Colorado Bicycle Accidents Rise, New Laws Enacted

The Governor’s Highway Safety Administration research shows that in 2015, bicycle accident fatalities rose 12.2 percent, equating to 818 deaths that year. Now, Colorado has defined regulations relating to electric bikes in an effort to increase safety.

Ways to Stay Safe on Two Wheels When Surrounded by Four

The League of American Bicyclists released its 2017 ranking of bicycle-friendly states and not surprisingly, Colorado ranks high, coming in 6th place as the most bicycle-friendly state. Biking, of course, is one way of promoting healthy living, but this outdoor activity can turn deadly if bicyclists don’t follow basic traffic laws. The state has laws on the books regarding bicyclists, but recently Colorado had to expand its laws to include something called the E-bike, or electric bicycle.

Not All E-Bikes Are Created Equal

What is now called an E-bike is not new, just different. The first U.S. patent on the electric bicycle occurred back in the late 1890s but today’s technology has turned some E-bikes into an entirely different machine. The electric bike is what it infers, a bike with an integrated electric motor, some exceeding speeds of 28 miles per hour. There are two types of E-bikes:

  • Full-power: Bicycles with motors that are intended to do most of the work with little peddling from the riders.
  • Power-assist: Consider these the ‘hybrid’ of E-bikes, allowing manual pedaling and the ability to turn on the bike’s motor, in the case of a hill or if your legs tire.

Some of these bikes can move at dangerous speeds if the rider isn’t paying attention or is not abiding by traffic laws. The Electric Bike Report is an internet site that promotes safety among E-bike enthusiasts with the primary goal of educating and well as informing riders of safety issues. As the Electric Bike Report notes, safety should come first and should include:

  • A helmet to protect your head – riding an E-bike is no different from riding a motorcycle or regular bicycle.
  • Lights – bike lights are extremely important so you can see and be seen; riders should have a light on the front of the bike as well as the back.
  • High visibility clothing with reflective stickers so you can be seen.

When it comes to personal safety:

  • E-riders need to be alert at all times and be aware of nearby cars as well as pedestrians and other bikers.
  • Keep a keen eye on the road ahead of you, potholes or cracks, as well as gravel, all which can cause you to lose control of the bike.
  • Ice and snow, as well as wet roads, can cause traction issues, especially in Colorado, so extra caution should be taken under those conditions.

U.S. Bicycle Fatalities Are on the Rise

The Governor’s Highway Safety Administration research shows that in 2015, deaths among bicyclists rose 12.2 percent. That increase equates to 818 deaths in 2015; the average age of the cyclists killed was 45. News reports also highlight the fact that some 45,000 cyclists were injured in crashes that same year. In Colorado, the state saw 13 bicycle accident fatalities in 2015 with two of those deaths occurring in Denver.

Due to the popularity of the E-bike, the Colorado General Assembly passed HB17-1151 last year, which defined the regulations now on the books when it comes to E-bikes. Among other things, laws allow local governments the authority to regulate or prohibit the use of certain electrical bikes when it comes to Colorado’s pedestrian and bike paths. The legislation was signed by Governor Hickenlooper in April 2017 with the goal of making these electric bikes safer for those riding them as well as area pedestrians and drivers.

E-bikes are a great alternative to a vehicle and a healthy way of getting around, but safety must come first.

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