|People test an electric bicycle at Cheonggyecheon Stream in Jongno-gu, Seoul, on Mar. 21, where the Ministry of the Interior and Safety prepared a test zone. / Yonhap|
By Ko Dong-hwan
Certain types of electric bicycles can use bicycle-only lanes from Thursday. But there are fears that the possible higher speeds of the electric bikes pose a road safety threat.
Bicycles equipped with an electric motor and operating based on the pedal-assist system (PAS) are the subject of the latest traffic regulation.
The rider presses the pedals to generate electrical energy that boosts the bicycle's speed. The electric motors are cut out when the bike's speed reaches 25 kilometers per hour.
Until now, electric bike users have had to get a license and have been banned from bicycle-only lanes.
Amid the legal change, a report released Thursday said PAS-based electric bicycles are more prone to causing road accidents because they allow riders to speed with a little effort.
The electric bicycles need only a fifth of a rider's physical power to reach the same speed as conventional bicycles, according to the Korea Transport Institute's joint report with Hyundai Insurance's traffic climate environment research center.
Focusing on the influence more electric bikes will have on accident frequency, the report warned that the bicycles run faster and need less physical power than traditional bicycles. Electric bicycles also accelerated 1.8 times faster than traditional bikes, on average.
Road accidents involving electric bicycles jumped to 59 in 2017 from 20 in 2012. Victims were mostly in their 60s or older, accounting for 53 percent. For conventional bikes, the age group accounted for 30 percent of accidents.
In Germany, serious or fatal accidents involving electric bicycles accounted for 29 percent of all accidents in 2016. This was 17 percent higher than traditional bicycles.
"It appears seniors, mostly with reduced agility and physical abilities, were unfit for maneuvering fast electric bicycles, increasing the accident rate involving the bikes," the Hyundai Insurance research center said.