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July 20, 2024

Police and Byron Council look to act on e-bikes

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The distinctive whoosh of an electric bike flying down the road has become a familiar sound to many locals in the past few years.

Falling prices and increased power has made these steel steeds hugely popular with everyone from teenagers to retirees.

However, according to police, the rules relating to e-bikes are failing to keep up with their advancing horse-power and the ability of unscrupulous riders to turn them into chopped-up speed machines.

The resulting safety risks have already yielded tragic consequences, with a young e-bike rider losing his life in Byron Bay earlier this year.

Now, Council and police are trying to intervene to stop something similar from happening again.

This week Byron Council will consider a motion that, if successful, would see staff work with police to promote safe e-biking through an education campaign and, crucially, ensure appropriate enforcement of the regulations relating to e-bikes.

‘We can no longer ignore the risks posed by inadequate regulations, or the lack of enforcement of existing regulations,’ said Byron Mayor Michael Lyon, who has moved the motion.

‘Just this April, a devastating incident claimed the life of a 30-year-old cyclist owing to an e-bike crash on our roads. This loss serves as a saddening reminder of the pressing need for change.’

While e-bikes have provided a badly-needed alternative transport, particularly for young people, a growing number of the machines have been illegally modified to allow the pedal-assist function to be overridden.

The speed limiters are also being modified or removed so that riders can reach speeds in excess of 60km/h without breaking a sweat.   

The combination of these changes essentially transforms the e-bikes from pedal-powered pushies to high-speed scooters.

Add to this the tendency of many local bike riders to leave their helmets at home and the result is a concerning safety issue for riders, drivers, and pedestrians alike.   

‘It’s time that we start to focus on these bikes,’ Detective Chief Inspector Matt Kehoe of Tweed-Byron police told The Echo last week.

‘It’s something that has definitely come up at community meetings. We’ve had complaints about people riding bikes too fast, [they are] being doubled, even tripled. They are riding them on shared footpaths with pedestrians’.

‘I’m working with the road safety officers at Byron and Tweed Councils. We’re looking to implement a program in the coming months.’

Modifications

DCI Kehoe said that program would involve increased community education about the safety risks associated with e-bikes, and the rules that govern their use.

This included the fact that an e-bike with modifications to its pedal or speed limiting functions is essentially a non-compliant vehicle under the law.

‘People need to realise that they’re leaving themselves open to fines. The fine is in excess of $1,000 for using an unregistered vehicle. If they don’t have a driver’s licence, they may be fined for riding one of these modified vehicles because they’re not in the category of a pushbike anymore.’

DCI Kehoe also warned that riders of modified e-bikes who were involved in accidents could potentially be liable for any damage or serious injury to others.

Open to civil action

‘I think parents need to be aware that if their child is involved in a crash and the bike they’re riding is non-compliant they are leaving themselves open for civil action. And I’m not just talking about a few hundred dollars – it’s potentially six or seven figure claims.’

In addition to increased education, there are also plans for a significant increase in compliance, with e-bike riders facing fines for travelling over the 25km/h speed limit for bikes, failing to wear a helmet, or riding an unauthorised vehicle.

‘Look, don’t get me wrong here – they’re a terrific piece of equipment if used properly,’ Chief Inspector Kehoe said.

‘They’re non-polluting, they’re good exercise, they’re great for older people and younger kids being able to go to and from school. There’s a lot to be said for them’.

‘But there’s definitely problems when they’re not used properly and there’s definitely moves happening to do something about that.’

In addition to education and compliance, Cr Lyon’s motion proposes that Byron Council write to state and federal MPs about the safety issues surrounding e-bikes, specifically that current speeding regulations are inadequate to prevent modifications.

The motion has the support of Council staff.


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5 COMMENTS

  1. The answer is to cut the problem off at the source rather than trying to solve it by penalising individual riders. Why are illegal e-bikes available for sale? Council should focus first and foremost on regulating sales of e-bikes within the shire, ensuring that only street legal e-bikes are available for purchase. A quick look at some local bike shops show that many of their bikes are well in excess of the legal limits. We’ve already had one death. Council needs to do whatever they can to prevent more.

  2. The bikes are legal. It is what you do with them that can be illegal. It’s like buying a car and drive at 200km/h in town. The problem is not the car it is the driver. People die everyday from car accidents and we don’t stop selling cars nevertheless. We just need more prevention just like we do with cars

  3. Hi John.
    That just isn’t true. In NSW the law states that e-bike motors should cut out at 25km/hr, but many of the bikes being sold go much faster. Such bikes are clearly illegal and you can’t compare them to cars. Cars are for a different purpose, a different market and have highly advanced safety features. I’m not saying that rider behavior isn’t a big factor, it is extremely important, but surely the first step is to limit sales to only those bikes that are actually legal. From there we can worry about ensuring they are used safely.

    • John is correct.
      The bikes themselves are not illegal. It is where the bikes are actually ridden that may rub against the ‘law’ – rider behaviour is 100% the issue.

      • Where the bikes are actually ridden? On the road, obviously, and that’s precisely where they are illegal. Not all of them, but definitely some. The laws are very clear. Spreading misinformation by stating ‘The bikes themselves are not illegal’ is not very helpful. Yes, rider behaviour is a big part of the problem, but an obvious first step is to limit sales to ensure that the only bikes on the road are those that are legally allowed on the road. Then we can focus on changing rider behaviour. What I’m saying is that there are greedy retailers profiting from the situation and they need to be stopped. It won’t solve the problem but it will surely help.

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