E-bikes are a massive uninsured risk for riders and pedestrians when they are involved in an accident. Unlike motor vehicles or motorcycles, e-bike operators are not required to have any special documentation or training to operate. They are treated with the same rules as a regular pedal bike, which means operators don’t require a licence, insurance or any special training.
If an e-bike is involved in an accident with a car, the driver’s auto insurance policy covers liabilities or costs related to injuries. In contrast, if a pedestrian is involved in an accident with an e-bike, the injured parties have to work through the e-bike owner’s home insurance policy. This only works if the rider has a home insurance policy. It also needs to have clear provisions that cover an accident of this nature and most home insurance policies don’t. The injured parties will likely end up in a difficult legal battle for several years making a case for costs related to injuries.
An e-bike can weigh up to 265 lbs and legally travel at speeds up to 32 km/h. When you add an average rider weighing 185 lbs, it becomes 450 lbs of force hurtling down the road. E-bikes can be modified and travel much faster with speeds typically reaching 60+ km/h. The bikes are not required to have a licence plate or be registered with any road authority. This makes the bike and the operator difficult to identify when an accident occurs.
In many municipalities, riding is partially permitted on sidewalks and parking is free. If an operator is drunk, they can be criminally charged if they cause an accident. However, e-bike drivers can legally be much more inebriated than regular motor vehicle drivers. In Ontario, motor vehicle drivers are considered impaired if their blood alcohol level is .05 milligrams. However, an e-bike rider isn’t considered impaired until they reach .08 milligrams.
The incidents of injury caused by e-bike collisions are on the rise, but the exact size of the problem is unknown because collision statistics are not recorded by the government.
E-bikes were introduced to Ontario around 2009 as an inexpensive, zero-emission alternative. All across Canada, governments and municipalities embraced the idea and e-bikes were exempted from the training, the licensing and insurance requirements that all other road vehicles are required to have.
As the fleet of e-bikes has grown so has the number of accidents. Pedestrians are the most vulnerable and are more likely to be seriously injured in a collision with an e-bike. It’s time to revisit e-bike legislation. Pedestrians and operators are getting hurt and they can’t access the care and therapy they need to recover.
There have already been numerous pedestrian accidents including a serious one involving a child in Barrie. The e-bike driver did not remain at the scene and was identified only because a witness followed the rider home.
If you or someone you know is injured in an e-bike accident, take pictures, ask the e-bike rider to identify themselves and report the accident to local authorities. You should also seek advice from a lawyer if you have serious injuries.
Nick Smith is a personal injury lawyer at Oatley Vigmond LLP www.oatleyvigmond.com