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).

Traffic Safety Countermeasures

FDOT District Two Community Traffic Safety Program in Northeast Florida created an educational countermeasure series based on proven measures of effectiveness by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). The three videos below highlight cost effective safety engineering countermeasures which help reduce lane departure crashes and intersection crashes, and protect vulnerable road users.

Lane Departure Countermeasures
Intersection Countermeasures
Pedestrian/Bicyclist Countermeasures

These top three safety emphasis areas are part of Florida’s Strategic Highway Safety Plan and FDOT’s Vital Few safety focus. Fifteen digital cards were created to share, download, and print for Community Traffic Safety Team members, which include the 4E’s (Engineers, Educators, Law Enforcement, and Emergency Medical Personnel), city/county/state agencies, private industries, and local citizens. Visit the three blogposts below for more information and to access the educational cards.

Five Traffic Safety Countermeasures that Work in Preventing Roadway Departures:

  • Curves – Enhanced Delineation (Curve Signs) and Increased Pavement Friction
  • Rumbles – Center Line, Edge Line and Shoulder Rumble Strips and Stripes 
  • Barriers – Roadside and Median Barrier Terminals and Crash Cushions
  • Clear Zone – Clear Zones and Widening Shoulders Provide for a Safe Recovery 
  • SafetyEdgeSM – SafetyEdgeSM Technology Shapes Edge of Pavement at 30 Degrees

Traffic Safety Countermeasures that Work in Reducing Intersection Crashes:

  • Roundabouts Reduce Severe Crashes
  • Backplates with Retroreflective Borders
  • Left and Right Turn Lanes at Intersections Reduce Severe Crashes
  • Well-Timed Yellow Change Intervals Reduce Red-Light Running
  • Benefits of the Flashing Yellow Arrow Left Turn Signal

Traffic Safety Countermeasures that Work in Reducing Pedestrian-Vehicle Crashes:

  • Walkways, Shared Use Paths, and Sidewalks Improve Safety and Mobility
  • Leading Pedestrian Intervals (LPI) Give Pedestrians a Head Start
  • Pedestrian Crossing Islands and Medians Reduce Pedestrian Crashes
  • Pedestrian Hybrid Beacons (PHBs) Assist with Safe Crossing 
  • Road Diets – Roadway Reconfigurations Improve Safety for All Road Users

Additional Resources and Information:

Bike Safe Activity Card

Pick up a free Bike Safe Activity Card at your local Northeast Florida library. The Community Traffic Safety Program (CTSP) distributed 15,000 Bike Safe activity cards this month to public libraries in all 18 counties of FDOT District Two. 

Be a Roll Model artwork
Bike Safe Activity Card with Traffic Safety Tips for Cyclists and Motorists

This Bike Safe Activity Card is double-sided with a helmet coloring page and a word search puzzle for kids or adults. There are bicycle safety messages for drivers and cyclists. The helmet safety rules are great for parents, caregivers and educators to discuss with children.

About the Bike Safety Activity Card Series

These free educational resources are part of a series that will be distributed quarterly this year. First, Drive Safe became available in January. Now, Bike Safe, launched in spring, which will be followed by Ride Safe this summer. Finally, Walk Safe in the fall. Each has a different activity or puzzle with important traffic safety tips and reminders.

The Northeast Florida CTSP has long since partnered with local, county public library systems. The FDOT District Two covers 18 counties, from rural to urban communities. Libraries are a wonderful venue for the public to access educational and informational resources. The are also a wonderful place for our Community Traffic Safety Teams to promote key traffic safety messages, like biking safe (wear a helmet) and driving safe (share the road).

Be a Roll Model activity card

We created this free digital, one-sided 8.5×11 Bike Safe sheet available here for downloading, printing and sharing with your community.

Our goal is to reduce crashes, injuries and fatalities on our Northeast Florida roadways and protect all road users. Together, we can make traffic safety a top priority. Check out the other three safety and educational activity cards in this series below:

The Northeast Florida CTSP website has many tips and resources available. For more Bicycle Safety Tips, click here.

Bicycle Safety

The Adventures in Biking Safely – March is Florida Bicycle Month!

FDOT D2 CTST FL Traffic Bike SafetyFlorida’s weather in March is perfect for biking, so get out and ride. With many drivers and cyclists on the road this month, let’s gear up with some bicycle safety reminders.

Drivers: Share the road with bicyclists and always pass or follow cyclists with at least a 3 foot barrier.

Bicyclists: Wear a helmet, ride on the right and make sure drivers can see you with bright clothing and reflectors or lights on your bike.

For more important bicycle safety tips, crash facts and resources, go to our traffic safety bike page here.


UNF Gets New Bike Fix-It Stations

What a perfect way to kick off bicycle month! We are excited to share the new bike stations provided by the FDOT Northeast Florida, and located at the University of North Florida. Your Traffic Safety Team worked with UNF Police Department to coordinate the installation and identification of locations for students – great for quick and easy bicycle repairs to help bike safe!

FDOT D2 CTST Bike Fixit Station at UNF FDOT D2 CTST Bike Fixit Station at UNF

The self-serve bike repair stations are free to use. They contain air pumps along with a variety of tools to help riders work on their bikes. Located around the UNF campus at: Crossings Bike Station Q Building, Fountains Bike Station, Hall Landing Bike Station, and Village A Building Bike Station.

FDOT D2 CTST Bike Fixit Station at UNF FDOT D2 CTST Bike Fixit Station at UNF