Do cyclists on e-bikes behave differently than cyclists on traditional bicycles?
Paper in proceedings, 2014
Cycling is a healthy, environmentally-friendly and enjoyable activity, which unfortunately also claims more than 2000 lives every year in Europe. Many municipalities across Europe are wag-ing successful campaigns to increase cycling and, as a consequence, reduce pollution and con-gestion. However, at least in the short term, a surge in cycling will also challenge existing infrastructure, regulations, and the interaction among different road users. Further, cycling nature is changing as new electrified bicycles (e-bikes), able to maintain a constant 25km/h speed independent of road gradient or wind, become more and more prevalent. The extent to which e-bikes and their increasing prevalence impact safety is currently unknown and very hard to simulate with statistical models.
In 2012, the BikeSAFE project collected 1474 km of naturalistic cycling data from traditional bi-cycles. In 2013, the e-BikeSAFE project collected 1549 km of naturalistic data from e-bikes. All studies took place in Göteborg in the same period of the year, and as much as possible in-volved the same participants. While these naturalistic data sets are limited and possibly not representative of the cycling situation in all of Europe, they are also the most advanced data today available for comparing how traditional and electrical bicycles behave in traffic, thus of-fering a promising test bed for developing data analysis methodologies.
Five random video clips were extracted for each participant from the data collected in BikeSAFE and e-BikeSAFE, forming an overall analysis database of 140, 30-s long, full HD, video clips. Video reduction identified which road users were involved in the interactions with the traditional and electric bikes. During the analysis, potential influencing factors (e.g. bicycle lane width, gradient, and curvature) were also taken into account. Information from reduction of e-bike and traditional-bike videos was compared by means of odds ratios and combined with subjective data from questionnaires to determine the extent to which safety concerns about e-bike are legitimate.
Results show that e-bikes and traditional bicycles are ridden differently: cyclists riding e-bikes experience more intense and different interactions with other road users, and prefer different riding conditions, possibly because of their higher speed. Further, specific infrastructures (as crossings) and secondary tasks (as using a phone) may be particularly dangerous for e-bikers. The results presented in this paper provide new ideas for the design of safer bicycle lanes and more conspicuous e-bikes.