Speed characteristics of speed pedelecs, pedelecs and conventional bicycles in naturalistic urban and rural traffic conditions

Divera Twisk, Agnieszka Stelling, Paul Van Gent, Jolieke De Groot, Willem Vlakveld

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


To assess the potential impact of the higher speeds of pedal-assisted bicycles on safety, this study compared conventional bicycles, pedelecs and speed pedelecs (hereafter called s-pedelecs) on mean speeds, speed variability, harsh braking events (decelerations > 2 m/s), and mean speeds above the speed limit (MSAL) in rural and urban areas in the Netherlands Data were collected in daily traffic, while the legal maximum speed for speed-pedelecs was 25 km/h, and pedelecs and s-pedelecs shared the infrastructure with conventional bicycles. Data were collected, using two-wheelers equipped with accelerometers and GPS. Personality factors – sensation seeking and risk taking - were measured with surveys. Regular commuters used one of the three bicycle types for two weeks. Participant bias was intentionally included by allowing participants to select a bicycle type of their preference, resulting in 12 conventional bicycle riders (71 % women), 14 pedelec riders (67 % women) and 20 s-pedelec riders (25 % women). S-pedelecs were much faster than conventional bicycles, amounting to a speed difference with conventional bicycles of 10.4 km/h in urban areas (M =28.2 km/h vs. 17.8 km/h) and of 13.2 km/h in rural areas (M = 31.4 km/h vs. 18.2 km/h). The speed differences between pedelecs and conventional bicycles were much smaller: 2.3 km/h in urban areas (20.1 km/h vs 17.8 km/h) and 4 km/h in rural areas (22.2 km/h vs. 18.2 km/h). Compared to conventional bicycles, s-pedelecs varied their speed to a greater extent and also braked harshly more frequently, showing a greater need for speed adjustment. These adjustments were larger at higher speeds. In contrast, pedelecs did not differ from conventional bicycles on speed variation. MSAL for s-pedelec riders differed by gender. For men the MSAL was 87 % on urban sections and 91 % on rural sections. For women, the MSAL was lower, respectively 23 and 69 %. None of the personality factors were associated with speed variability, harsh braking or MSAL. However, sensation seeking was associated with higher mean speeds on all three bicycle types. To conclude, pedelecs and conventional bicycles are similar in speed patterns, whereas the speed patterns of s-pedelecs differ significantly from the former two. The safety implications are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105940
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalAccident Analysis and Prevention
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Commuter cyclists
  • Cycling safety
  • Electric bicycles
  • Naturalistic cycling
  • Speed
  • Speed pedelecs

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