People riding electric-powered bikes are more likely to risk serious injury than those on conventional bikes and motorized scooters, according to a recent study. But e-scooters have their own unique health risks, too.
The research, published this November in the journal Injury Prevention, looked at data on injuries caused by consumer products collected by the U.S. government from emergency rooms across the country. The authors compared patterns of injuries reported between 2000 and 2017 caused by e-bikes, e-scooters, and pedal-powered bikes to one another.
During those years, they found 17 percent of injuries related to e-bikes were more serious internal injuries like internal bleeding. That’s more than double than the percentage of internal injuries seen with scooters or bicycles. Injured e-bike riders were also more likely to need hospitalization than the other groups. And e-bike injuries were three times more likely to have involved collisions with pedestrians than either group.
E-scooter injuries, on the other hand, were three times more likely to involve concussions than e-bikes and more likely to cause fractured bones. More people also got hurt overall on e-scooters than on e-bikes, though that’s at least partly due to the greater popularity of the former. During the study’s length, there were some 130,000 injuries related to scooters, compared to around 3,000 e-bike injuries.
The same study found conventional bikes caused more than 9 million injuries. They’re even more popular than either e-scooters or e-bikes, though, with around half of all households owning one. And compared to e-bikes and scooters, we know a lot more about how risky (and good for our health) riding bikes can be.
“We don’t know a lot about the overall risks and benefits of electric-powered scooters and e-bikes,” lead author Charles DiMaggio, director of the injury research program at New York University Langone Health’s division of trauma and surgical critical care, told Reuters via email Wednesday.
The authors suggest that greater max speed of e-bikes and e-scooters is to blame for at least some of the increased risk of injury seen with them compared to bikes. But while riders could do more to keep themselves safe, such as voluntarily wearing helmets and not riding drunk, cities should pick up some of the regulatory slack as well, especially if these products can motivate people to try greener forms of transportation.
Many cities are struggling with how to best regulate the use of e-bikes and e-scooters, especially those rented out by ride-sharing companies, DiMaggio noted. And there are plenty of things cities could require or implement to create a safer riding experience, such as docking stations, more dedicated bike lanes, and education programs. Companies, meanwhile, should probably do more to prevent their rented e-bikes from going up in flames or otherwise breaking down.