A Pacific island girl was killed in an electric bike crash. Her parents see a greater danger

Enchanted Way is a small street in the Pacific Palisades with stunning ocean views spread below.

But since their 12-year-old daughter died in an electric bike crash in the building a year and a half ago, Jonathan and Kai Stensapear have avoided the majestic road near their home.

The couple filed a lawsuit this week against Rad Power Bikes, the booming company whose producer Molly Steinsapir was riding down a steep hill in the Enchanted Way with a friend on January 31, 2021. Steinsapir’s friend tried to brake while speeding down the slope, but the bike wouldn’t stop, and instead The girls lost control and were thrown onto concrete, with Molly lying face down, unresponsive, her helmet still on, according to the lawsuit.

“I was walking there. I haven’t been there since,” Jonathan Stensaper, 44, said. “It’s a really nice street with beautiful ocean views. That’s why the girls rode there that day. I don’t know if I avoided it. At first. Now I kind of have it because it brings more and more meaning because I haven’t been there since.”

“I can’t imagine going back to Enchanted Way again,” added Kay, 44. “I can’t even get close to that area.”

Rad Power Bikes declined to comment on the lawsuit and questions about how to ensure that children do not use its adult products.

“The entire Rad Power Bikes team extends its deepest condolences to the Stensapear family on the tragic loss of Molly Stensapear,” Brandy Gonzalez, a Rad Power Bikes spokeswoman, said in a statement.

They were at home a few blocks away when a neighbor called and told them Molly had been in an accident.

Molly Stensapear, center, who died in an e-bike crash at age 12, with her parents, Jonathan and Kay Stensaper, and younger brothers Nathaniel and Ellie.

(Stensapear family)

As they pulled out of their driveway, an ambulance quickly passed, and they followed them to the scene. The couple said they quarreled while driving to Enchanted Way, with Jonathan trying to convince Kay that their daughter might have just broken a bone.

The Steinsapirs couple, who have two sons, Eli and Nathaniel, have lost their daughter. Molly died in the hospital a few weeks later after several brain surgeries. She never regained consciousness. Molly now lives in a May mural that decorates the Pearson Theater, the theater in the Pacific Palisades where she has acted in plays like “Guys and Dolls” and “Peter Pan.”

Time passed and the mist of mourning for the Steinsapirs intensified. They are now targeting the larger issue of children’s e-bike safety specifically at the Seattle-based company where Molly was riding her e-bike.

The use of e-bikes and scooters has skyrocketed across the country and in Los Angeles. Rad Power Bikes alone boasts nearly 500,000 riders on their e-bikes, and is one of several major manufacturers.

With rates of use rising, infections across the country have doubled. The Federal Consumer Product Safety Commission found a steady 70% rise in injuries on e-scooters, e-bikes, and skateboards from 2017 to 2020. The commission reported 71 deaths nationwide during that period.

Bicycle safety in general is becoming a major issue in cities across the country, with activists calling on governments to do more to protect them from cars. Los Angeles has responded with more bike lanes and some protective lanes, but critics say that’s not enough.

As more kids use e-bikes, some communities have taken notice. Laguna Beach, for example, launched an educational program aimed at young adults after officials noticed children were speeding through town.

E-bike enthusiasts argue that the machines are safe if used correctly.

But Steinsapirs feel that not enough is being done to protect children.

“Rad Power Bikes have simply turned a blind eye to the fact that children under 16 and under 18 use their products across the country,” Jonathan said. “They admit that this is inappropriate, but they have shown us that they are not willing to do anything about it.”

The lawsuit notes that Rad Power Bikes — North America’s largest e-bike company, offering certain e-bikes that feature an extra passenger seat — buries the fact that its RadRunner bike should not be operated by people under the age of 18 deep in the buyer’s guide. The warning is listed on page 49 of 57.

Molly Stensapear, center, with her younger brothers Nathaniel and Ellie

Molly Stensapear, center, with her younger brothers Nathaniel and Ellie.

(Jonathan Stensaper)

“Carry your kids,” Rad Power Bikes suggests to parents with a photo of a child on the back seat of an e-bike with an adult.

While the company mostly posts pictures of kids riding in the back seat, an Instagram photo from 2020 shows a young boy sitting in the front seat of a bike alone. When a commenter in the comments suggested that the company do a “baby-size kid,” the company replied, “or a rad-sized child.”

The Rad Power Bikes website also features many reviews from parents touting the fact that their kids, under the age of 10, ride their RadRunner e-bike without adults.

One man wrote, “Can accommodate my 10 and 12 year old daughters riding the very steep dirt road back to my house.”

This is exactly the problem, Steinsapirs argues.

“Part of their appeal is that they take you places you wouldn’t normally go, which includes uphill,” said Olivier Tailo, the attorney who sued the Steinsapirs.

Molly and her friend had ridden all the way up the steep uphill of the Enchanted Way and lost control of the e-bike as they accelerated down.

The use of electric bicycles by minors has been a problem since e-scooters and e-scooters entered the streets. While companies like Lime and Bird require riders to be 18 and hold a driver’s license in order to rent an e-scooter, kids can circumvent the rules by using a parent’s account.

Experts say riding minors isn’t necessarily a problem.

said Sarah Kaufman, a professor who directs New York University’s Rodin Center for Transportation. “E-bikes can be especially useful for someone who commutes from school to work and then commutes home.”

However, Kaufman added that fast e-bikes can be very dangerous for young people like Molly and that the label on the bike stating that it is for adults only can help prevent children from riding.

“You have a dangerous product that is being operated on by children,” Taillieu said.

Custom mural of Molly Stensapear

Mural dedicated to Molly Stensapear.

(Wesley Lapointe/Los Angeles Times)

The Steinsapirs suit also claims potential mechanical issues with the RadRunner bike, saying the “disc brakes” and “quick-release” front wheel mechanism pose a “known safety hazard in the industry.”

Trek Bicycle Corp. recalled 1 million bikes for a disc brake problem in 2015 after three riders were injured — one of whom was paralyzed.

The lawsuit states that the RadRunner’s brake configuration caused the e-bike to “shake” and shake when Molly’s girlfriend pulled the front hand brake.

“I miss my daughter more than anything… They say losing a child is like the worst thing that can happen to you and all I can say is that it’s true. We carry on but it is very difficult.”

– Jonathan Stensaper

Carissa Marsh says her 11-year-old son Rhett was unharmed on July 7 when RadRunner’s front wheel he was riding in Manhattan Beach broke off from the bike, causing him to flip over the handlebars. Marsh said he somehow fell to his feet.

“The bike literally crashed,” she added.

She said the company took no responsibility for the accident and blamed the marshes. Rad Power Bikes did not immediately respond to questions regarding the Rhett incident.

“Rad should be held accountable,” Marsh said. “Stop blaming everyone.”

In another incident in 2019, Coto de Casa resident Jennifer Fitzpatrick crashed after she couldn’t slow her Rad rented e-bike while speeding up a hill at the resort in Pelican Hill, she alleges in a lawsuit. Fitzpatrick, now 57, tried to turn the bike off, but couldn’t, and was thrown off the bike and left shivering and unconscious for a while despite wearing a helmet, a lawsuit filed last year in Orange County.

“I pressed the button over and over again, but [e-bike’s] The motor repeatedly fails to shut down, and [e-bike] She kept increasing the speed, making it impossible for her to slow down,” says the suit.

“It was a horrible accident and I just thought for a split second, ‘Oh my God, this is Jennifer,'” said her husband, Daniel Fitzpatrick, 64. When I look at these kids riding e-bikes, I just imagine if now I’m looking at them the bike flips over and crashes.”

Rad Power Bikes argued in its response to the lawsuit that Jennifer Fitzpatrick “apparently did not use the brakes on the e-bike.”

Daniel Fitzpatrick said he wasn’t sure if his wife had used the brakes.

“Riding a bicycle, electric, motorized, or otherwise is clearly a recreational activity with an inherent risk of harm that cannot be eliminated from the activity without changing the essential nature of the activity.” Rad Power Bikes attorneys wrote in court papers in Fitzpatrick that falling off a bicycle It is an inherent danger in riding it.

Fitzpatrick’s product liability and negligence case is set to go before a jury next year.

“Our experience is not isolated,” Kay Stensaper said.

I miss my daughter more than anything else. “They say losing a child is like the worst thing that can happen to you and all I can say is that it’s true,” said Jonathan Stensaper. “We continue, but it is very difficult.”

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