ZIV presents first comparative study on speed pedelecs in Europe

Berlin, 23 November 2023 | The association for the German bicycle industry (ZIV) has presented the first comparative study on speed pedelecs in Europe. As part of the study, Dutch sustainable mobility consulting company Mobycon analysed the different regulations and experiences with e-bikes capable of speeds up to 45 km/h in Germany, Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands and Switzerland.

The background to the study is the growing popularity of speed pedelecs in many European countries, which is also linked to regulation of their use. Leading experts believe that speed pedelecs can play an important role in the mobility transition. Particularly for commuters, who must cover greater distances, speed pedelecs offer a healthy, environmentally-friendly alternative to cars. «We know from many discussions – including with experts and political decision-makers – that there is a great need for information on speed pedelecs,» says ZIV Managing Director Burkhard Stork. «We’re delighted to now be able to provide an overview of important information on speed pedelecs in a European study and thus gain a comprehensive objective basis for discussions with politicians and important stakeholder groups.» The key questions addressed in the study were: What regulations are speed pedelecs subject to in the countries analysed? Do they have a tangible impact on the accident rates? Where are they safest to ride and what can we learn from other countries about regulating their use?

Overall, the bicycle industry sees tremendous potential for speed pedelecs to offer solutions for sustainable mobility, attract new customer groups and drive technological innovation. The example of Switzerland shows that speed pedelecs are extremely popular if the regulations are user friendly and the infrastructure is good. In terms of sales, speed pedelecs recently achieved a market share of around 20–25% in the Swiss e-bike market. By way of comparison: In Germany, where the regulations for speed pedelecs have been very restrictive to date, speed pedelecs only achieved a market share of 0.5% within the e-bike model group in 2022. This corresponds to sales of 11,000 units (2021: 8,000 units).

Anke Schäffner, who managed preparation of the first speed pedelec study in her role as Head of Policy & Advocacy at ZIV, emphasises the relationship between the benefits of speed pedelecs as an important building block for the mobility transition and the at times limited knowledge and anticipated dangers. A need for information exists here. «So far, we’ve seen only patchy knowledge and prejudices regarding the use of speed pedelecs and the potential dangers both for users themselves and other road users, especially cyclists and pedestrians. The study provides important insights that enable an objective assessment for the first time – also against the backdrop of the experiences and legal regulations in neighbouring European countries.»

The study findings show that the regulation of speed pedelecs in all the countries analysed is caught between the conflicting priorities of encouraging more sustainable, emission-free mobility and protecting pedestrians and conventional bike users. While the vehicle category is standardised throughout the EU (L1 e-B), the approaches to use of the cycling infrastructure, speed limits and access requirements differ greatly from country to country. The study systematically explores the regulations in Germany, Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands and Switzerland and provides clear comparisons between these. It moreover provides an overview of the differences in the regulatory frameworks, anticipated changes and studies and evaluations available. Methodologically, the project team supplemented the results of the desk research with a series of expert interviews.

For the ZIV, the study forms an important basis for positioning and formulating demands with the aim of making the use of speed pedelecs more attractive in Germany.

See below for an overview of the key study findings.
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ZIV – German Bicycle Industry
The ZIV represents the interests of and is a strong voice for the Germany bicycle industry. As an industry association, it brings together and represents around 120 member companies vis-à-vis lawmakers in the EU and Germany, the German government, authorities, media, institutions and organisations. Ninety percent of the bicycles and e-bikes produced in Germany in 2022 were from ZIV member companies, which export two million units every year in addition to sales on the domestic market. The ZIV represents established companies and start-ups, manufacturers and retailers (including importers and wholesalers) as well as players from the entire bicycle ecosystem.

Mobycon is an independent consulting company from the Netherlands with more than 35 years of experience. It specialises in the development and implementation of innovative and sustainable mobility solutions both in the Netherlands and internationally. Founded in Delft in 1986, Mobycon today has offices in Den Bosch, Zwolle, Ottawa (CA) and Durham (US). With its multidisciplinary team comprising experts from the fields of transport engineering, urban planning, economics, geography and communication, Mobycon offers a wide range of integrated mobility products and consultancy services. Our work supports the development of healthy, connected and viable communities that are less dependent on cars.

Press contact
Reiner Kolberg, ZIV – German Bicycle Industry, Reinhardtstraße 7, 10117 Berlin, Tel.: +49 30 439 735 767, presse@ziv-zweirad.de

Key study findings
Potential to switch from using a car
Clear potential exists to switch to using a speed pedelec instead of a car.

Safety: roads vs. cycling infrastructure
Pilot schemes in the Netherlands have shown that when speed pedelec users are given a choice, they often prefer to use the cycling infrastructure rather than roads, as this is generally of a very high quality there. According to the Dutch respondents, this is due to the subjective perception of greater safety. The data available for each country is not yet sufficient to make general statements on whether the objective safety is also higher for speed pedelec users if they use the cycling instructure rather than the roads. Nor is it currently possible to make any clear statements on the safest place to use speed pedelecs based on the current accident statistics.

Accident risks and consequences
An increased risk of accidents for speed pedelec users compared to conventional cyclists cannot be discerned from the data that is currently available. In particular, there are no obvious clusters of accidents involving speed pedelec users and cyclists or pedestrians. The theory often voiced during debates that other cyclists and pedestrians are at risk therefore cannot be substantiated based on the study findings.
However, what is clear from the study is that the consequences of accidents involving speed pedelecs are often more serious; this can primarily be explained by the higher speeds.

Travelling speeds taking the example of the Netherlands and Belgium
Studies in the Netherlands and Belgium have shown that speed pedelec users adapt their speed to the prevailing situation, whereby the maximum permitted assisted speed of 45 km/h is rarely attained. According to analyses, the average travel speed in the Netherlands and Belgium lies between 29 km/h and 37 km/h. This is significantly higher than the average speed of conventional cyclists or e-bike users, but also well below 45 km/h.
The study also revealed that any speed limits that might exist in a country are not always observed.

Speed pedelec users: example of the Netherlands
One important question was who actually uses a speed pedelec. Studies from the Netherlands have provided useful insights, namely that the user group is very homogeneous. 80% of speed pedelec users are male and two thirds are between the age of 45 to 65 years. A further 18% are aged between 35 and 45 years.

Regulation: fewer restrictions encourages speed pedelec usage
The EU countries, and meanwhile also the federal states in Germany, are taking different approaches to regulate the use of speed pedelecs. New findings are being incorporated into decision-making processes and pilot schemes are being implemented to investigate the promotion of this young model group, taking safety aspects into account. The ZIV believes that changes are also necessary in Germany and that pilot schemes are welcome. The initiatives in Baden-Württemberg and North Rhine-Westphalia are moving in the right direction in terms of the knowledge gained and general developments within Europe.