Administration must limit the use of electric bikes until tighter federal regulations come into place

September 29, 2023 — by William Norwood
Graphic by Divya Vadlakonda
Me as a freshman on my way to Starbies during lunch.
Electric bikes, despite gaining popularity among students for their convenience and appeal, are quickly becoming a genuine safety issue.

Each day, as I head off campus for lunch, I seem to always see the same thing: Freshmen on electric bikes (e-bikes) heading out. Once, I was driving to Starbucks, and, lo and behold, to my left were three people crammed onto a single electric bike.

This may seem to be all fun and games, or an opportunity to mock freshmen for thinking they’re cool by breaking school rules about leaving campus for lunch, but it’s not. It’s a real safety hazard, with consequences if somebody were to be hit or fall off their bike. 

For example, a freshman, who wishes to stay anonymous, told me some of her friends have been in accidents that didn’t involve cars. 

“Most of the accidents include going over speed bumps too fast, or failing to brake in time,” she said. “The parents are aware of these incidents, but I believe the parents trust their children to be safe.”

Even with the regulations the federal government has placed on e-bikes — up to 20 mph without pedaling — most bikes, including the most common brand at Saratoga High, can go as fast as 28 mph in off-road mode. As a result, students around campus, and on their way off campus are able to get upwards up 25mph in the bike lane and sometimes higher.

The ability for e-bike companies to get around the regulations is pretty simple. According to The New York Times, the electronic governor that limits speed controls on e-bikes can be easily eliminated by cutting a wire or changing the limitation with a smartphone app. Such workarounds show that these laws are simply ineffective at protecting against the use of high-speed electric bikes. 

Despite these lax laws, no one government organization has claimed  jurisdiction over electric bikes, leading to a lack of any effective laws being made to limit the use of these bikes. As a result of the high speed, they fall under the jurisdiction of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, instead of the Consumer Product Safety Commission. 

Something, however, must be done to limit the use of the bikes, or at least the speed, to protect children. 

One solution would be to provide a requirement for the education of road safety surrounding bikes and humans on the road. Within the U.K., for example, most schools use a program named Bikeability to teach students  how to properly ride a bike and navigate the roads. A similar program, along with tighter laws surrounding the speed, would help to increase safety. 

As of right now, the only thing the school can do is tighten their rules and regulate the use of bikes on campus. In particular, the administration should more tightly enforce the no-leaving-campus rule for underclassmen during the school day. 

This increased enforcement will help prevent underclassmen from putting themselves in danger on e-bikes during school hours.

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