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What Is Speed-Pedelecs’ Best Place in Traffic?

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THE HAGUE, the Netherlands – Should speed-pedelecs ride on cycle paths like any other cyclist or on regular city roads alongside cars? Due to new EU legislation, which was implemented last January, speed-pedelecs are no longer categorized as bicycles but as mopeds. In the Netherlands this means that they should ride on roads in urban areas. But how safe is that? 

What Is Speed-Pedelecs’ Best Place in Traffic?
SWOV study showed that speed-pedelec riders when commuting have an average speed of 32 km/h. – Photo Bike Europe

The Dutch institute for road safety research SWOV studied the effects of the new speed pedelec place on roads. Whether people should ride their speed-pedelec on the road or a cycle path is a matter of national legislation and has not been regulated Europe wide. Just like the issues of wearing a helmet or a mandatory insurance, the place in traffic of speed-pedelecs is a matter of usage and not subject to technical regulations. How confusing these regulations all are became obvious during the Information Meeting organized at Eurobike by LEVA-EU and this trade journal.

Feeling unsafe on the road

The study of the institute for road safety research SWOV shows that there are major differences between speed pedelec riders. The ‘one and only speed-pedelec rider’ cannot be characterized. For example, on the road they ride significantly faster (on average 32 km/h) than on a cycle path (29 km/h). Participants in the study often felt unsafe on the road, while the researchers also observed issues of free flow of traffic and expressions of irritation among car and truck drivers.

Driving behaviour of speed pedelec riders

The SWOV study was conducted by continuously observing the driving behavior of a number of speed-pedelec riders as well as other road users in daily traffic. All participants in this study used their speed-pedelec for commuting. The bike was equipped with two cameras with built-in GPS and accelerometer to register driving behavior, road position, speed and traffic conditions.

The researchers conclude that despite riders’ support for the helmet obligation, it remains a major challenge to safely integrate the speed pedelec in Dutch road traffic.

The full report (in Dutch only) can be downloaded here: https://www.swov.nl/publicatie/speed-pedelecs-op-de-rijbaan-observatieonderzoek

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