Lawsuits, layoffs and blown tires: it's been a rough year for Rad Power Bikes

The Seattle-based e-bike company recalls the 30,000 RadWagon 4 E-cargo bikes in use

Radwagon e-cargo bike
(Image credit: Rad Power Bikes)

Affordable e-bike company, Rad Power Bikes, is having a rough year and the hits just keep coming. 

After two rounds of big layoff —totaling 22% of the work staff it started the year with— the Seattle-based company then got hit with two lawsuits and now, is recalling its RadWagon e-cargo bikes in collaboration with the US Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Labelled a "Fall and Crash Hazard," the recall is centered around the RadWagon's rim strips. 

The wheels' rim strip may be misaligned, causing the tube to pop and damage the tire. Additionally, stock tires with a ribbed sidewall can unexpectedly go flat, risking serious injuries from loss of control and/or a potential crash.  

This known problem led Rad Power Bikes to issue a "stop-ride" notice earlier this year. The company is now working with the CPSC to recall the nearly 30,000 units in use. 

At the time of the recall, the firm had received 137 reports of tires blowing out, deflating and separating from the sidewalls. There were eight injuries including reports of arm and wrist fractures, road rash, cuts and bruises. 

This recall involves Rad Power Bikes’s RadWagon 4 Electric Cargo Bikes, which were sold in black, white and orange colorways. The recall also includes any spare RadWagon 4 tires sold separately under the product name Rad Power Bikes by VEE Tire Co.  

If you own any of these products, you should immediately stop using them and contact Rad Power Bikes to schedule a free repair to replace both tires and rim strips. 

RadWagon rim issues demonstrated

The RadWagon rim issue illustrated 

(Image credit: CPSC)

Layoffs and Lawsuits

Riding the pandemic- and climate-related tailwinds, Rad Power Bikes raised an impressive $304 million in 2021 as part of two separate cash infusions to fuel its capital-intensive business.

But in April 2022, Rad Power Bikes laid off 100 of its employees, citing growth strategy and business restructuring. 

"Rad Power Bikes is restructuring to bring more focus to our online and retail stores and expanding our footprint with additional retail locations this year,” a company spokesperson told GeekWire at the time.  “We will be closing the majority of our mobile services business as part of our growth strategy moving forward...With this adjustment, we will be able to continue offering the best e-bikes at the best price, in-store and also online.”

A second round of layoffs followed in July with the company downsizing by another 10 precent, this time citing economic uncertainty and rising operating costs.

Then in August, the parents of a 12-year-old girl who died from injuries sustained after riding on the back of a RadRunner e-bike in 2021 hit  the company with a wrongful death lawsuit.

The parents claim that flaws in the bike’s design made it difficult for riders to slow down and stop as the bike gained speed while going downhill. The lawsuit criticizes  Rad Power Bikes for using disc brakes in conjunction with a quick-release mechanism, which is a "known safety hazard in the bike industry."

The suit further argues that Rad Power Bikes engaged in “inappropriate marketing of e-bikes to children" and that the company failed to “adequately warn about the dangers of children operating e-bikes.”

The RadRunner manual does warn that the bike "is designed for use by persons 18 years old and older." And on its website, Rad Power Bikes describes some of its bikes as suitable only for riders who are 4 feet 10 inches or taller. But the suit claims that these warnings are hard to find.

The e-bike accident occurred on January 31, 2021. The girl, Molly, was riding on the back of a RadRunner e-bike operated by her 11-year-old friend in Los Angeles, Calif. The girls rode up a hill, which the suit claims would have been unrideable for the kids without the aid pf the electric motor. On the way down the bike gained tremendous speed and started shaking. The front wheel began to wobble and the girls lost control and crashed. While the friend sustained only minor injuries, Molly sustained serious brain injuries which eventually led to her death.

A second lawsuit followed in October, when insurance powerhouses, State Farm Fire & Casualty and State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company, announced a joint lawsuit against Rad Power Bikes on behalf of its insured client, Gerald Luff, for property damage due to a fire. 

Filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, the lawsuit alleges that the fire was caused by Luff's malfunctioning Rad Power Bike battery or charger.  

According to the lawsuit, damages were in excess of $250,000. State Farm is coming after Rad Power Bikes alleging design, manufacturing, and component defects; use and/or handling instruction and/or warnings defects; and/or a failure to warn about the design, manufacturing, and/or component defects; and/or proper installation instructions. 

Rad denies the claim, however. 

"We are confident that the evidence, when considered in its totality, will demonstrate that the fire did not originate in a Rad e-bike battery, charger, or any other Rad product," the company told Bicycle Retailer. "We look forward to the opportunity to defend our company and our products in this suit."

Both lawsuits are ongoing. 

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