Riding an electric bicycle is risky business for seniors

Riding an electric bicycle is risky business for seniors

Riding an electric bicycle is risky business for seniors

The FINANCIAL -- Pedelecs are in vogue. In 2014, 1.6 million of the 71 million cyclists in Germany were riding bikes equipped with an electric motor. Though these fast cycles can reach a speed of up to 25 km/h, helmets are not required in Germany.

It’s a risk not to be underestimated as shown by 2014 figures recently published by the German Federal Statistics Office (2014). Last year, 39 people died from accidents occurring while riding an electric bicycle. That is just under ten percent of all fatal cycling accidents (396). Almost all of the pedelec riders involved were of advanced age.

E-bikes are particularly appealing to older people. Thanks to pedal assist, they can cover longer distances without exertion and inclines are not a hindrance. Cyclists can also ride a lot faster on pedelecs than they would if they had to rely solely on their physical strength. This increase in mobility, however, comes at a price. Older persons are much more likely to injure themselves seriously than young pedelecs; for instance should they fall. The death rate among elderly riders is also much higher: 32 of the 39 pedelec accident victims in 2014 were over the age of 64; 22 of them were even older than 74. The youngest victim was between the age of 45 to 50, according to Allianz.

Only one in every six cyclists wears a helmet and that has to change!

There were a total of 2,300 pedelec accidents involving bodily harm last year. This number corresponds roughly to accident statistics for pedelec riders compared to all cyclists. In reality, this estimate is likely to be a lot higher – after all, not every fall or collision is reported. Accident researcher Dr. Jörg Kubitzki at the Allianz Center for Technology cautions: “An elderly cyclist is twice as likely to die in a cycling accident involving a pedelec than if he were riding an ordinary non-motorized bike.”

The Allianz Center for Technology urges cyclists not to get on their bikes, with or without pedal assist, before putting on the right helmet. Kubitzki underscores how important this is, especially among older riders who are at more risk of sustaining an injury. He adds that while children and young people have more or less grown accustomed to wearing head protection, only one out of every sixth to fourteenth adult, depending on the age group, wears a helmet.