Traffic safety of electric bicycles: a naturalistic cycling study

The number of electric bicycles has increased in recent years and continues to increase both in Germany and elsewhere. For example, 410,000 electric bicycles were sold in Germany in 2013. The growing number of electric bicycles and the possibility of higher speeds give rise to concerns about road safety, in particular the risk of crashes and accidents.

Consequently, German Insurers Accident Research (UDV) and Chemnitz University of Technology carried out a large-scale naturalistic cycling study to investigate the vehicle usage, speed and road safety of users of electric bicycles in Germany. Three groups were compared: riders of pedelecs, s-pedelecs and conventional bicycles.

A field study approach was selected to collect cycling data in a realistic yet controlled setting. More specifically, they took a naturalistic approach: the participants’ behavior was recorded during their daily life as unobtrusively as possible. For this purpose, they developed a data acquisition system (DAS) with video cameras and different sensors which were fitted on the participants bikes.

There were a total of 90 participants. 49 of them were pedelec users, 10 were s-pedelec users, and 31 were ordinary cyclists. Each participant was observed for a period of four weeks riding their own bike. In addition, participants were required to fill in a travel diary for one week to record all journeys, not just those for which they used their bike.

The comparison of conventional bicycles, on one hand, with pedelecs and s-pedelecs, on the other hand, shows that the latter are not less safe than bicycles  or associated with different risks. The potentially higher speeds of pedelecs are used mainly by s-pedelec users. Pedelec users use the motor assistance primarily for convenience.

For the report, click here: http://udv.de/en/traffic-participants/cyclists/vehicles/pedelecs/traffic-safety-electric-bicycles

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