Using an electric bicycle is more likely to result in injury than using a motorcycle or car, according to a recent UCLA study. However, the study found, those injuries were “less serious than those of victims of motorcycle and car crashes, and significantly less deadly.”
As a report by Electrek explains, the study involved a review of patients at 180 clinics, as well as two hospitals, in the greater Los Angeles area, in a period that began January 1, 2014 and ended May 14, 2020. The researchers used a “natural language processing (NLP) algorithm” to search 36 million sets of clinical notes and identify injuries. They then combined that data with public data about e-bike use in the region, according to the methodology section of their paper, arriving at a “monthly utilization-corrected rate of e-scooter injuries.”
What they ultimately found was 1,354 individuals who suffered e-bike injuries during that period—not only e-bike operators, but pedestrians as well. Of those individuals, 30% “were seen in more than one clinical setting,” like a follow-up exam after an initial visit to the emergency room. At the same time, 29% of those e-bike injury victims had to get “advanced imaging,” while six percent were admitted for inpatient care, and two lost their lives. “We estimate 115 injuries per million e-scooter trips were treated in our health system,” the study’s authors wrote, noting that this figure is probably an underestimate.
Comparing the e-bike data against injury rates for other modes of transport, the study notes that the rate is “substantially higher” than estimates for motorcycles, bicycles, and cars. Specifically, the 115 injuries per million e-bike rides beats out the estimated 104 injuries per million motorcycle rides, 15 injuries/million bicycle rides, and eight injuries/million passenger car rides. It is also significantly higher than the estimated two injuries/million pedestrian trips.
At the same time, data suggests e-bike injuries tend to be less severe than their counterpart. The study’s authors note that whereas they found a fatality rate of 19 per 100 million e-bike rides, recent national estimates suggest fatality rates of 21 per 100 million bicycle rides and 537 per hundred million motorcycle rides. “The high prevalence of injuries we find among e-scooter riders,” they wrote, “may reflect the relative inexperience of riders and difficulty with furnishing and enforcing use of safety equipment among riders using a shared device, along with the rapid uptake of this technology outpacing safety regulations.”