There’s been much discussion about making the nation’s roads safer for all cyclists. A series of accidents and resulting campaigns has put it at the forefront of public debate all Autumn. At 50cycles we have thousands of customers to call on for their opinions so we asked them to take part in a survey concerned with one central questions: are electric bikes safer to ride than normal bikes? The results have been highly positive. A clear majority say that electric cycling is safer than traditional pedal cycling, with over 80% agreeing that using an electric bicycle is at least as safe, 53% saying safer plus a further 9% admitting that they would not cycle at all if it weren’t for their electric bike. We also asked why it’s safer and a number of reasons came up again and again. The 50cycles electric bike safety survey is still running (you can take part here) but here are the top 6 reasons people gave in response to the question “If you do believe riding an electric bicycle is safer than riding a pedal cycle, why do you think that is?”
1.) Get Out Of, And Stay Out Of, Trouble
We’ve long said “power makes cycling make sense” at 50cycles so it’s been interesting to see how riders say this works in practice. Here are a selection of comments about how extra power will get you out of tight spots and keep you out of harm’s way throughout your ride.
“Manoeuvrability from 0-10mph is the key to safety. Most accidents I see are caused in those few moments when cyclists try to move off or around obstacles.” “Accelarate out of danger, as Spitfire pilots used to say” “Well it’s much faster at getting away from lights and when I’m knackered it helps me get to my destination in one piece. Best bike I’ve ever bought.” “The assistance given by the motor allows me to keep up with city traffic so they are less likey to overtake me and cut me off” “You can stop and start with the rest of the traffic and a strong cyclist on an electric bicycle can be faster off the mark than many other vehicle users.” “Electric bikes are quicker from a standstill, even for weak cyclists. Many people on normal bicycles hate to stop because they lose all their momentum and need a big effort to get going again and this often means they do not stop when they should. I have observed many people putting themselves at risk because of this.” “Faster journey = less chance to have an accident!” “You spend less time in dangerous spots like uphill bends and junctions”
2.) Electric Bikes are Built to be Safer
“Quality electric bike are designed to higher standards and have better brakes and lights” is how one respondent put it. A good electric bike, built to European standards, will always have great front and rear lights, efficient reflectors plus brakes that are up to the task of stopping a faster, heavier bike. As well as having extraordinarily bright headlamps, Kalkhoff Impulse bikes even come with a unique rear lighting system that brightens when braking. These things all come in useful on Britain’s busy roads.
“Better lighting and mirrors than most non electric bikes.” “The Magura hydraulic brakes on my Kalkhoff are very good. They saved me from a collision when a motorist overtook me when I was travelling down a steep hill at 25 – 30mph. The motorist then cut in sharply and braked right in front of me, so that he could stop outside his house. I was able to stop with the very powerful brakes and avoid a certain collision. Had I been on my Giant pushbike (none hydraulic brakes) I would have hit the car.” “I was cycling my electric bike when a car pulled across me. I had to slam on the brakes and the bike came to a controlled halt really quickly. If I’d been on a normal pedal bike I would definitely gone over the handle bars and probably hit the car. So I feel the electric bike is a lot safer.”
3.) Road Presence and Stability
The weight of an electric bike is sometimes seen as a disadvantage as they almost all weigh in at 20kg or more due to motor, battery and heavy-duty frame. But unless you plan to carry your bike everywhere rather than ride it, the added heft of an electric bike actually works in your favour.
“The weight and stability is better than a pedal cycle and best acceleration at roundabouts.” “Difficult to put a finger on it, but the bike feels more solid and secure than my old pedal cycle.” “Electric bike feels much more stable possibly because heavier, especially on busy roads with traffic passing. It’s actually bigger and more impressive than most pedal cycles.” “In traffic it feels like a real vehicle and the access to power means no dangerous hesitations”
4.) Banish Wobble; Ride with Confidence
Wobble. It’s the bane of cyclists, apparently, and the lack of wobble when setting off on your ride, when tackling a hill or pulling away from a junction was one of the main reasons people told us their electric bike feels safer.
“Less wobble on hills. more matching speed of oncoming traffic. Less tired on longer rides. Much more efficient disc brakes.” “I feel more confident and able to ride ‘assertively’.” “I find it more stable, due to frame design, and for hill climbing I don’t wobble around any more!” “1. The startup boost, especially on hill starts, eliminates that dangerous wobble period. 2. The extra weight gives more stability. 3. Wider tyres reduce road groove following. 4. Power on hills prevents zig zagging and awkward gear change fumbling. 5. The overall stability of an e-bike, well mine anyway, gives confidence when riding in traffic.” “The extra power gives confidence manoeuvring in traffic, especially uphill when otherwise I might tend to wobble (or at least, I worry I might wobble)” “The safety angle is paramount in this day and age and that comes with the knowledge that you won’t feel fatigued and start to ‘wobble’ all over the place because you are past your comfort zone and a danger on the road. The Electric Bike just gives you so much confidence and that in turn makes you a safer rider. Love them!!”
5.) Avoid Fatigue and Maintain Concentration
With your electric bike doing its fair share (and more) of the work of getting you around swiftly and safely, you’re free to keep an eye on the traffic, admire the view or take evasive action if something happens. Cycling electrically means you can complete your journey with due care and attention, whatever the terrain or however far you’ve travelled. That has to be safer, as well as more enjoyable.
“As a 73 year old a great deal of effort is used in pedaling and I feel more alert with the assistance of an electric bike” “If your putting all your effort into making forward motion, you can’t be fully aware of what’s going on around you. Assisted riding gives you the chance to look at you surroundings and potential hazards.” “I can ride more upright presenting a bigger reflective target to other vehicles”
6.) The Wisdom of Age
Several people who completed our survery mentioned that electric bike riders tend to be older than the average cyclist (whoever he or she is) and that this alone helps make electric bikes safer.
“Rather than the bike, I think it is an age thing. We all behave more responsibly and wiser as we get older.” “The speed achievable by elderly riders is higher than riding unaided, less risk of being hit by an incompetent driver.”
But There Was One Risk that Comes with Electric Cycling that was Mentioned Several Times:
“I find that vehicles waiting to turn on to my road are inclined to pull out unsafely when I approach because they think “Bicycle – slow – I’ve got plenty of time.” I have had to brake suddenly on more than one occasion in these circumstances. Drivers don’t always pause to estimate the speed of an approaching bike.”
Making yourself more visible, making eye contact if possible with other road users, is a good way to ensure that no-one pulls out in front of you like this. Perhaps electric cyclists should adopt a new way to show that they’re riding a bike that is faster than usual – blue hi-viz? A scrolling display saying “This is electric… I’m faster than you think!”? Or simply old-fashioned yelling and gesticulating will get the job done. To be reproduced only with written permission of the author, who must be credited by name in any reproduction with reference to my website, www.50cycles.com. © Tim Snaith, 50cycles Ltd, 2013
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