Imagine going on vacation to Maui. Now imagine your entire family biking 16 miles on a steep and winding road with a spectacular view of the ocean – all the way to Nakalele Point – where you can view a blowhole on the northern tip of the island. Despite the incline, you easily keep up with cars and pass hard-core cyclists along the way. In fact, throughout your journey, you barely break a sweat.
Think you couldn’t do this? Think again. This is the reality made possible by e-bikes.
What Is an E-Bike?
E-bikes aren’t quite like the bicycles you rode as a kid. They’re more powerful, and that can make them more dangerous. If you’re riding one, make sure you understand the legal and insurance requirements.
E-bikes look a lot like regular bikes, but with one major difference: there’s a battery-powered motor. E-bikes are also called electric bikes. When you ride an e-bike, you still use the foot pedals to power the bike, but the motor provides additional power though pedal-assist technology. If you’re ever struggled to ride up a hill, you can probably appreciate this.
E-bikes have become more popular in recent years, and the pandemic may have accelerated this trend. It makes sense. People who live in cities often want to get around without having to drive a car. Walking or riding a regular bicycle everywhere can be exhausting, however. E-bikes make it easier to get around. During the pandemic, e-bikes also offered an attractive alternative to crowded public transportation options.
According to WSAW, one store manager in Wausau, Wisconsin said that e-bike sales had increased 300% during the pandemic. Verge has also reported strong sales: one U.S. bike retailer saw a 140% increase, while a Seattle-based bike company saw sales increase 297% and noted more sales to delivery drivers. The surge in e-bike ownership is so strong that some cities are having to adjust. France, for example, has installed temporary bike lanes in multiple cities.
E-Bikes Can Be Dangerous
Despite the rising popularity, e-bikes and e-scooters can be dangerous. According to CBS, a 24-year-old man riding an e-bike was killed by a hit-and-run driver on the Lower East Side in Manhatten. PIX11 says that 20 people died in accidents involving e-bikes last year, according to NYC DOT.
It’s not just the riders who can be hurt, either. Pedestrians can also be severely, or even fatally, injured in collisions. According to TMZ, actress Lisa Banes was killed after she was struck by someone riding an e-scooter. Witnesses say the scooter barreled through a red light.
According to Reuters, compared to scooters and traditional bikes, researchers have found that e-bike injuries are more than three times more likely to involve a collision with a pedestrian.
E-Bikes Are Banned in Some Areas
Due to concern over safety issues, e-bikes and e-scooters have been banned in some areas.
For example, California News Times reports that Huntington Beach banned e-bikes but then reversed the ban. According to Momentum, Ontario has recently proposed legislation to address the surge in e-bikes and related safety issues, but as written, the legislation could end up banning most e-bikes.
Do You Need Licensing and Insurance for E-Bikes?
Whether or not you need insurance coverage for your e-bike will depend on the laws where you live. In some areas, license and registration may also be required. There may be additional laws requiring helmet use or restricting where e-bikes can go.
For example, in New York City, you don’t need a license or registration for an e-bike, but if the bike goes over 25 miles per hour or you’re working, you do need a helmet. E-bikes are permitted on bike lanes and streets with speed limits that are not greater than 30 miles per hour.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, e-bike operators are required to have a license in Alabama, Alaska, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Mexico and North Dakota, while Hawaii requires registration for e-bikes. In 25 states and D.C., at least some e-bike riders are required to wear helmets.
Because e-bikes and e-scooters are relatively new, laws and definitions are still evolving. In some locations, the rules may be tied to the top speed and motor power of the model you are riding. Cities and counties may have additional laws restricting e-bike usage. If you live in Minnesota, check the local laws before you ride.
What Insurance Coverage Should You Have?
If insurance, licensing and registration are required where you live, you need to make sure you’re meeting those requirements. However, even if insurance is not required, it’s a smart idea.
E-bikes often cost more than $1,000, and some models may be significantly more. Insurance coverage can protect your investment if your e-bike is damaged or stolen.
It’s also important to consider medical and liability costs. If you are injured while riding an e-bike, you may have expensive medical bills. Likewise, if you accidentally hit someone or damage another person’s property, you may be held liable for the costs.
Don’t count on your homeowners insurance or renters insurance policy for coverage, either. Although home insurance policies typically include some coverage for personal property and liability, they also typically exclude motor vehicles. E-bikes, which do contain motors, may therefore be excluded from coverage.
This doesn’t mean you can’t get insurance coverage for your e-bike. You just need to make sure you have a policy or endorsement that specifically provides coverage. Multiple insurance companies offer e-bike insurance that provides both theft coverage and collision coverage.
When comparing e-bike policies, look at both the property damage coverage and the liability coverage. Medical bills can be very expensive, so make sure your liability coverage limits are sufficient.
E-bikes are giving people a great new way to get around, but don’t let your ride end in a trip to the hospital.
- Follow the rules for e-bikes in your area.
- Wear a helmet. Even when helmets aren’t legally required, they’re an excellent way to protect yourself.
- Watch out for pedestrians, cars, and other riders.
- Maintain speeds that are safe for the conditions.
- When riding on streets, follow the rules of the road. Some reports of reckless e-bike riders have involved riders speeding through red lights.
To learn about e-bike insurance options, give us a call.