[in the image above: a Stromer ST2 speed ebike]
Interesting news for Dutch e-cyclists: there are going to be high-speed bike paths for speed ebikes, those that can reach a 45 km/h speed. Think about long-distance journeys: it could be a new way of travelling for those who live in a city and work in another one. It could completely transform how they commute.
In many European countries ebikes have a speed limit of 25 km/h: any vehicle that goes above that is a moped for the law. In some European countries (such as the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland…), there’s an intermediary category: speed ebikes. They’re basically ebikes with more powerful motors and a maximum speed of 45 km/h. They are different from slower ebikes (they must have a license plate) but they don’t have all the legal obligations of mopeds.
This kind of vehicles is growing more popular by the day in Switzerland, Germany and the Netherlands. They’re so popular that those countries are thinking of dedicated cycle paths just for them.
With an electric bike that can reach a 40-45 km/h speed, one can travel further than with a regular ebike. Pedaling for miles to go from one city to another becomes a matter of dozens of minutes. The main problem is that while in many European cities there are wonderful infrastructures just for cyclists, it’s not the same for extra-urban infrastructures.
Bike paths that cover dozens of km connecting one city to another are very rare. This is shown by the fact that most of the times bicycle tourists are diverted to curvy dirt roads: they are less congested indeed, but they are rarely straight. For tourists this might be ok, but not for everyday commuters, who would waste a lot of time.
The Dutch are a cycling population and they’re always in the forefront when we talk about anything bike-related: an experimental high-speed bike path will soon be born. It will connect Groningen, Haren, Tynaarlo and Assen for a total distance of 30 km. As far as we know, we think that the cycle path will be open to regular ebikes and bikes too. It’s obvious though that it will mostly be used by speed ebikes owners or cyclists that are able to reach a certain speed. Anyway, Dutch bike paths are often open to mopeds as well so Dutch cyclists are used to sharing their paths with faster vehicles.
The “beta” cycle paths could also be provided with particular features. In other areas in the Netherlands they have already implemented bike paths with solar panels: they are under the surface of the path, under a layer of safety glass on which bikes can ride. In Great Britain, there’s a company that builds cycle paths that lighten during the night.
On the Ebike Portal, we are for soft mobility and low-speed cities. This doesn’t mean that it wouldn’t be ok to use speed ebikes on big arterial streets. Let’s take an Assen commuter as an example: he could ride his speed ebike at a speed limit of 30 km/h while he’s on urban cycle lanes. When he reaches the extra-urban cycle path he could ride at a 40-45 km/h speed and get to his destination after a dozen of minutes. He could then slow down again when he’s on an urban cycle lane again and then reach his destination.
The only alternative would be to cycle at a lower speed on the extra-urban path, but this would increase travelling time a lot, or to use different means of transportation (intermodal travelling). If there are no other possibilities, he would have to use the car.
In the countries where the ebike speed matter is not clearly regulated, it would be beneficial to have clear rules about it. Many of the ebikes on the market are already illegally modified to go faster than they could: the best thing to do would be introducing the intermediate category of high-speed ebikes in all European countries.