Electric Bikes Not Designed for Those Younger than 16

The photo of a San Francisco dad and his kids was found on the official Rad Power bike company Instagram page.

Pacific Palisades residents Kaye and Jonathan Steinsapir, the parents of Molly Steinsapir, have filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles County Superior Court against Rad Power Bikes, a Seattle-based e-bike company.

Molly, 12, and a friend were riding a Rad Runner bike on January 31, 2021. Molly was on the back. The friends rode down a steep hill in the Marquez Knolls neighborhood area, lost control and crashed.

Molly, who was wearing a helmet, died on February 15 from injuries suffered in the crash.

In addition to Rad Power Bikes, the maker of the helmet Molly was wearing, Giro Sport Design, is also named in the Steinsapir lawsuit.

Rad Power Bikes told ABC News in a statement it “extends its deepest condolences to the Steinsapir family,” but did not comment on the lawsuit.

According to the L.A. Times, “The Steinsapirs claim the owner’s manual for the Rad Runner, the type of bike Molly was riding, says in small print on page 49, out of 57 pages, it is ‘designed for use by persons 18 years and older.’ The lawsuit alleges that Rad Power Bikes ‘knows children will operate’ the bike since the company’s website includes what the suit describes as ‘glowing reviews from adults’ about buying the bike for their children.”

The Times said that the Steinsapirs are now taking aim at the larger issue of e-bike safety for children.

On the Rad Power website (https://www.radpowerbikes.com/blogs/the-scenic), it asks: “How old do I have to be to ride an ebike?”

The website states: “You must be 16 or older to operate a Rad Power Bikes ebike. Children under the age of 16 may lack the necessary judgment and skill to safely operate the ebike. A parent or legal guardian should always decide whether a child should operate or ride on an electric bike or any other vehicle.”

The California DMV states that there are three classes of electric bikes and that: “The operator of a Class 3 electric bicycle:

  • Must be 16 years old or older.
  • Must wear a bicycle safety helmet.
  • Must not transport passengers.
  • May ride an electric bicycle in a bicycle lane if authorized by local authority or ordinance.”

A March 22 study (“Increased injury severity and hospitalization rates following crashes with e-bikes versus conventional bicycles: an observational cohort study from a regional level II trauma center in Switzerland”) noted: “As electric bicycles (e-bikes) become increasingly popular, reports of injuries associated with e-bike usage are also rising. Patterns, characteristics, and severity of injuries following e-bike crashes need further investigation, particularly in contrast to injuries from conventional bicycle crashes.”

The study in Switzerland noted that “the weight of the electronic bicycle with the heavy battery may play a role in the extent of the injury.”

The study’s authors also warned about older riders because “reduced muscle mass associated with older age can negatively impact a rider’s strength and ability to brace for impact in the event of a crash. Future studies should assess whether riders’ experience level is more likely to lead to severe injuries than their physical limitations. Given the potentially high speed and increased weight of an e-bike, proof of one’s ability to maneuver and operate an electric-powered bicycle through licensure may be recommended.”

Regarding bike helmets, a May 2022 story on Two Wheeling Tots website (“10 Best Kids Bike Helmets”), noted that “over the past 10 years, we have put over 70 bike helmets to the test to help you find the best.”

This child is wearing a Giro helmet.

The Giro Scamp (MIPS) and Giro Tremor (MIPS) were rated best all-around for younger and older kids. MIPS means Multi-Directional Impact Protection System.

Giro’s website recommends: “1) Make sure you ride in a helmet that is sized correctly, is adjusted to fit correctly as spelled out in the owner’s manual (straps, buckles and fit system all in proper adjustment), is in good condition and designed for the type of riding you do; 2) Wear a helmet that provides as much coverage as you’re comfortable with, since a helmet cannot offer protective capability for areas it doesn’t cover; 3) Inspect your helmet regularly for signs of damage or potential compromises in performance (dents, cracks, frayed straps, missing parts) and replace it before riding if you have reason to believe it’s not in good working condition; and 4) Replace your helmet every 3-5 years. Helmets can degrade over time through use, handling, and so on. And we believe that helmets continue to improve through design, innovations like MIPS and the evolution of standards.”

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One Response to Electric Bikes Not Designed for Those Younger than 16

  1. Diane Elder says:

    Thanks for speaking the truth on this topic as a lot of misinformation is circulating.

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