Older Dutch cyclists warned after rise in electric bike deaths

Netherlands police call for safety courses as data shows more riders die on e-bikes than mopeds, with 90% of deaths among over 60s

Dutch police are warning older cyclists of the dangers of switching to electric bikes after an increase in the number of deaths on the roads.

Figures released this week show that more people are being killed in the Netherlands while riding an electric bike than a moped, and nearly 90% were aged 60 or above.

The death toll has prompted Dutch police to call for those who start riding bikes fitted with a motor to take a safety course.

“People are staying mobile for longer and are more likely to go for an e-bike,” Egbert-Jan van Hasselt, who heads the Dutch police road safety unit, told the Dutch newspaper AD.

“In itself, that’s nice because it’s healthy. But unfortunately some of the elderly lack the ability. [It is] not a normal bike.”

Van Hasselt added that bike paths in the Netherlands, where cycling is a popular pastime, were becoming busier and the variety of cycles using them was a complication.

Last year 629 people died in road accidents in the Netherlands, according to Statistics Netherlands, of whom 189 were cyclists and 28 were on e-bikes. In the last three years at least 79 people were killed in road accidents when on an e-bike, of whom 87% were over the age of 60.

Van Hasselt said: “It would be good if more people follow a course. Because the e-bike is not a regular bike. It gives you an extra boost, and that sometimes happens unexpectedly. As a result, you can tremble, swing and sometimes even fall.

“On the bike path you used to be [with] just like-minded people, people at the same pace. But now we see e-bikes, ordinary bikes, superfast electric bikes and bicycles. In short, it has become more dangerous. Wear a helmet, especially if you are older.”

The average Dutch person cycles about 621 miles (999km) annually. There are 22.5m bikes in the Netherlands – more than the 17.1 million people who live there – and a quarter of the population cycles to work.

The upsurge in cycling in the past 30 years is a source of pride and good health in the Netherlands, but there are increasing complaints over cycle paths and the lack of facilities.

This summer there was criticism of the authorities at the opening of what will become the world’s largest bicycle parking garage under Utrecht’s railway station, with space for 6,000 cycles initially and another 6,500 by the end of next year.

With 43% of journeys less than 4.6 miles being taken by cycle in Utrecht, Fietsersbond, Dutch cycling organisation, claimed the rate of construction was behind the pace.


Daniel Boffey in Brussels

The GuardianTramp

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