Electric bicycles have become more and more popular over the past few years, demand having especially ramping up during the pandemic. People turned to e-bikes to avoid public transport, while others long made the switch to the more environmentally friendly mode of transport. Among this uptake, the world’s cycling capital is about to crack down on speedy e-bikes or the protection of its citizens.
Accidents involving electric bicycles have increased over the past year, according to police reports. “It’s not only the people on the bike but people on the bike path who are hit by the bikes that are just going too fast”, said Patrick Beerepoot, a counsellor at an Amsterdam medical rehabilitation centre specialised on people with brain injuries.
The problem is not normal e-bikes, but ever more souped-up bikes that are basically illegal mopeds.Esther van Garderen, Director of Fietsersbond cyclists’ union
Concerned residents and local cyclists’ unions do not blame e-bikes in general, but people going too fast on bike lanes and even modifying their vehicles to be able to reach higher speeds. A recent study conducted by the Dutch government found that the average speed of electric bicycles is about 24 km/h, which is already 3 km/h faster than the average speed of normal bikes, but a quarter of e-bike users go much faster. From an estimated 5 million cyclists on e-bikes, of a total population of 17.8 million people, the study found that young adults are most likely to exceed speed limits.
“Research from the police showed that traffic accidents have increased and as we suspected, e-bikes play a role”, said Elise Moeskops, a councillor from the Amsterdam D66 party. “On the one hand, they are great for the city: more people can cycle to work and that’s fantastic, but we see the speeds are a problem in our infrastructure. We want to look at obligatory helmets for people on e-bikes, manufacturer geofencing so you can’t go faster than 15kph, a maximum speed on the cycling lanes and for e-bikes to go on the roads.”
Traffic safety and safe biking are areas where I really want to break ground in the coming years.Melanie van der Horst, Deputy Mayor for traffic
Amsterdam’s Deputy Mayor for traffic Melanie van der Horst has indicated that the speed limit on 80% of the city’s roads will decrease to 30 km/h this year and the authorities are also researching speed limits for bike lanes. “The growth of electric vehicles means there are huge speed differences on bike lanes and studies show that this creates risks”, she explained.
Manufacturers are siding with authorities on the issue, agreeing that e-bike users should be more careful of the speed they are going at. “We are aware of developments around speed limits for e-bikes, so VanMoof e-bikes can no longer be set to a higher speed from the VanMoof app. We cannot speak for third-party apps”, a spokesperson from the popular brand told the Observer last year.