symbol of E Bike recharging on street

The mother of a young Portuguese woman who died in London in a fire caused by the explosion of an electric bicycle battery is putting pressure on the British government to tighten up regulations on these devices.

Sofia Duarte, 21, died on January 1, 2023, 10 days before her 22nd birthday, while staying overnight with her boyfriend in an apartment in south London.

According to the London Fire Brigade, the flames spread after the explosion of a lithium battery used in a bicycle modified to be electric, which was being charged in the hallway of the house.

A year on, the family and friends have launched a petition calling on the British government to reinforce the safety of electric bicycles and scooters and their batteries and chargers.
“I thought it was necessary because, as well as helping to make people aware of how dangerous these bikes are, I don’t want the same thing that happened to my daughter to happen again,” Maria Macarro told Lusa.

The petition urges the Office for Products and Safety Standards (OPSS) to implement stricter regulations and standards on fire safety and to strengthen quality controls on lithium-ion batteries.

In particular, it wants the dangers of electric bike conversion kits, batteries and chargers to be urgently investigated so that specific safety standards can be introduced.

The initiative is being supported by the London Fire Brigade, which has run several campaigns to raise awareness of the problem.

According to this organization, in 2022 it had to intervene in 116 fires caused by faulty bicycles and electric scooters, a number of incidents that increased by almost 60% in 2023.

The London Fire Brigade is warning people of the risk posed by cheaper, uncertified parts bought on the internet, such as batteries and chargers.

“Sofia’s death was a tragedy that should never have happened. I am proud to support the tireless campaign by her family and friends to ensure that this tragedy is not repeated,” said the Deputy Mayor of London, Fiona Twycross, in a statement.

The petition has also been praised by the non-profit organization Electrical Safety First, which is working with Labour MP Yvonne Fovargue to introduce a bill in parliament on the issue soon.

The young Portuguese woman was the first fatality in London and the fourth in the UK from fires caused by electric bikes, said Alda Simões, a friend of Sofia Duarte’s who helped launch the campaign.

In the last two years, at least nine people have died in the country, including two children aged 4 and 8, in similar accidents.

On Thursday, family and friends gathered on Sofia Duarte’s 23rd birthday to remember her.

Born in Lisbon, she moved with her mother to the UK when she was nine. When she died, she was a barmaid in a nightclub and aimed to become a manager.

“She was a very strong girl, with a great personality, very cheerful. She liked to enjoy every moment, she was never too tired to go to a party, to be with her friends,” her mother told Lusa.

Maria Macarro hopes that this campaign will result in a law named after her daughter “so that, when these things happen, someone is responsible”.

“My daughter lost her life, she lost everything at the age of 21, and I lost everything too,” she lamented.

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