Worldwide Boom of Electrically Driven Bicycles

Within one decade, the number of electrically driven bicycles in China increased from around 210,000 units (1999) to about 120 million (2009). Due to the locally lacking emission control, many Chinese cities promote E-bicycles. On the other side, there are an increasing number of cities banning the E-bicycles for security reasons. The rate of people being killed by E-bicycles is about twice as high compared to normal bicycles. The safety issue hinders the E-bicycle market in China from growing further. As they generate only little noise, E-cyclists are in danger themselves in mixed traffic and they also endanger pedestrians and other cyclists.

Apart from China and Japan, Europe is the third largest market for E-bicycles. Here, the so-called Pedelecs dominate the market, whose E-drive only offers a pedalling support. The number of sold E-bicycles in Germany and the Netherlands rose from approx. 90,000 (2006) to approx. 275,000 (2009). The relatively forceful acceleration and high permanent speeds combined with restricted space and untrained drivers can lead to conflicts and accidents. 

Increased Accident Risk for E-Bicycles

Some features of E-bicycles present an increased accident risk. Totally unexpected driving attitudes may occur when driving through a bend with a front drive.  It can also be presumed that the high acceleration and the thus achieved high speeds - in particular on narrow bicycle paths - may lead to conflicts and accidents.

As the E-bicycles are not recorded separately by the police in the accident recording sheet, it is not possible to establish investigations into accidents. The MERKUR project’s aim is to establish nevertheless a secure statement on the type and extent of the possible higher risks and their causes by using a wide variety of methods and sources. The types of methods include theoretical analyses and discussions with experts via interviews with E-cyclists to conflict analyses. The following has been established by having identified user requirements and causes of risks:

  • Recommendation for a conflict-reducing adaptation of the ways that bicycle infrastructures are designed and the creation of relevant guidelines.
  • Developing materials for the awareness of E-bicycle-specific risks.
  • Producing a proposal for target group-specific E-bicycle training courses.

The Advantage of Road Safety in Austria

E-vehicles that are legally considered as bicycles are a relatively new phenomenon, enjoying an increasingly larger market acceptance. Introducing new systems with inexperienced users and road users creates increased risks. This is especially applicable when the infrastructure (e.g. bicycle paths) has not been prepared accordingly. The Austrian road safety benefits from a proactive awareness and also from having revised the guidelines.

Promoted with money from the Austrian road safety fund.

Project Dates
ClientAustrian Road Safety Fund (Federal Ministry for Transport, Innovation and Technology)
Project ManagerMag. Reinhard Jellinek
Project PartnerVienna University of Technology - Institute of Transportation
Duration06/2011 – 11/2012