Medical Malpractice and Personal Injury Law Blog

Large Fleet of Pedal-Assisted Electric Bikes Taken Out of Service Amid Safety Concerns

Posted by Charles Gilman | May 07, 2019 | 0 Comments

Lyft recently removed their fleet of pedal-assisted electric bicycles from major cities including San Francisco and Washington D.C. There was a wave of reports that the front braking system was causing riders to be propelled over the handlebars of the bikes. The recall efforts were initiated voluntarily by the organization. Often these actions are the result of The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) orders.

A total of 2,500 bicycles have thus far been recalled, which equates to approximately 15% of the total number in use. A company spokesperson emphasized that the organization takes safety very seriously. The bikes are being replaced by conventional models. Lyft is currently the largest “bike share operator” in the U.S.

Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)

The CPSC regulates all types of consumer products including baby products, vehicles, and household devices. Lyft's electric bicycles are the most recent mobility product that has created safety concerns. E-scooters also have been the subject of CPSC investigative efforts lately. Other mobility products that have been concerning included golf carts, which had brake cable systems that were found to be defective.

Brake Problems

The electric bikes use a drum braking system manufactured by Shimano, a Japanese organization. The company insists that its BR-C6000-F brakes are not defective. They claim that bicycle designers and engineers are improperly installing the brake systems. Shimano explained that the brakes are to be used according to their specifications, which they say exceed safety standards. One report suggests that an internal power modulator may be the reason that the braking force is excessive.

Failure to Wear Helmet

If riders are being propelled over the handlebars of the bicycles, the potential for severe injury is exacerbated when not wearing a helmet.  Riders are somewhat unlikely to burden themselves by carrying a helmet with them. Both electric bikes and scooters have been criticized for having undersized wheels that lead to instability. When traveling on rough surfaces with potholes these products are particularly dangerous.

The UCLA Medical Center and Ronald Reagan Medical Center reported that roughly 249 individuals visited their emergency departments with related injuries. The majority of the injuries involved riders falling from the bikes, rather than from collisions with vehicles, pedestrians, or objects. The University of San Diego's Medical Center reported that electric scooter accidents have resulted in treating 42 individuals for injuries. In the majority of cases, the injured victims are believed to not have been wearing a helmet at the time of the accident.

Accident Data

  • Roughly 30% of those injured are first-time riders
  • Approximately 63% of those injured were deemed to be “novices”
  • Among those who incur head injuries, approximately 50% are not wearing a helmet
  • The most common injuries to the upper body involve the arms and shoulders
  • The most common lower body injuries involve the legs, knees, and feet

Future of “Micro-Mobility”

These types of transportation products are often classified as “utility-focused urban transport vehicles.” They are battery assisted vehicles that operate on wheels. In 2018, approximately 84 million people used some form of shared bicycle or scooter. It is obvious that these transportation options will continue to evolve; however, it appears that they will remain to be a safety concern.

About the Author

Charles Gilman

As managing partner and co-founder of Gilman & Bedigian, it is my mission to help our clients recover and get their lives back on track. I strongly believe that every person who is injured by a wrongful act deserves compensation, and I will do my utmost to bring recompense to those who need and deserve it.

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