San Francisco E-Bike Safety Tips

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Electric bicycles–more commonly known as e-bikes–have become very popular in San Francisco in recent years. It’s easy to see why: an e-bike’s electric-assisted pedaling and sturdier frame is ideal for the city’s diverse, hilly terrain.

Despite these advantages, it’s important to point out that riding an e-bike brings with it the same risks as any other bicycle accident in San Francisco. That’s why it’s pivotal to keep yourself safe.

Experienced Support From San Francisco Bicycle Accident Lawyers

At The Law Offices of Matthew J. Quinlan, we understand the impact that e-bike accidents can have on you and your loved ones. That’s why our team of seasoned San Francisco bicycle accident lawyers is ready to assist you. E-bikes provide enjoyment but come with risks, much like conventional bicycles.

If you’ve sustained injuries in an e-bike accident in San Francisco, contact us today to set up a free consultation and explore your available options.

How is an E-Bike Different From a Normal Bike in San Francisco?

An e-bike, short for electric bicycle, is a bicycle enhanced with an electric motor that offers assistance while you pedal. Unlike a standard bicycle, an e-bike is constructed with a robust frame designed to house the integrated motor and rechargeable battery.

To be categorized as an “e-bike,” it must have:

  • Fully functional pedals
  • Motor’s power must not exceed 750 watts

There are other important distinctions between an e-bike and a normal bike:

  • Motor assistance – E-bikes are equipped with an electric motor that provides pedal-assist or throttle-powered propulsion. In contrast, regular bikes rely solely on human pedaling power.
  • Pedal-assist – Most e-bikes have pedal-assist systems, which means the electric motor assists the rider’s pedaling efforts. Also, you can adjust the level to suit your preference.
  • Throttle control – Some e-bikes feature a throttle control, allowing the rider to engage the electric motor without pedaling. This mode is similar to a small electric scooter.
  • Speed and range – E-bikes can reach higher speeds than traditional bikes due to the electric motor’s assistance. They also tend to have a longer range, allowing riders to cover greater distances with less effort.
  • Batteries – E-bikes are powered by rechargeable batteries, which vary in capacity and placement (e.g., integrated into the frame or attached externally). These batteries determine the bike’s range and power output.
  • Weight – E-bikes are generally heavier than regular bikes due to the added components, including the motor and battery.
  • Cost – E-bikes are usually more expensive than regular bikes due to the added technology and components.
  • Usage – E-bikes are often favored for commuting, covering long distances, or providing assistance to riders with physical limitations. Regular bikes are versatile and widely used for various purposes, including leisure, exercise, and commuting.
  • Environmental impact – E-bikes are generally considered more environmentally friendly than traditional bikes due to their potential to reduce car usage and emissions.


E-bikes in San Francisco and across California are categorized into three classes based on battery and motor power:

  • Class 1 – Class 1 e-bikes are pedal-assisted and provide a maximum electric motor-assisted speed of 20 MPH.
  • Class 2 – Class 2 e-bikes supply electric power from the motor regardless of whether you’re pedaling or not, but they cease providing assistance when you reach 20 MPH.
  • Class 3 – Class 3 e-bikes maintain electric assistance up to 28 MPH and are restricted from bike paths. Only riders aged 16 and above are permitted to operate them.

These distinctions result in e-bikes achieving higher speeds than traditional bicycles. Increased speed raises the potential for accidents, particularly in densely populated areas of the city, such the Tenderloin or Financial District.

E-Bike Safety Tips in San Francisco

As you might expect, there are a number of advantages to using an e-bike in San Francisco. However, the reality is that there remains just as big a risk of accidents and injuries as using a normal bike. This has to due with the fact that both options still leave you vulnerable to the actions of other drivers you share the road with, as well as being vulnerable to road defects and other challenges.

As a result, it’s important to prioritize your safety while using an e-bike in San Francisco. Here’s how you can do that:

  • Wearing proper protective gear – Like a regular bike, you should always wear a helmet and other protective gear while riding an e-bike. A helmet is your best defense against head injuries–particularly with the increased speed of an e-bike.
  • Follow the rules – Treat your e-bike like any other vehicle on the road. Always follow traffic rules, stop signs, and markings. San Francisco has specific rules and regulations for e-bike riders, so make sure to familiarize yourself with them.
  • Stay visible – Ensure that your e-bike has working lights, reflectors, and a horn or bell. You’ll also want to increase your visibility to other road users.
  • Mind the hills – San Francisco is known for its steep hills. Be cautious when going downhill, and use your brakes wisely. Going uphill can be a workout, so be prepared and use an appropriate level of pedal assist.
  • Watch for tram tracks – San Francisco’s iconic cable car tracks can be a hazard for e-bike riders. Cross them at a right angle to avoid getting your wheels stuck.
  • Avoid crowded areas – Riding e-bikes on sidewalks can be dangerous, especially in crowded areas. Stick to the road or designated bike paths.
  • Signal your turns – Use hand signals to indicate when you’re turning or changing lanes. This helps drivers or other bicyclists know what you’re trying to do.
  • Check your speed – E-bikes can reach higher speeds, but it’s important to ride at a safe and comfortable speed for the conditions. Slow down in congested areas or when visibility is poor.
  • Awareness – Always be alert and aware of your surroundings. Watch out for pedestrians, cars, and other cyclists. Also, like any other vehicle, try to avoid distractions like using your phone while riding your e-bike.
  • Maintain your e-bike – Regularly maintain your e-bike to ensure it’s in good working condition. Check the brakes, tires, lights, and battery to prevent unexpected issues while riding.

Remember that safety should always be a top priority when riding your e-bike in San Francisco or any other city in California. By following these tips and using common sense, you can enjoy a safe and pleasant ride through the city. Still, if an accident does happen, it’s important to understand the approach that California law takes.

Determining Liability in E-Bike Accidents in San Francisco

When addressing the issue of liability in e-bike accidents in San Francisco, the key factors to consider include identifying the party responsible for causing the accident, examining the circumstances leading to the incident, and evaluating whether the at-fault party acted negligently. Typically, liability in San Francisco e-bike accidents can be attributed to one of the following parties:

  • Drivers – Similar to other accidents, if a driver’s negligent or reckless behavior, such as speeding, attempting to overtake the e-bike, or failing to pay attention, results in a collision with an e-bike rider, the driver is held accountable for the resulting damages.
  • Manufacturer of the e-bike – Manufacturers of e-bikes can also be held liable if an accident occurs due to mechanical failures or defects in parts or software of the e-bike.
  • Government entities – In cases where an e-bike accident is caused by road-related issues like potholes or road defects, the City of San Francisco or the State of California may bear responsibility. These governmental entities, tasked with ensuring the safety of streets and roads, can be held liable depending on the specifics of the accident location and circumstances.

Additionally, California’s “comparative negligence” statute is relevant in San Francisco e-bike accidents. This statute means that the percentage of your recovery is reduced by the same percentage of fault attributed to you in the accident.

Regardless, filing a claim against the responsible party can help you recover certain damages like:

  • Medical expenses
  • Lost income or wages
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress
  • Loss of enjoyment of life or companionship
  • Punitive damages, in certain cases

MJQ Law Can Help You in the Aftermath of a San Francisco E-Bike Accident

Facing the aftermath of an e-bike accident can be challenging. While e-bikes offer a strong alternative to traditional bicycles in San Francisco, they share some of the same risks. At MJQ Law, we understand the profound impact that any bicycle accident, including those involving e-bikes, can have on you and your loved ones. We are here to provide you with the necessary assistance you need to aid in your recovery. To get started with a free consultation, contact us today.