If Faster Cyclists are Safer Cyclists, E-Cyclists are the Safest
Safety is the Number One Reason to Convert Your Bike to an E-bike
As cyclists, safety is always a major concern on the road. Unlike cars, bicycles have no frame or airbags to protect their riders during collisions. Cyclists are vulnerable in a way motorists don’t have to worry about, the ultimate protection is not ending up in a collision.
One of the main differences is obviously how slow cyclists naturally tend to go relative to cars. We cyclists are slower to accelerate from stops. We’re also wobbly when we accelerate from stops, because the slower we go on a bike, the harder it is to keep the balance. This means it is easy to drift into traffic if we’re not careful. Indeed, one study done by the city of Toronto has shown that accidents from “drive-outs at controlled intersections” (i.e., starting from a stop sign or stop light) are the most common form of bike accident with cars.
Another dangerous scenario caused by speed differential between cyclists and cars is when cyclists go up hills. Cars accelerate so easily uphill that they usually aren’t expecting having to suddenly slow down for a cyclist in front of them. The same study shows that “motorists overtaking cyclists” is the second most common type of collision between motorists and cyclists overall, and, crucially, it is also the number one cause of fatal collisions.
Such stats should come as no surprise because it has long been known that, even between cars, speed differential is a major source of serious accidents. Take a look at this graph, depicting the “Solomon Curve.” In the 1950’s and the 60's, David Solomon was the first to really study and formalize in-detail the relation between speed differential and collision rates. He found a strong correlation, especially between slower than average moving vehicles and vehicles doing the speed limit.
Sound familiar? Cyclists are going even slower than the slow cars on the road, so it makes sense we would be subject to the same problem, except when it happens to us, owing to our vulnerability, the consequences are even more serious.
There are two obvious ways to solve the problem. One is to reduce average speed limits, but this infringes on perceived motorist liberty to get to where we’re going when we’re in a car as soon as possible. Whichever side you fall on in this debate, such a solution requires lots of bureaucracy and politics. It usually takes a long time and a lot of tax dollars and haggling to change the speed limits in a given neighbourhood.
There is, however, a second way, one that you could start employing today. The extra power from a pedal assist, after installing an e-bike kit on your bicycle, reduces the speed differential with cars immediately. Electric Assist bikes attain higher speeds, and they are able to maintain this speed for duration of the trip and particularly in uphill situations. And, it does so in a way that doesn’t require motorists to give up any speed themselves. So, whether we’re in our cars or on our electric bicycles, everyone can get to where they’re going faster and safer.
It might sound counter-intuitive at first that faster cyclists are safer cyclists, but the stats reveal that, in general, it’s true. So, if faster cyclists are safer cyclists, riding an e-bike is the safest way to cycle.
Solomon, David (July 1964, Reprinted 1974). "Accidents on main rural highways related to speed, driver, and vehicle". Technical report, U.S. Department of Commerce/Bureau of Public Roads (precursor to Federal Highway Administration).
Another, more recent article from the Toronto Star shows how Michigan State Police have seen that Solomon’s initial findings have only held true over the years: “It is speed differential, the ‘gradient’ of speeds on the highway, that determines how safe the road is. The key is to get everyone going more or less the same speed, minimize that gradient, and we all get home safely.”