Investigating cycling kinematics and braking maneuvers in the real world: e-bikes make cyclists move faster, brake harder and experience new conflicts
Journal article, 2018
Pedelecs (e-bikes), which facilitate higher speeds with less effort in comparison to traditional bicycles (t-bikes), have grown considerably in popularity in recent years. Despite the large expansion of this new transportation mode, little is known about the behavior of e-cyclists, or whether cycling an e-bike increases crash risk and the likelihood of conflicts with other road users, compared to cycling on t-bikes. In order to support the design of safety measures and to maximize the benefits of e-bike use, it is critical to investigate the real-world behavior of riders as a result of switching from t-bikes to e-bikes.
Naturalistic studies provide an unequaled method for investigating rider cycling behavior and bicycle kinematics in the real world in which the cyclist regularly experiences traffic conflicts and may need to perform avoidance maneuvers, such as hard braking, to avoid crashing. In this paper we investigate cycling kinematics and braking events from naturalistic data to determine the extent to which cyclist behavior changes as a result of transferring from t-bikes to e-bikes, and whether such change influences cycling safety.
Data from the BikeSAFE and E-bikeSAFE naturalistic studies were used in this investigation to evaluate possible changes in the behavior of six cyclists riding t-bikes in the first study and e-bikes in the second one. Individual cyclists’ kinematics were compared between bicycle types. In addition, a total of 5092 braking events were automatically extracted after identification of dynamic triggers. The 286 harshest braking events (136 cases for t-bike and 150 for e-bike) were then validated and coded via video inspection.
Results revealed that each of the cyclists rode faster on the e-bike than on the t-bike, increasing his/her average speed by 2.9-5.0 km/h. Riding an e-bike also increased the probability to unexpectedly have to brake hard (odds ratio = 1.72). In addition, the risk of confronting abrupt braking and sharp deceleration were higher when riding an e-bike than when riding a t-bike.
Our findings provide evidence that cyclists’ behavior and the way cyclists interact with other road users change when cyclists switch from t-bikes to e-bikes. Because of the higher velocity, when on e-bikes cyclists appear to have harder time predicting movements within the traffic environment and, as a result, more often need to brake abruptly to avoid collisions, compared with cycling on t-bikes. This study provides new insights into the potential impact on safety that a cycling society moving to e-bikes may have, indicating that e-cycling requires more reactive maneuvers than does cycling traditional bicycles and suggesting that any distractive activity may be more critical when riding e-bikes compared to traditional bikes.
road user interaction