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You may have noticed a growing number of people riding electric bicycles (e-bikes) recently. You might even have gotten in on the e-bike craze yourself and use one to commute, run errands, or just enjoy a ride around town.

Although they look like traditional bicycles, e-bikes have battery-powered motors that can take riders up to 20 – 30 mph. They also weigh about twice as much as a regular bicycle. Their heavier weight and faster speeds make them more dangerous than conventional bicycles, both to e-bike riders and other road users.

E-bikes are subject to the same traffic laws as cars, trucks, vans, and buses. But despite this—and their higher injury risks—e-bikes do not require insurance.

Here’s what else you need to know about Ohio e-bike laws, and when you might want to talk to a lawyer about an e-bike accident.

How Ohio Regulates E-Bikes

E-bikes are surging in popularity across the U.S., with sales now surpassing that of electric cars and trucks. Columbus, Ohio began offering e-bike rentals though its CoGo Bike Share program in 2020. Over half the company’s 54,000 trips taken in 2022 were on an e-bike.

Ohio’s e-bike law took effect in March 2019. The law is similar to e-bike laws passed in other states, establishing three classes of e-bikes as well as age minimums and restrictions about where e-bikes can be ridden.

Because e-bikes don’t require insurance, and auto insurance, homeowners, and rental policies may deny coverage to riders who cause a crash, an e-bike rider who causes an accident could be effectively uninsured against injury and property damage claims.

E-bikes are generally permitted to travel wherever cars, bicycles, and other vehicles are, except for on the freeway, and they must follow the rules of the road that apply to vehicles, according to ODOT. E-bikes, for example, should ride with traffic, yield to pedestrians at crosswalks and other vehicles at intersections, and obey traffic signals and speed limits.

State law allows e-bikes on bike lanes, shared use bicycle/pedestrian paths, and sidewalks if the motor is not engaged, and it restricts them from natural surface trails primarily intended for hiking, mountain biking, or equestrian use. But local authorities and state agencies have discretion to decide where e-bikes are permitted and prohibited and what other rules they must follow.

If you’re not sure whether you can ride an e-bike on a certain trail or path, check the local rules and regulations before heading out.

E-Bike Accidents and Injuries

As e-bikes have surged in popularity, there has been a corresponding increase in e-bike related accidents and injuries.

State agencies like ODOT and the Ohio Department of Health don’t collect information about e-bike crashes, but nationwide data shows a huge surge in e-bike crashes and injury rates. There is also evidence that e-bikes are associated with more severe injuries like head injuries.

  • According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), there were an estimated 53,200 emergency department (ED) visits involving e-bikes from 2017 – 2022. Nearly half of these occurred in 2022 alone.
  • Over the same study period, CPSC reports 104 e-bike fatalities.
  • A review of hospital data from 2017 – 2022 found 45,586 e-bike injuries, 5,462 of which resulted in hospitalization. During those five years, the e-bike injury rate increased 30 times, the hospitalization rate increased 43 times, and the head injury rate increased 49 times.
  • Another study found that hospitalization and chest trauma rates are higher among e-bikers than conventional cyclists.

The rate of e-bike injuries increased significantly more than the popularity of e-bikes between 2017 and 2022. And the actual rate of e-bike crashes and injuries is probably much higher, since these numbers only reflect incidents reported to an ED.

E-Bike Crashes and Insurance

CPSC notes that collisions with motor vehicles are a leading e-bike hazard. But e-bikes also pose a threat to pedestrians and bicyclists, with whom they may share a path. From 2017 – 2022, accidents between e-bikes and pedestrians resulted in six pedestrian deaths.

Traffic accidents involving e-bikes and motor vehicles, e-bikes and pedestrians, and e-bikes and bicyclists are subject to the same liability laws as car accidents. But e-bikes don’t require insurance in Ohio, and auto insurance, homeowners, and rental policies may deny coverage to riders who cause a crash.

Specialized e-bike insurance can be purchased that covers riders for the injuries or property damage they are responsible for, and more riders are purchasing e-bike insurance policies. But because e-bike insurance is optional, an e-bike rider could be effectively uninsured against injury and property damage claims.

E-Bike Car Accidents

E-bikers injured in a car accident should be able to make a claim against an at-fault driver’s auto insurance policy. When an e-bike/car accident occurs, the insurance claims process is handled the way that car accident claims are handled. This means that strict lawsuit filing deadlines, evidentiary standards, and burdens of proof apply to e-bike accidents.

E-Bike Legal Help in Zanesville, Ohio

While e-bikes offer new opportunities for exercise, recreation, and transportation, they also create regulatory challenges and raise legal questions regarding accidents, insurance coverage, and other issues that may need to be discussed with an attorney. Call or message Graham Law to schedule a free e-bike accident consultation.

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