Pedelecs are popular - not just among seniors. But in the event of accidents, the consequences are more severe than in "normal" bicycle accidents because of the higher speed of e-bikes. Insurers are therefore asking whether helmets are compulsory.
The number of accidents involving pedelecs has risen sharply since 2014. According to the Federal Statistical Office, these accidents were often more serious than accidents involving bicycles without a motor. The main reason for this is the older age of the victims, says Bernhard Veldhues, head of the "Economic Structure and Transport" group at the Federal Statistical Office. The likelihood of serious injury from falls increases with age.
According to this, a total of 131 people who were traveling with a pedelec died in 2021. Only one of them was younger than 25 years, 68 percent (89) belonged to the generation 65 plus. Sales of pedelcs rose from 480,000 in 2014 to around two million last year.
However, the e-bike is also becoming increasingly popular among younger people: while in 2014 54.5 percent of the pedelec riders who had an accident were at least 65 years old, their share last year was only 33.5 percent. In 2014, every ninth person who had an accident with a pedelec was under 45 years old, by 2021 this will already be around every fourth.
The total number of accidents involving pedelecs has also risen sharply in recent years. In 2014, 2,245 pedelec accidents involving personal injury were registered, in 2021 there were 17,285. In the case of non-motorized bicycles, on the other hand, the number of accidents involving personal injury fell from 76,643 in 2014 to 67,931 in 2021.
Siegfried Brockmann, Head of Accident Research at the insurers, points out that when comparing accidents per kilometer driven, there are hardly any differences in the severity of accidents among cyclists and pedelec riders. Exceptions are "the very young and the very old" road users.
However, "more offensive communication" about the purpose of a helmet would make sense, especially for pedelec riders. Because despite the higher speed compared to a bicycle without a motor, there is no obligation to wear a helmet or protective clothing. "Legally, a pedelec is a bicycle," said Brockmann. "The question is whether it can stay that way in the long run."
According to the Federal Statistical Office, if pedelec drivers were involved in an accident with personal injury last year, it was most often due to incorrect use of the road - because they were driving on the sidewalk or in the wrong direction on a one-way street. Excessive speed and the influence of alcohol also often played a role.