Bicycles & E-Bike Danger


Bicycle love has been a minor but notable theme in our pages over the years. In more recent years their relationship to electricity has become the focus of more stories, like this one:

The High Cost of Cheap E-Bikes

Electric bicycles are catching on—and their lithium-ion batteries are catching fire. Why is so little being done about it?

Fires and overheating accidents attributed to lithium-ion batteries killed 19 people in the United States in 2022, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. In New York City alone, six people died in these uniquely fast-burning infernos. Experts say poorly made batteries, like those often found on cheaper e-bike models, are the primary culprit. So why is it still so easy to purchase them? Does a typical bike owner know how to safely charge and maintain a bike battery? And are lower-paid workers, such as delivery people, essentially being forced to purchase unsafe bikes just to be able to do their jobs? On episode 59 of The Politics of Everything, hosts Laura Marsh and Alex Pareene talk with writers Greg Smith, Stephanie Clifford, and Ross Barkan about the New York fires and the populations most at risk, the regulatory challenges of reining in the e-bike industry, and the unintended consequences of our on-demand culture.

CBS New York news clip: New information on a deadly fire in the East Village that left two teenagers clinging to a pole, trying to escape the flames. Investigators now believe e-bike batteries caused the fire.

Laura Marsh: Last year in New York alone, e-bike batteries caused 202 fires, 142 injuries, and six deaths.

Alex Pareene: But it’s not just here. According to a recent story in Consumer Reports, an electric bike battery started a garage fire in Bend, Oregon. In Utah, a charging bike started a fire in a retirement community. In Baltimore, an e-bike set an apartment garage on fire.

Laura: I was really surprised to hear about these fires. You see people riding e-bikes all over the city, especially delivery workers…

Read or listen to the whole discussion here.

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