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Dutch analysis suggests electric bicycles themselves are not a cause of rider fatality increase

140 days ago

3 minutes

Source: CROW

Groningen & Utrecht University have worked with the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management to study any potential links between e-bike users vs conventional bicycle riders, and number of accidents.

It has been reported that the number of traffic fatalities per million e-bike owners is estimated to be twice as high as fatalities per million non-electric bicycle owners. However, the universities and ministry researchers have looked at fatality data differently, concluding that owning an e-bike does not cause an increase in cycling-related deaths, and that a greater fatality risk can be attributed to rider age and distance of travel.

Accident data on age, gender and exposure was analysed from 2018 to 2021. From this, researchers noticed that the risk of a cycling fatality increased for cyclists older than 80 years of age, and this statistic was even higher for cyclists in this age group who rode a non-electric bike. The study implies that policies on road safety shouldn’t focus on bicycle category, but should be directed toward preventing accidents for all ages.

Figure: number of cycling deaths per billion kilometers in the Netherlands from 2018 to 2021, divided into age and gender (Source: Westerhuis et. al, 2024 ). 

By looking at the data, researchers explain that e-bike fatalities do occur more in older age groups because they tend to be more vulnerable, and more likely to be seriously injured. Also when riders travel longer distances on e-bikes, they are more exposed to accidents, since people travel more kilometres per trip on average on e-bikes than they would on a conventional bicycle. The researchers identified that the data indicates that e-bikes do not cause a rise in accidents, and conclude that no connection has so far been made between a higher cycling speed and travel incidents.

The scientists also conclude that their analysis does not allow causal connections to be established, with their results being indicative. They explain that in theory, further experiments could establish a causal link between traffic fatalities and e-bicycles, with effects being measured before and after research. But in the context of traffic accidents, a research design like that would be too unrealistic because it would result in too few accidents to make a valid statement, so looking at accident statistics after they’ve occurred is the best option in these circumstance.

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