London firefighters are meeting delivery companies and drivers to give them safety advice in a bid to reduce the growing number of e-bike fires that are happening in the capital.
London Fire Brigade is speaking to delivery companies such as Just Eat, Deliveroo and Uber Eats so they can support efforts to get safety messages across to their riders, and firefighters from 102 fire stations are distributing leaflets at restaurants, takeaways and bars.
The delivery driver engagement activity is part of the London Fire Brigade’s recently launched Charge Safe campaign. It aims to help people safely use e-bikes and e-scooters and to inform them of dangers relating to charging, storing and modifying the vehicles and their batteries.
London Fire Brigade deputy commissioner Dom Ellis said: “We are focusing on reaching out to delivery drivers using e-bikes, and the companies that employ them, to reduce the risk of fires.
“We know that there’s been a surge in people ordering food to be delivered to their door. In order for that hot dinner to arrive quickly, it makes sense to employ delivery drivers who can work around the clock, who can hop on an e-bike and get to a pick-up point and doorstep speedily. The benefits for e-bike users are numerous: no fuel costs or emissions. Sadly, there are cons too - we're seeing deadly fire risks all too often at the moment.
“We want to make sure employees who buy an e-bike for work are aware of how to use their e-bikes safely. We’ve attended over 158 e-bike and e-scooter fires from the start of 2022, to the end of March this year. There’s been 78 injuries and some fatalities. There’s no time to waste in making sure that e-bike users know how to protect themselves and loved ones.”
Firefighters have also issued another reminder to Londoners about charging and storing e-bikes and e-scooters safely, after multiple people had to be rescued from two separate fires over the bank holiday weekend.
“Investigators believe a converted e-bike caught fire at the house in Dalston and we understand the bike's batteries were purchased online second-hand,” said Ellis. "The bike was on charge at the time and due to where it was being charged, blocked an escape route and a man had to be rescued by our firefighters via a short extension ladder.
“It is vital that you never block your escape route with anything, including e-bikes and e-scooters. And the only way to be sure of a legal, safe and reliable e-bike is to buy one in complete form, from a trusted and [reputable] retailer.
"Meanwhile, at the incident on Barrow Road, a smoking e-scooter was moved by an occupant from a room to a communal area of the house where the fire then spread. Moving the scooter significantly increased the risk to everyone inside the house and reaffirms our advice which is if you suspect there is a fire involving these types of vehicles, leave it, shut the door, get out and call 999."
So far in 2023, the London Fire Brigade has on average been called to an e-bike or e-scooter fire once every two days – a 60% increase in the rate of these fires compared to the same period last year.
21-year-old Sofia Duarte died on New Year’s Day in a flat fire on Old Kent Road, South Bermondsey. Fire investigators believe the cause of the fire was due to a converted e-bike’s battery bursting into flames in the entrance to the flat she lived in.
The Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) recently urged the public and retailers to avoid e-bike and e-scooter batteries that don't meet UK and EU safety requirements.
The CTSI reports that the number of house fires caused by lithium-ion e-scooter and e-bike batteries in the UK has surged almost 150% over the past year, with many of the fires attributed to conversion kits that can convert a standard bicycle into an e-bike.