NYCeWheels is a little shop located on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. For prospective owners of electric bikes looking for a test ride, the streets of Manhattan can be quite intimidating. There are buses, taxis, cars, and other bicyclists to watch out for. It's not exactly a serene environment.
Because of the chaotic streets, people will often opt to test ride electric bikes in the nearby East River Park. Still, the question often arises: "Is an electric bike more dangerous than a regular bike?" Maybe it's the prospect of motor power, or maybe it's the comparison to a vespa or moped. Whatever the reason, people are still discouraged by the power of electric bikes.
The truth is, electric bikes are actually much safer than regular bikes. How is that possible? Well for one, the motor doesn't power the bike past 20 miles per hour. This speed cutoff actually keeps the bike at a safe speed. There are also cutoffs built into the brakes, to prevent a dangerous lock-up of the wheel. Electric bikes also tend to be much more stable than standard bikes, with extra weight, suspension, and bigger frames. Riders are much less likely to get into an accident riding an electric bike than riding a regular bike.
Under federal law, an electric bike cannot travel faster than 20 miles per hour. Because of this, the bikes do not require a license, and they do not accelerate to a point that is considered dangerous by the rider. Having this speed limit is useful in a city like New York, because most traffic is moving under 20 miles per hour anyway. Riding in a bike lane, an electric bike is keeping up with cars, and doesn't have to worry about messy traffic jams. It's ideal for commuters.
A common misconception is the motor size of an electric bike. Electric bikes with bigger motors have better acceleration and torque, but the speed limit is still 20 miles per hour. There is no way to increase the speed of these bikes, so a bigger motor is simply adding more weight and more power. It's kind of an unnecessary upgrade for the intended purpose of the bike.
Imagine riding an electric bike at top speed when suddenly, a car darts out in front of you. You slam on the brakes, but forget to let up on the throttle. Is the high-powered motor going to overpower your brake pads? Will you be thrown over the handlebars? Luckily, the electric bike manufacturers already thought of this, so they built in electrical cutoffs into the brake lines. Whenever a brake is pulled, the motor automatically stops spinning. This prevents a dangerous situation like the one described above, and it also prevents the motor from wearing down the brake pads sooner than a standard bike. This safety feature is important for city riders who count on their brakes with their lives.
Full suspension, strong frames, Kevlar tires. These are just a few of the things that make up the average electric bike. Weighing in at an average of 50 lbs, these bikes are tougher than the average bike. You know how secure you feel driving a large truck compared to a car? It works the same way with an electric bike. More weight equates to better stability, and an electric bike is a safer bet in case of a collision.
If you're worried about your safety while bicycling, you're probably much better off on an electric bike than a regular bike. Of course, things like helmets, lights, and bells are also a good idea for bike awareness. You can pick out your electric bike at NYCeWheels and accessorize it with all of the appropriate safety features. There's no such thing as being too safe when it comes to biking in the city.