Safely through the city on an e-bike – this is how beginners reduce the risk of accidents

Especially in summer, the bike lanes in city traffic often get tight: cyclists are lined up in a row, mudguard after mudguard – more and more also with pedelecs.

Safely through the city on an e-bike – this is how beginners reduce the risk of accidents

Especially in summer, the bike lanes in city traffic often get tight: cyclists are lined up in a row, mudguard after mudguard – more and more also with pedelecs. If you are sitting on an electric bike for the first time, you should prepare well.

"Cycle paths in this country are usually much too narrow, bumpy, chaotic - or sometimes they are completely missing." The judgment of Stephanie Krone from the General German Bicycle Club (ADFC) on the bicycle-friendliness of German cities is unequivocal.

That also means: Difficult conditions for cyclists. Anyone who is quite new to the pedelec, commonly known as an e-bike, has to get used to the different driving behavior.

Krone therefore recommends a test tour in a safe environment before setting off for the first time. Because even if many models do not look too different from a conventional bike, electric bikes react differently than usual.

A peculiarity is already evident when you start. According to Krone, a pedelec almost pushes itself forward thanks to the motor support. "If you don't expect it and kick too hard, the worst you can do is jump forward."

To get used to it, she recommends the lowest level of assistance, in order to get used to the thrust of the engine, especially when starting off. During driving training, beginners should also drive a few wavy lines to practice cornering. Only when the cyclist feels safer should he approach the 25 km/h, up to which the pedelec provides maximum assistance when pedaling.

She also advises practicing braking. Because anyone who is on the road so quickly must be able to brake at any time in city traffic. The brakes on pedelecs are correspondingly powerful.

A risk that should not be underestimated, as according to the German Road Safety Council (DVR), the braking distance is longer due to the higher total weight and the fast drive. Accordingly, pedelec riders are regularly involved in accidents on the road.

According to the Federal Statistical Office, 372 cyclists had fatal accidents in 2021, including 131 with pedelecs. While the number of fatally injured cyclists fell compared to the previous year, it rose for pedelec riders. According to the DVR, it was mainly senior citizens who caused an accident in town.

Stephanie Krone has some advice for insecure drivers who are overwhelmed by the peculiarities of a pedelec. "Elderly people and people with limited mobility should also check whether they can still look over their shoulder without stumbling." Otherwise, a rear-view mirror or a tricycle could be the solution for them.

The German Society for Orthopedics and Trauma Surgery advises that a helmet or bicycle airbag should not be missing. And a regular health check, also in view of taking medication, provides certainty about your fitness to drive.

The weight of the bike is also important. If it's too heavy, the driving pleasure may suffer - or in the worst case drivers lose control. Krone therefore recommends a short carrying test when buying: Is the bike light enough to carry it up a few steps?

With a little more preparation, many pedelec accidents could possibly be prevented. Because according to Jonas Hurlin from the DVR, these are often self-inflicted without another road user being involved. For him this is a sign that "the feeling for speed, braking behavior and cornering behavior has to be learned first".

Another look at the statistics from the Federal Statistical Office also shows that cyclists have the most accidents in the summer months between May and September and usually during the week - for example on the way to work.

The figures also make it clear that more and more accidents are happening due to inappropriate speeds. So are cities suitable for pedelecs at all? For the DVR spokesman, electric bikes are basically suitable for the city - although it takes a little more practice to master them properly.

All the more Hurlin urges to be more considerate on the cycle paths, but in his opinion this also applies to sporty cyclists without motor assistance. In order to avoid collisions, other road users who share a cycle path or roadway with an electric bike should expect high speed and rapid acceleration from the driver.

In view of the narrow cycle paths, cyclists should also think carefully about how and whether they want to overtake other road users without endangering themselves or others. According to Siegfried Brockmann, in order to be able to drive past each other safely, at least two meters are necessary. A breadth that is not always given.

"Pedelecs and cargo bikes only show the problems even more because they make the cycle paths even narrower," says the insurer's head of accident research. For Brockmann, the usual rules of conduct apply to pedelec riders as to other sporty cyclists: Ride appropriately. In addition, driving in the wrong direction or on the sidewalk is taboo.

"You should always drive in a predictable manner, i.e. announce the change in direction of travel with a hand signal and not drive suddenly or stop abruptly," says Krone.

With costs of several thousand euros, it can be attractive to choose a used model. But beginners in particular should be careful, says Krone. If you are not familiar with bicycle technology and cannot assess the condition of the bike with certainty, you should visit a specialist shop and get advice there.

This is how cyclists prevent buying a pig in a poke. According to the ADFC spokeswoman, buyers cannot understand the condition of the electronics and should give the battery, as the most expensive wearing part, to experts to check.

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