A 15-year-old Bendite died on Saturday after being hit by a minivan in northeast Bend. The collision happened on NE Highway 20 and Dean Swift Road around 4:30 pm, when a blue Dodge Caravan turned right onto the highway and hit the teen, who was riding on a e-bike with a passenger on the back.
The bike was traveling westbound on the sidewalk on the eastbound section of Hwy 20, and the teenager wasn't wearing a helmet. The teen suffered life-threatening injuries, and a Bend Fire medical team transported them away from the site but were unable to save them. A Bend Police Department spokesperson said the passenger wasn't harmed. The Oregon Department of Transportation closed off a section of the highway for about half an hour while the BPD's crash reconstruction team investigated the crash. The driver cooperated with police and wasn't charged or cited, but the BPD said the investigation is ongoing.
Earlier this month, the City of Bend and BPD shared rules for using e-bikes in the city. Bend follows Oregon state laws on e-bikes, which state people must be 16 years old to ride and that e-bikes can't go faster than 20 miles per hour without pedal assist. Additionally, cyclists younger than 16 are required to wear a helmet. Public officials responded to the crash by calling for safer cycling infrastructure and clearer rules for e-bikes.
"Other cities have figured out how to prevent these tragedies. I'm working towards making sure Bend figures it out too," Ariel Mendez, a Bend City Councilor, wrote in a tweet.
State Representative Emerson Levy wrote that she often gets messages from people concerned about e-bike safety and said there needs to be safe paths for cyclists. Levy and Bend Mayor Pro Tem Megan Perkins said they've discussed hosting an educational event or roundtable about e-bike safety.
"We need to create more awareness around e-bike safety and get information out to families — I'm dedicated to working on this issue," Levy wrote.
The modern electric bike debuted at the end of the 20th Century but has exploded in popularity over the past few years. Americans bought over 1 million e-bikes in 2022, compared to just 287,000 in 2019. As e-bikes became more popular, more regulations have come down upon them from the state. In 2020, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management added e-bikes to its off-road vehicle regulations after years of considering them less-powerful motorcycles and started allowing local land managers to make decisions on which e-bikes are allowed on trails.