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Peter David Katonin
Fake e-bike unmasked in pedestrian death

A so-called e-bike that crashed into a pedestrian who later died was producing 500 watts of power and should have been registered as a motor bike.

At the time of the crash in July 2015, the 'bike' was travelling along a footpath on Point Nepean Road in Rye on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula.

Albert Dean May, 86, of Mt Martha, was exiting a shop when struck by the "e-bike" ridden by Peter Katonin.

Katonin, who was under licence suspension at the time, received a two year jail sentence after pleading guilty to dangerous driving causing death.

The case was reported by the Victorian Coroner who has recommended changes to the laws applying to electrically assisted bicycles.

The scooter-type of e-bike involved in the crash has long been of concern to Bicycle Network because it is effectively a motorcycle—although it has pedals, it can be ridden via a throttle grip with the pedals never used.

This is a loophole that threatens the reputation of proper e-bikes as a valid mode of travel.

What the Coroner has brought to light is that although such e-bikes are legally limited to 200 watts of power, when tested the bike involved in the crash was pumping out 500 watts.

And it is not the only one. Many e-bikes that are supposed to be legally limited to 200 or 250 watts have been tampered with to produced much higher power.

As well, the speed limiter that is supposed to restrict power assistance to speeds under 25km/h has also been tampered with on many e-bikes.

What we have as a consequence is motorcycles—that require registration and a licensed rider— masquerading as bicycles.

In her report, Coroner Audrey Jamison asked that, "with the aim of improving public health and safety and preventing like deaths” that countermeasures be identified to improve compliance with the laws regarding electric bicycles “including but not limited to establishing how best to detect and prevent people operating high powered electric bicycles without licence or registration as if they were power assisted pedal bicycles.”

She asked that this issue be addressed by the Vehicle Safety Standards Bureau, Victoria Police, VicRoads and Bicycle Industries Australia.

However, this is a national issue as the e-bike rules are national rules.

There was optimism several years ago when Australia decided to adopt the European Pedelec standards for e-bikes, standards that ensured that e-bikes and normal bikes could happily co-exist in the same lanes (Pedelec e-bikes have to be pedalled for electric assist to work.)

But the move was derailed when the government was lobbied to also retain the old standard: now we have both the new modern standard, as well as the old, dangerous standard that permits throttled controlled e-bikes.

The result is a loophole you can drive a bullock dray through. Throttled controlled bikes with questionable power output are springing up everywhere, especially in the food delivery sector.

Bicycle Network is calling for the following changes:

  • Only e-bikes that meet the Pedelec standard and require the rider to pedal be classified as bicycles. Throttle controlled bikes that you don’t have to pedal should be subject to a different set of rules.
  • In some circumstances throttle controlled bikes ridden by emergency services and people with a disability be treated as bicycles.
  • Electrically assisted cargo bikes that require pedaling still be regarded as bicycles up to 350 watts.
  • Adoption of the new tamper-proof requirements that now apply in Europe.

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