Bicycle and pedelec fatalities in Germany

04 Apr 2016 Accidents
Cyclists are especially vulnerable road users. In Germany in 2014, 396 cyclists were killed in road accidents, which is equivalent to 12% of all 3,377 traffic fatalities. Of all the cyclists killed, 39 (11%) were riding a pedelec.
The vast majority of cyclists killed were elderly riders, with more than half (54%) aged at least 65. Even more striking, at 82%, is the dominance of people aged 65+ among pedelec riders who were killed. Among people aged 44 and below, the statistics show not one single pedelec fatality, but 74 bicycle fatalities (21% of 357 fatalities).

In vogue: Pedelecs

To avoid the stifling traffic jams that clog up our urban regions, an integrated road transport strategy comprising a mix of all modes of transport is necessary. In congested areas plagued by traffic jams, electric bicycles above all are an excellent alternative to cars because they are, on average, faster than cars in urban traffic (up to a distance of ten kilometers) and more ecofriendly at a local level. The number of pedelecs sold in the EU has been increasing for years. Internationally, too, electric bikes are becoming increasingly popular as a means of urban transportation.
But what exactly is a pedelec? A pedelec is a bicycle equipped with an electric motor that assists the rider with pedaling, which makes them much easier and more comfortable to ride than ordinary bicycles. The word “pedelec” is a coinage, made up from the words “pedal electric cycle.” Unlike ordinary bicycles, pedelecs are additionally equipped with a battery, electric motor and control electronics.
A pedelec has to fulfill three conditions: Speed limit, continuous power limit and a support drive for pedaling only. These criteria, which may also change from one country to another, result in different categories of pedelecs. In Germany, these are as follows:
  • Pedelec25: Pedelecs that support speeds of up to 25 km/h are classified as bicycles according to the Road Traffic Act. The support drive must deliver a maximum continuous power of 250 W, which must only become active when the pedals are used. Speeds in excess of 25 km/h are possible and permitted, although in this case all the propulsive power must be generated by the rider themselves. A starting or pushing aid that propels the pedelec up to a speed of 6 km/h – even without pedaling – is permitted. A Pedelec25 can be ridden anywhere a conventional bicycle can be ridden.
  • Pedelec45: Pedelecs that support speeds of up to 45 km/h (“S-Pedelecs”) are a special type of pedelec and can be electrically propelled even at speeds in excess of 25 km/h. Electrical support cuts out at 45 km/h or with a continuous power of 500 W. S-Pedelecs may also be ridden without any input from the rider (i.e. by purely electrical means) up to a speed of 20 km/h. It is important to note that S-Pedelecs require an insurance license plate and a rear-view mirror because they are legally classified as mopeds. In urban areas, S-Pedelecs may not be ridden on cycle paths unless this is explicitly permitted. Outside urban areas, they may be ridden on cycle paths unless this is explicitly forbidden.

Ride safer - wear a helmet

Unlike Pedelec45 riders, Pedelec25 riders are not required to wear a helmet. Nonetheless, studies have shown that pedelecs are generally ridden at higher speeds that conventional bicycles. Even untrained riders can, for example, quickly attain speeds of 25 km/h again after stopping at a stoplight. In addition, even pedelec riders who are not especially fit can ride at a steady 25 km/h; even uphill, speeds of 20 km/h and more are possible. The problem is that most road users perceive pedelecs as bicycles and, as such, as a generally low-speed mode of transport. Theoretically, therefore, the likelihood of pedelec riders finding themselves in critical traffic situations would seem higher. Since accidents at higher speeds result in more serious injuries, DEKRA explicitly recommends the wearing of a helmet.