER certificate. Most importantly, we want you to BE SAFE and HAVE FUN! Be sure to check out our Pedestrian Safety Tips and our Bike Safety Tips before your challenge!

Important Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Reminders for Motorists

“If only I’d been watching for pedestrians.” No Regrets When You DRIVE WITH CARE

Pedestrians are a vulnerable road user. Whether walking for enjoyment, exercise or engaged in work on the roadway, they need to be safe. Our goal is to increase driver awareness and education of pedestrian traffic safety. When driving, always remember to:

  • Stop for pedestrians crossing at every intersection.
  • Be sure to stop before tuning right on red. 
  • Look in all directions before making a turn. 
  • Do not pass a vehicle that is stopping for pedestrians.
  • Obey the traffic laws, signals and speed limits.

“If only I’d been watching for bicyclists.” No Regrets When You SHARE THE ROAD

With more and more people riding bikes as a means of transportation, exercise and recreation, it’s important for drivers and riders to be extra careful and obey the rules of the road. Drivers should always follow these basic traffic guidelines:

  • Share the road with bicyclists.
  • Stop before turning right on red.
  • Passing bicyclists too closely is dangerous and illegal. You must give 3 feet when following or passing cyclists.
  • Focus on the road. 
  • Avoid aggressive driving.
  • Obey the traffic laws, signals and speed limits.

Click here to download a printable bike and pedestrian safety flyer for motorists.


Safety Tips for Bicyclists and Pedestrians

  • Wear bright colors. Increase your visibility and use bike lights/reflectors.
  • See and be seen. Make eye contact with drivers when crossing streets.
  • Be predictable. Cross streets where it is legal to do so.
  • Stop! Look left, right, and left for traffic.
  • Be prepared for the unexpected.

Bicyclists: Wear a helmet when biking. If a rider or passenger is under 16, they must wear a helmet that is properly fitted that securely fastens to the passenger’s head by a strap. Ride on the right side of the road, with the flow of traffic. Use bike lanes when available. Use hand signals when turning and obey all traffic signs and signals.

Walkers and Runners: Always cross the street at corners or crosswalks. Walk or run on the far left off the side of the road, facing traffic. Use sidewalks when available. Pay attention. Constantly look and listen for vehicles.

Click here to for more bicycle and pedestrian safety tips.

UPDATED Florida Bike Safety Law

We are concerned Florida is still one of the most dangerous states for cyclists and want to take this opportunity to remind cyclists, pedestrians and motorists of the updated Florida bike safety law. Passed to improve bike safety on our roadways, this bill went into effect on July 1, 2021, and was .

Here is a summary of some of the updated Florida bike safety law changes which were made to the existing statute:

  • Motorists can make a right turn while passing a bicyclist only if the bicyclist is a minimum of 20 feet from the intersection.
  • Florida driver’s license exams will now include bicycle safety questions.
  • Cyclists in groups of 10 or fewer can proceed through an intersection after coming to a complete stop. Motorists must let the last rider pass before proceeding.
  • Motorists MUST obey the 3 feet passing law.

Drivers who do not obey the law could be subject to a non-criminal moving violation.

To read more about these important updates, visit the Florida Senate website: CS/SB 950: Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety.

Northeast Florida Bicyclist Crash Facts:

  • 6,146 Floridians were injured in bike-related crashes in 2021. Of those, Northeast Florida DOT District 2 reported 500 injuries, which includes 13 fatalities. The number of fatal injuries from bicycle crashes declined from 23 in 2020.
  • Bicycle fatality and serious injury crashes made up about 8% of the total fatality and serious injury crashes on our Northeast Florida District roadways during 2021.
  • Almost ¾ of all bike crashes happen in broad daylight.
  • Bike crashes tend not to be the result of the cyclist or motorist being impaired.
  • Duval County had the most serious bike-related injuries and fatalities in District 2 in 2021. 
updated Florida bike safety law

The Traffic Safety Team website has dozens of important bicycle safety tips and resources. They are available for free. Below are some that you may download, print and share.

Visit our Bicycle Safety page for more resources. Materials are free to download and share. There are bookmarks, tip cards, posters and social media graphics. We also have a Safety for Kids page with bike safety activities!

Give 3 feet when passing