4 Feb 2020

Pensioners make up 40 percent of ebike injury claims to ACC

3:10 pm on 4 February 2020

As sales of ebikes continue to accelerate, pensioners now account for more than 40 percent of e-bike crashes resulting in claims to ACC.

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It is mainly older riders responsible for the blow-out in ACC claims. Photo: 123RF

Figures released to RNZ show the agency had 704 active e-bike injury claims by the end of last year, of which 307 involved people 65 and older.

Taupō woman Nicky Hollings remembers her ebike crash at the popular Craters Mountain Bike Park last November all too vividly.

"I came to this lip, you know, it was quite high and there was a big downhill drop and I just put on the brakes and I slowed down too much and it all went pear shaped from there.

"I went over the handle bars and basically snapped my arm off the top of my shoulder."

Claims to ACC from ebike injuries have risen 13-fold from 2015 when there were just 53 active files.

Five years ago, claims were worth just over $57,000 while they now top $1.2 million.

Hollings now has seven pins and a metal plate holding her shoulder together.

The 46-year-old blamed herself for the crash but said prior to the accident she often found herself going too fast and the transition to an ebike had been tricky.

"I mean now we were riding these 40kg beasts so it's just a totally different ride so you have to be respectful of the fact you are riding a different bike and you need to know what you are doing ... and at times if you don't know what you are doing you might get hurt."

Hollings said she hoped to get back on her bike in March.

It is mainly older riders responsible for the blow-out in ACC claims.

Bundle together the over-60s with their Gold Card carrying mates and they account for 56 percent of all current ebike injury claims to ACC.

Co-owner of the Bike Shed in Whanganui, Doug Rennie, was aware of at least one ebike fatality locally.

Doug Rennie said "it needs to be the bridge to somewhere".

Co-owner of the Bike Shed in Whanganui Doug Rennie is aware of at least one ebike fatality locally. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

A 71-year-old Canterbury woman was killed last year when her e-bike went over a bluff on the Mountain to Sea Cycleway.

"And there have been around town a lot still involving vehicles versus bike more than pedestrian versus bike."

Rennie said ebikes came with their own challenges.

"There's different controls and there are different skills required and they're a heavier item that sort of thing.

"There are accidents that happen and a lot of it is probably not being aware of the machine they're riding and also maybe people riding above their ability."

Rennie said twist throttles on some hub driven ebikes could result in riders powering up when they didn't intend to and riders of pedal-assist bikes had to remember to back-pedal when trying to avoid obstacles hitting the pedals for the same reason.

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Cycling Action Network spokesperson Patrick Morgan. Photo: Supplied / North and South magazine

Cycling Action Network spokesperson Patrick Morgan said skyrocketing sales of ebikes had to be taken into account when considering the number of injuries.

"Over the past six years ebike sales have doubled year on year from 3000 a few years ago to more than 50,000 a year.

"So ebikes are popular and they're here to stay, but we need to learn to manage the risks as well as enjoy the benefits."

Morgan hoped the injury statistics would not put people off ebikes.

"We know that nothing in life is without risk and the same would apply to riding a bicycle but we also know that cycling carries a much lower risk than other everyday activities like skiing or playing rugby so overall cycling has huge health benefits and I encourage everyone to give it a go."

Meanwhile, Doug Rennie said people returning to cycling via an ebike should take their time to get used to being back two wheels.

"It's like buying a new Harley Davidson when you're sort of 50 and hoping out on the road with it. You really need to relearn some skills and that I think is really the big thing."

ACC recommended new ebike riders take part in free BikeReady courses, practice in a safe environment before hitting the road and wear high-visability gear when they eventually do.