Death from an e-bike only matter of time: mayor

Northern Beaches Council has launched an e-bike safety campaign – possibly the first council to do so – following a spike in collisions and near misses.

Mayor Sue Heins spoke at Manly Beach in May, backed by the Police Northern Sydney Sector Highway Patrol Command and Bicycle NSW.

Council’s new e-bike code has three messages: ‘Slow down, ring your bell and be ready for sudden changes’.

“We are deadly serious about this,” Mayor Heins said. “We are aware there are a lot of near misses, and it’s only a matter of time before there’s a death or a serious injury.”

Mayor Heins said fat bikes looked so similar to motorbikes that it took time to establish whether they should be on a footpath or not.

“The age of kids (riding) them is getting younger and younger,” Mayor Heins said. “And the fact that they’re on something which looks like a small motorbike is really concerning for the community.”

Speed is also a problem with e-bikes, and many riders can work out how to disable the 25kph speed limit.

Students from Stella Maris College in Manly were present at the launch, with the school formulating a strict policy about their use earlier this year. Students who wish to park their bikes at school must have read the road rules for bicycles and passed the practice learner drivers test. Parents also need to confirm that the bikes have been capped at the legal speed. “The more informed our young people are, the more likely they are to make good choices,” said Amy Smith, assistant principal of wellbeing.

Peter McClean, chief executive officer of Bicycle NSW, said that disabling speed limits on e-bikes was not just a safety and speed issue, but also a fire threat.

“We’re talking with state and federal governments and Fair Trading about the importation (of e-bikes),” said Mr McClean.

“Currently, there is a loophole. Anyone can get an import assignment, which is a voluntary declaration, and illegally import e-bikes,” he said. “That declaration should be monitored and should not be self-declared.”

Mr McClean said it was ‘essential’ to respect other users when riding e-bikes on shared paths. “It’s important to emphasise the word ‘shared’. Shared paths are exactly that. Therefore, we need to make sure we are slowing down and being respectful and inclusive of all other users.”

Council’s digital, social and outdoor campaign will include signage on shared paths detailing tips for safe behaviour.