No, e-bike fires should not a ‘main explanation for dying’ in NYC


It’s a brand new 12 months, and but we’re dealing with the identical outdated drawback as final 12 months: electrical bike fear-mongering from irresponsible journalists portray an overblown threat of e-bike fires.

This time, we’ve bought a doozie of a headline from Males’s Journal: “E-bike Batteries: A Main Trigger Of Demise In NYC”.

The one drawback is it’s flawed. As in, fully flawed. The premise shouldn’t be even near aligning with actuality.

This isn’t to say that fires from improperly constructed or tampered with electrical bike lithium-ion batteries is a non-issue. It is a crucial matter requiring elevated regulation – one thing NYC has already begun. The problem is acutely important in NYC, the place bike couriers depend on e-bikes to ship meals and items to metropolis residents, and are sometimes pressured to purchase the most cost effective e-bikes out there as a result of low wages of those important service jobs. Such low-cost e-bikes commonly scrimp on vital security options, leading to the next threat of battery fires – particularly when unofficial or inexperienced repairmen attempt to restore worn-out or malfunctioning batteries.

The problem is a deadly one, even. New York Metropolis noticed not less than 17 deaths final 12 months from fires began by defective lithium-ion batteries. It’s price noting that many – if not most – of those fires aren’t really attributable to e-bike batteries however quite electrical scooters and e-motorbikes that firefighters don’t perceive and thus lump into the e-bike class. However that’s a nuance misplaced on most individuals so we’ll ignore it for now and embody all micromobility-related fires.

Each a kind of 17 deaths final 12 months is a tragedy. And elevated regulation to weed out the ultra-cheap, poorly-made e-bikes may also help. However to name it a “main trigger” of dying in NYC is journalistic malpractice. In truth, in all of my in depth analysis, I can’t even let you know what rank it’s as a result of it’s so far down the checklist of main causes of dying in NYC that the statistics don’t even go that low.

So the easy reality of the matter is that this: no, e-bike fires should not a number one explanation for dying in NYC. They aren’t even shut to creating the checklist.

Even in the event you ignore the true main causes of dying, reminiscent of over 17,000 deaths per 12 months as a consequence of coronary heart illness in New York Metropolis, then lithium-ion battery hearth deaths are nonetheless not even shut to creating the charts. That’s a 1,000x greater probability of dying by coronary heart illness.

In comparison with battery hearth deaths, New Yorkers are 176x extra prone to die from a drug overdose, 23x extra probably to be murdered, 5x extra prone to die whereas driving the subway, and over 3x extra prone to die from choking. You’d be safer to chew your meals a bit longer than to fret about an e-bike hearth.

Focusing in additional simply on hearth deaths, a number of occasions extra individuals are killed within the metropolis from fires sparked by electrical house heaters. A single house heater hearth in 2022 killed 3x as many individuals as all e-bike battery fires mixed in NYC that 12 months.

Even if you wish to hyperfocus on bikes, then let’s discuss in regards to the larger explanation for bike-related deaths in NYC: cyclists getting killed by automobiles. As a result of lack of correct bike lanes in NYC (lacking on 97% of NYC streets), there are a number of occasions extra bike owner deaths than deaths as a consequence of battery-related fires. And pedestrians have it even worse – they’re much more prone to die from getting hit by a automobile in NYC than cyclists. In truth, you’re 7x extra prone to die from getting run over in a crosswalk in NYC than from a battery hearth.

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E-bike hearth security is totally an vital concern, and this text isn’t meant to reduce it. As a substitute, it simply must be put into perspective to keep away from demonizing what may very well be the largest transportation revolution in a century, saving numerous lives by lowering our impression on world local weather change. However let’s not convolute an vital security dialogue into clickbait fear-mongering, particularly when it pales in impression in comparison with actual points that ought to really preserve New Yorkers up at evening.

Extra consideration and in the end regulation ought to be utilized to scale back the variety of deaths from e-bike fires from 17 to zero, however let’s preserve the problem in proportion. Significantly extra lives could be saved yearly simply by NYC having the ability to cross its ban on mega-sized sugary drinks that was nullified a decade in the past. Bear in mind, greater than 1,000x extra New Yorkers are killed by coronary heart illness than e-bike batteries.

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