Silent killers stalk pedestrians
Silent killers stalk pedestrians

Silent killers stalk pedestrians

In London, Sakine Cihan started crossing a road near her home — but never made it to the other side because a man riding a bicycle crashed into her.

She didn’t see or hear it coming, London’s Mail on Sunday reports.

As the 56-year-old woman, lay injured, the cyclist fled the scene.

Two weeks after the accident, she died.

What makes it unusual is that she is the first person in the UK to have been hit and killed by an electric bicycle, now referred to in some circles as ‘the silent killer.’

The number of pedestrians killed or seriously hurt by cyclists in Britain has doubled in the past decade.

Silent and fast, the new machines — known as e-bikes — are attracting growing controversy as sales in Britain soar.

Critics say they are little more than unlicensed motorcycles, capable of being modified to reach speeds of 50km/h or more, and a great danger to road users and pedestrians alike.

Billed as suitable for young and old, bikes powered by electric motors are taking the market by storm.

Sales more than doubled from 2016 to 2017, and there is every indication this year’s sales will be greater still, with an e-bike bonanza expected at Christmas.

Costing upwards of $725 in Aussie dollars, they are already reckoned to account for more than 12 percent of the market. A further 2.5 million sales are expected in the coming 12 months.

Because they have pedals and an electric motor, they can be used as normal bikes, with the motor switched off, or ridden just like mopeds with no pedalling at all.

Now the famous are also embracing them.

Simon Cowell has reportedly splashed out on no fewer than seven e-bikes at a cost of about $110,000 so he can cycle to and from work, presumably using a different one for each day of the week, and Olympic gold-medal winning track cyclist Victoria Pendleton recently launched her own e-bike brand.

But beneath the healthy sales projections, the smiling faces of celebrities, and claims of ecological benefits and congestion-slashing, the rise of the e-bike is potentially bad news for UK streets.

In China, the US, Holland and Israel, where e-bikes have really taken hold, they have brought mayhem and a growing toll of injury and death.

New York has been forced to crack down on lawless riders.

“What people have seen is absolutely unacceptable,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

“Electronic bicycles going the wrong way down streets, weaving in and out of traffic, ignoring traffic signals, sometimes going up on sidewalks.

“If a regular bicycle does that — that’s a problem — but an electronic bicycle, is so much faster. It creates a real danger.”

In Holland, one of the most cycle-friendly nations on Earth, e-bikes now make up a third of all sales, a trend accompanied by a near doubling of cycling fatalities over the past year.

Safety experts say part of the danger lies in the weight of the new machines, which — with a battery, a motor and a sturdy frame — can cause significant damage.

A new giant breed of electric delivery bikes now on the streets of British cities, equipped with heavy panniers at the front and the rear, looks particularly threatening.

But there are other problems, too, as it seems pedestrians and other road users are confused by the silence and high speeds reached by e-bikes.

The profile of the riders is another risk factor, as many are drawn to electric bikes precisely because they are vulnerable, inexperienced or elderly.

In Holland, 38 people were killed riding electric bikes in 2017, 31 of them over the age of 65.

There’s another risk too: E-bikes can be modified to reach speeds of 50km/h — potentially lethal for any pedestrian who gets in their way.

Simple-to-fit performance kits for e-bikes are freely available for sale on the internet and in some shops. Plug-in attachments trick the computerised speed sensors on the bike, and over-ride the software restricting them to 25km/h — the legal limit for an electric bicycle.

It’s illegal to use these modified machines on the road, but suppliers have no qualms about selling the equipment.

“Are you fed up with the power cutting off when you reach the speed limit?” one asks on its website.

“We are the only UK suppliers of the Bosch tuning dongle that takes away the speed cut-off restriction and allows you to reach higher speeds on your Bosch 250W or 350W e-bike system.”

One chap, jogging in Hyde Park last week, narrowly avoided being hit by an e-cyclist hurtling along the cycle track at, he estimated, 60km/h.

“The rider was an older man with a little cap on his head and he was bombing along at a staggering speed,” he said.

“When he stopped he told me that he’d had it ‘chipped’ to go fast.”

More than e-bikes, an invasion of American-style electric scooters is now adding to the chaos on England’s roads and pavements.

Sometimes called Go-Peds, they are motorised versions of the foot-powered scooters.

Elsewhere in the world, however, they are a cause of major concern, with injuries and deaths recorded in the US, Holland, Israel and Singapore.

There have been protests in California, where competing hire and sharing schemes have left the pavements littered with dumped scooters, notably in San Francisco and Santa Monica.

Kansas City has banned them from shopping areas. Boston’s Mayor has threatened to impound them.

In Britain they are illegal, banned from roads and pavements, as are Segways and hoverboards. Yet e-scooters are available both for sale and for long-term hire in high street stores.

Users and retailers say the police appear to be turning a blind eye so long as they are ridden safely.

“It’s a grey area,” explained Liam Lawless, who sells Israeli-designed Inokim scooters from a shop in Central London. “I’ve never known of anyone being pulled over by police.”

Whatever the law says, he commutes to work on his e-scooter, claiming: “It’s good for the planet, more practical in big cities than the electric bike, can be carried, and is easy to hop off, if needed.”

At present, in England, Scotland and Wales, you can ride an e-bike if you are just 14 and without the need for a licence of any kind.

It’s extraordinary, bearing in mind that electric bikes in Northern Ireland require a moped licence and must be registered, taxed and insured.

The rapid changes in technology are increasing the pressure to change the archaic laws which govern — or fail to govern — cyclists in Britain.

The man who knocked down Sakine Cihan in Dalston could only be arrested for ‘furious driving’ under the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act.

He is yet to be charged.

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