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Are the e-bikes more dangerous than traditional bicycles?



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Abstract—This paper deals with the problematic of road safety
of e-bike in comparison with traditional bicycles in the Slovak
republic. In the paper is examined the first pilot study in
Slovakia focused on the comparison between traditional bicycle
and e-bike in naturalistic approach but also from the perspective
of users. Because the rate of e-bike is in Slovakia lower than in
other countries, for instance, in Germany, or in the Netherlands,
we have decided to use the analysis and test the comparison in
our condition. In the study was used small representative sample
due to limited ownership of e-bike. First the speed of these two
types of bicycles has been compared. Second the user experience
had to report if they how they have perceived the ride on the e-
bike form the perspective of the road safety. The additional
factors or parameters which was reported, was issue regarding
the quality of the road surface which had a significant effect to
the perceiving the comfort or discomfort on the e-bike.
Index Terms—bicycle, comparison, e-bike, safety, speed
HE new form of mobility in the urban environment face
to the new mobility services or new advanced updating of
vehicles or means of transport that are presented. In the field
of nonmotorized transport we can see that the popularity of
cycling and especially the bicycle as the means of individual
transport instead of car. But the new technology as using the
electric engine to help cyclists led to the popularity of electric
bicycles (e-bikes or pedelecs). Study [8] proved the
advantages of shorten arrival time of e-bike thank bicycles.
The transport mode, which is in favor of sustainable mobility
have been popular also in various countries [4]. This is
supported also by subsidizing of purchasing e-bikes. We have
to distinguish between electric bicycles that provide support
up to 45 km/h (so called Speed-pedelecs/S-pedelecs) and
25 km/h (e-bike/pedelecs). Some studies [7] already proved
the main feature why an e-bike so popular. Nowadays there is
the difference in usage of e-bikes or pedelecs in Europe. We
can see the massive increasing trend in West European
countries, leading by Netherlands where the selling of e-bikes
and pedelecs overcame for the first time the selling of
traditional bicycles. According the for the first
Marian Gogola., University of Zilina, faculty of Operation and Economics
of Transport and Communications, Department of Road and Urban Transport,
Univerzitna 8215/1,01026 Zilina, Slovakia (e-mail:
time in 2015 e-bike sales accounted for more than 50% of the
total turnover reached with the sale of new bicycles. A big 514
million euro representing 57% of all bike sales was made with
electric bicycles. The trend of selling e-bikes in the EU shows
the Table 1. We can see that for instance the Slovakia is there
missing mainly due the low rate of selling e-bikes.
Source: [12]
Despite the advantages ages as the speed and from this
resulting the reducing of travel time, the using of e-bike has
also disadvantages. The basic differs shows naturalistic study,
i.e [1]. For instance, the evidence from Netherlands warns on
the serious and fatal injuries mostly of elderly people over 60
years. This fact shows that the using the e-bike or pedelecs of
elderly people can lead to one side to the easy riding, but on
the other hand there is higher probability of safety risk
resulted from the uncontrolled of faster bicycles. Some studies
[3] pointed on the individual level factors related to the safety.
For instance, higher age (>60 years) and female gender
decreased perceived safety. The other side approach was
tested in study [8] where various groups use e-bike.
In addition to the assessment of differences in mean speed,
we analyzed to what extent our cyclists travelled at a higher
speed. For this purpose, the distance covered at speeds above
20 km/h, 25 km/h and 30 km/h was related to the total cycling
distance of each group (see Fig. 2). As expected, S-pedelec
riders covered a much higher proportion of their overall
Are the e-bikes more dangerous than traditional
Marian Gogola, University of Zilina
mileage at the higher speed levels. More than 80% of their
total cycling distance was completed at a speed of 20 km/h or
above, and still 34% with a speed of 30 km/h or higher. The
very similar conclusion was identified also in [2].
Study [3] examined the correlation between incident type
and bicycle type. They identified that there are some
dangerous situations which can be related to the type of e-bike
(e.g., front-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive, mid drive) or quality
as indicated by price. But the study was unable to detect any
relationship between the most frequent incident category and
either e-bike type or price, which suggests that road user
factors are more relevant to incident involvement than e-bike
The other study [5] compared crashes on e-bikes and
traditional bicycles. The study analyzed the sources from
China and Netherlands. In the case of China, study found that
e-bike user injuries are more severe than pedal bike riders and
that the injuries are increasing concurrently with e-bike sales .
There is also evidence, that in 2013, almost one in ten road
traffic fatalities were e-bike riders, but e-bike crashes were
often found to be due to actions by the counterpart driver and
not the e-bike rider.
On the contrary the data from Netherlands analyzed hospital
data for cyclists who had crashed on a pedal bike compared to
an e-bike and found there was no significant difference in
crash outcome. That is, e-bike riders and pedal bike riders had
similar injury outcomes. In Australia, a survey of e-bike safety
related incidents found that half of the incidents could have
occurred on any bike type (e.g. car dooring, intoxicated
cyclist). The road/path surface was a factor in one in five
crashes and while these too may be considered typical of any
bike crash, comments from the e-bike riders suggested that
they may have been travelling too fast for the conditions.
The study found out that lack of riding experience may have
been a factor or different riding skills may be required for safe
e-bike riding. Of the crashes experienced, a quarter of people
reported the e-bike itself was a contributing factor (e.g. rider
error including unintentional throttle/hand grip power
engagement, destabilizing power surges, fall due to heavy bike
or loss of balance or mechanical failure typically related to
There are also interesting findings in road safety
considering the e-bike. Because the e-bike is popular in some
of countries more and it is not popular in same volume as for
instance, in Netherlands, this paper was analyzing what are the
safety results from e-bike in particular countries.
For instance, in the Netherlands since 2014, 79 cyclists on
e-bikes have passed away after being involved in a traffic
accident. In total, 629 people died in road accidents last year,
with 189 being cyclists and 28 of these e-bike cyclists. This
year the numbers are expected to grow. Accidents are
especially prevalent amongst the elderly, with 87 percent of
road casualties involving e-bike cyclists aged 60 or above. The
ageing population is staying mobile for longer, however, this
does not mean that they still possess the skills needed to
operate an e-bike. [13]
For instance, in Switzerland [10] the fatalities with e-bike
(6) had overcame the fatalities of bicycle (1) in group of 40
years old and more.
We can see, that Germany is leading country with selling
the e-bikes. In the field of traffic safety and causalities, we can
see the statistics in Table 2.
From the German evidence we can see the big share of
killed people in the group of 65+ using by pedelec/e-bike, but
mainly in non-urban areas. Totally in Germany in 2014, 396
cyclists were killed in road accidents, which is equivalent to
12% of all 3,377 traffic fatalities. Of all the cyclists killed, 39
(11%) were riding a pedelec. [14]
The pilot case study was conducted in the city of Zilina,
where the comparison between the speed and safety
observation was done by e-bike rides.
Total only 7 riders had reported the experiences with e-bike.
We used two e-bikes that are suitable for urban cycling. Low
rate corresponds to the low penetration of electric bicycles in
the Slovak market. The users just used the e-bikes with
limitation to 25 km/h. There were 6 men and only 1 woman.
The cyclists were asked to provide the trip record if they were
using the some tracking application that is allowing this
The users should record their common travel journey first
with bicycle than with e-bike. The analysis provided us
following results.
The increased travel speed was in range from 6 - 10 km /
hours. The highest difference between bicycle and pedelec
was 12 km. There was observed 1 case of speed results when
the bicycle was faster than using e-bike. The e-bike in this
case was the city e-bike and the bicycle was the racing bicycle
used by man which is sport cycling oriented.
Fig. 1. T
In the first, so called naturalistic approach we have focused
on the comparison of speed. We can see the results in Fig.1
where the average speed is varied among cyclists, but with
using the e-bike the speed results don’t have such variance. It
is caused mainly by the fact that the e-bike is tending to keep
speed around 25 km/h.
Dealing with safety.
In order to evaluate also the riders perception, the riders were
asked to identify and evaluate the ride on the e-bike. It was
done by self reporting of the perceiving the safety while riding
the e-bike. The all persons except man 60+ and woman whose
referred some not safety issues during the rides, reported the
riding as safe. But moreover all of them have reported the
discomfort during riding mainly due to the riding on the
pavement of road or cycle paths with bad quality.
All of persons also reported something like making attention
to the maneuvers with e-bike for instance when approaching to
the junction or place with not good view. This reported mainly
by person whose don’t own e-bike. This can be confirmed by
study [6] where the age-related differences in cycling
performance may have to be taken into account when
designing interventions to support cycling safety. However,
the challenge remains to determine whether an e-bike affects
the risk of crashing as compared to conventional bicycles, and
whether any increase in bicycle crashes should be attributed to
population aging and/or to the bicycle characteristics.
In this pilot study for the first time in the condition of
Slovakia the comparison between traditional and e-bike was
done. The main goal was identified if the feature of e-bike
represents the most likely feature of accident. We can say that
this related mainly due the fact of higher speed in comparison
of slower speed of a traditional bicycle. The ironic finding
represents that on one side the users reported the comfort
during the pedalling and reaching destination very quickly, but
on the other side they have also reported the discomfort
resulted mainly from the bad state of art of road surface.
The general conclusion which was identified by this study
can be summed as followed:
the higher speed of e-bike can lead to dangerous
situation on the road,
there is the different level of perceiving the safety
from less and more experienced e-bike users in the
context of ability to ride a e-bike
special attention should be pay at older people who
are riding the e-bike for the reason of assisted
We can say that this conclusion need to be verified on the
bigger sample of e-bike users, but as it was mentioned, there is
still small amount of users e-bike in Slovakia. But maybe from
the perspective of business industry, represented mainly by
bicycle shops, there can be recommended to warn the potential
buyers on the risk resulted from the higher speed riding. We
can consider this study as the first study which focused on this
topic in the condition of Slovak republic. There is an aim to
collect the data in the long term period contacting the e-bike
users in Slovakia and compare it with the results from abroad.
As conclusion, we can say that the most important factors that
can take e-bike over traditional bike in the issue of road safety
is speed but also this goes hand in hand with the quality of
cycling infrastructure or infrastructure in general.
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Marian Gogola was born in Zilina 1979. He received the
master in Road transport -Transportation engineering in 2003
and the PHD in 2007. From 2006 to 2014 he was the assistant
the Department of Road and Urban Transport. Since 2014 he
is associated professor and Head of Transportation
engineering and technics section. His research is focused on
the transport planning, public transport and non motorized
transport. He acts also in NGO MULICA dealing with
promotion of the nonmotorized transport in the city of Zilina.
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In recent years, the number of electric bicycles on European, American and especially Chinese roads has increased substantially. Today, 11% of all bicycles sold in Germany are e-bikes. Given their potential to reach higher maximum speeds, concerns have been raised about a possible increase in crash risk associated with e-bike use. However, as of now, it is unclear if and how often the potentially higher speed is actually reached in everyday cycling. As part of the German Naturalistic Cycling Study we measured and compared the speed of three bicycle types (conventional bicycles, pedelecs (pedalling supported up to 25. km/h), S-pedelecs (pedalling supported up to 45. km/h)) under naturalistic conditions. Ninety participants, divided in three age groups, took part in our study. Participants used their own bikes or e-bikes. The bicycles were equipped with a data acquisition system, which included sensors to record speed and distance, as well as two cameras. Data was collected over a period of four weeks for each participant. Nearly 17,000. km of cycling were recorded in total. The statistical analysis revealed significant differences in mean speed between all three bicycle types. Pedelec riders were, on average, 2. km/h faster than cyclists. S-pedelec speed was even 9. km/h higher. A similar pattern was also found when analysing free flow conditions and uphill or downhill cycling separately. The highest speed was measured on carriageways and bicycle infrastructure, regardless of bicycle type. Participants aged over 65. years rode significantly slower than younger participants. Data on acceleration from standstill largely confirm the differences between bicycle types and age groups. The results show that electric bicycles indeed reach higher speeds than conventional bicycles regularly. Although it is unclear if this also leads to an increase in crash risk, it can be assumed that the consequences of a crash might be, on average, more severe.
As electric bicycles (e-bikes) have emerged as a new transportation mode, their role in transportation systems and their impact on users have become important issues for policy makers and engineers. Little safety-related research has been conducted in North America or Europe because of their relatively small numbers. This work describes the results of a naturalistic GPS-based safety study between regular bicycle (i.e., standard bicycle) and e-bike riders in the context of a unique bikesharing system that allows comparisons between instrumented bike technologies. We focus on rider safety behavior under four situations: (1) riding in the correct direction on directional roadway segments, (2) speed on on-road and shared use paths, (3) stopping behavior at stop-controlled intersections, and (4) stopping behavior at signalized intersections. We find that, with few exceptions, riders of e-bike behave very similarly to riders of bicycles. Violation rates were very high for both vehicles. Riders of regular bicycles and e-bikes both ride wrong-way on 45% and 44% of segments, respectively. We find that average on-road speeds of e-bike riders (13.3kph) were higher than regular bicyclists (10.4kph) but shared use path (greenway) speeds of e-bike riders (11.0kph) were lower than regular bicyclists (12.6kph); both significantly different at >95% confidence. At stop control intersections, both bicycle and e-bike riders violate the stop signs at the similar rate with bicycles violating stop signs at a slightly higher rate at low speed thresholds (∼80% violations at 6kph, 40% violations at 11kph). Bicycles and e-bikes violate traffic signals at similar rates (70% violation rate). These findings suggest that, among the same population of users, e-bike riders exhibit nearly identical safety behavior as regular bike riders and should be regulated in similar ways. Users of both technologies have very high violation rates of traffic control devices and interventions should occur to improve compliance. Copyright © 2015. Published by Elsevier Ltd.
Background: The acceptance and usage of electric bicycles has rapidly increased in Switzerland in the last years. Hence this topic has been addressed by policy makers with the aim to facilitate new transport modes and, moreover, to improve their safety. Methods: Police-recorded accidents of the years 2011 and 2012 involving a total of 504 e-bikers and 871 bicyclists were analysed. National figures were compared with those of a rural and an urban environment. Results: Most e-bikers who were involved in accidents were 40-65 years old. It was found that most e-bikers sustained single accidents and that helmet usage was higher in the investigated rural environment than in the investigated urban area. The evaluation of the injury severity of e-bikers, particularly compared to bicyclists, lead to diverging results. Conclusions: The findings presented in this study are intended to serve as a benchmark since basic information on characteristics of e-bike accidents is provided. With respect to differences between the injury severity of e-bikers and bicyclists to-date no clear statement can be drawn. It is suggested to regularly evaluate e-bike accidents to show trends and/or identify changes.
Cycling was never so easy!
  • P A Plazier
  • Gerd Weitkamp
  • Agnes E Van Den
  • Berg