A few weeks ago I read about the new EU regulations meaning that e-bikes should be insured and thought this would make e-bikes/pedelecs less popular. I was not in favour of this idea, but I think I am changing my mind with the latest news from Denmark. Although the insurance changes could well be the start of compulsory helmet wearing, licence plates for bikes, bike riding tests and probably insurance for normal bicycles and their riders. A normal pedelec within the European Union is designed to have a maximum powered speed of 25kph (15mph). If you wish to reach speeds faster that 25kph you will need to pedal and considering that most e-bikes are heavy you (at least I) cannot cycle fast for that long. There are e-bikes that can be ridden faster up to 45kph, but these are treated as mopeds or light motorcycles and banned from using cycle paths.
Some Dutch cycle paths especially in cities allow mopeds and light motorcycles to use bike paths and these cycle paths do not make for easy cycling. Playing chicken with pimply-faced youths on souped-up mopeds or scooters is not my idea of enjoying cycling touring. One of my more unpleasant cycle touring experiences was crossing the Belgian city of Ghent on cycle tracks in the morning rush hours. Apart from a group of people moving house towing trailers carrying beds and wardrobes we were continually being harassed by commuters on their work. They made their displeasure very plain at being held up as we checked our route. Just to explain, although my wife and I are well past the biblical three score years and ten, we have both cycled extensively. We are not nervous cyclists. We are not whiteheads who have recently taken up cycling. We are experienced cyclists. I commuted by bike from the central station in Frankfurt two or three km to the office for at least ten years.
We have cycled in Denmark and was impressed by the way that there is excellent provision for cyclists even in cities. Cycle traffic at speeds between 20 and 25kph is largely kept separate from slower moving traffic (pedestrians) and faster motor traffic. I was therefore more than somewhat surprised to read that the regulations in Denmark have been changed to allow high speed e-bikes to use cycle lanes (https://cleantechnica.com/2018/07/02/e-bikes-can-now-go-crazy-fast-in-danish-bike-lanes/). The stated aim is that commuters who presently drive cars will transfer to high speed e-bikes. However this ignores the advice of The Danish National Police, The Council for Safer Traffic, The Accident Investigation Board Denmark, The Danish Cyclists’ Federation, and The Danish Pedestrian Federation, who have all warned that higher speeds mean more accidents and injuries. High speed e-bikes are not only fast but heavy. If there is a collision, it's every man, woman and child for him- or herself. The inherent dangers of mixing high speed e-bikes, e-bikes, normal bicycles and especially in Denmark cargo bikes are plain to see. There is a good chance that many cyclists will give up cycling in spite of its advantages. Whether the Danish move is a deliberate attempt to make utilitarian cycling less popular I will leave to the conspiracy theorists, but I do wonder what the Danish government is doing? To be fair the change will be evaluated in a year, but still…
There is a way around this problem of decreasing the number of cars on the road while still allowing fast commutes: Build special bike tracks (cycling superhighways) for these faster vehicles. These however cost money. The costs of the planned Heidelberg - Mannheim fast bicycling link (23km long) (https://rp.baden-wuerttemberg.de/rpk/Abt4/Ref44/Seiten/Radschnellverbindung_HD_MA.aspx) will cost about 12 million Euros. Eighty per cent of the route will be at least 4m wide, lit at nights with a smooth good quality asphalt but have a Richtgeschwindigkeit (design speed) of just 30kph - less than a possible 45kph. The Heidelberg-Mannheim link will take several years to be realised.