Fast ‘transport revolution’ thanks to HS bikes.
15.04.2021 | Mobility
E-Bikes have the potential to improve people’s enjoyment of life in towns and cities of the future. To make this possible, Markus Riese, Founder, Associate and Engineering Mentor of Riese & Müller, makes the case for HS bikes (also known as “S-Pedelecs”) to be allowed to use cycle paths in Germany providing they keep to an agreed speed limit.
Traffic is clogging up our cities and is already adversely impacting the quality of life of the people who live there. This is one reason why lasting infrastructure restructuring plans are gaining political backing in many places. Prominent examples of this include Paris as the “15-minute city” or Barcelona with its traffic-calmed “Superblocks”.
- E-Bikes (= Pedelecs)
Pedal-assisted vehicles with motor assistance up to 25 km/h. E-Bikes with a power throttle, with which no pedalling is required, are not considered in the context of this article.
- HS bikes (= S-Pedelecs)
Pedal-assisted vehicles with motor assistance up to 45 km/h. These bikes are designated with the prefix “HS” (= High speed) at Riese & Müller.
- E-Bikes (= Pedelecs)
- Enhanced quality of life in towns and cities
- Improved public health
- Reduced CO² and pollution emissions
- Improved road safety for children and the elderly
- Lower noise and stress
- Lower consumption of resources
HS bikes complete the urban mobility mix.
Pedelecs (25 km/h E-Bikes) have already been accepted for distances of 1 to 10 kilometres and have significantly increased the proportion of bikes on short distances.
However, the average commuting distance in Germany is about 18 kilometres. Travelling distances of 10 to 30 km by Pedelec takes too long – people therefore tend to commute by car rather than by bike/Pedelec: there are approx. 90 million passenger kilometres per day travelled by bike/Pedelec compared to around 2 billion passenger kilometres per day by car.
However, regardless of the travel time, HS bikes (45 km/h E-Bikes) can also integrate better into road traffic, resulting in significantly improved safety on main roads.
“HS bikes with a maximum speed of 45 km/h could be an attractive alternative to cars, especially on distances of up to 30 km outside city centres”, explains Markus Riese. “Many commuters would consider this option – however HS bikes are not allowed to use the well-developed cycle path network in Germany, even if they ride slowly.”
- HS bikes are now highly developed and, in terms of safety technology, can now be compared more to motorcycles rather than conventional bikes. Stable hydraulic disc brakes with ABS option, brake light, main beam and daytime running lights, rear mirror, horn, air suspension, emergency assistance, etc.
- HS bikes are capable of integrating into inner-city traffic and travelling at the same speed as cars in the middle of the road:
- There is no difference in speed to cars.
- No more close overtaking of bikes by cars.
- Cars turning right can no longer overlook bikes.
- Doors opening on parked cars is less critical.
- Improved perception by crossing road users too.
- Other road users are better able to assess the speed of the bike
- The car driver is solely or primarily responsible in 2/3 of all accidents involving bikes. Every single HS bike that replaces a car makes the roads safer for cyclists and pedestrians.
However, HS bikes are unable to fully realise their potential as long as they are prohibited from using the cycling infrastructure – even at slow speeds. By way of comparison, it is like being allowed to drive your car on motorways but not drive it into towns and cities.
Sensible regulation rather than blanket deprivation.
Of course, it is also extremely important that the speeds are compatible on cycle paths and when closely passing pedestrians. Just as a racing cyclist has to ride more slowly on a cycle path than normal, HS bikes should only be allowed on inner-city cycle paths at a maximum speed of 25 km/h.
There are also appropriate speed limits for cars depending on the type of road, and compliance is ensured in part by the imposition of fines.
Any bike can travel as fast as an HS bike even on a slight slope, but there are nonetheless no notable problems on cycle paths on slopes. Racing bikes, for instance, have a comparable speed to HS bikes and are allowed to use cycle paths.
In Switzerland, HS bikes have been obliged to use cycle paths for 20 years (without an explicit speed limit).
“HS bikes benefit from the untapped potential of being able to use two infrastructures safely and efficiently. This is an opportunity to make environmentally friendly mobility attractive even over longer distances”, continues Markus Riese.
Potential to shape local policy-making.
“HS bikes enable riders to integrate themselves more easily into the existing infrastructure than, for example, sporty racing cyclists.” Markus Riese knows this from his own experience. “Riding at around 35 km/h, racing bikes are too fast for a cycle path and too slow to move at the same speed as motorised-vehicle traffic.” Riding on the right side of the road is most hazardous due to the risk of closely overtaking cars, cars turning that do not see bikes and opening car doors.
“Cyclists have the choice on an HS bike: they can either ride comfortably on a cycle path or ride more quickly in the general flow of traffic.” This option for riders to adapt their speed to the respective traffic flow results in greater safety for the rider and for the traffic around them.
There are many situations in which you would like to ride more slowly on an HS bike. If you are out with children and friends or maybe just because you wish to get somewhere at a leisurely pace. HS bikes will be unable to realise their full potential until they can do so on cycle paths – as it is in the model city of Tübingen: An additional sign indicates that HS bikes are allowed on selected cycle paths.
“Towns, cities and municipalities are called upon to adopt this approach and integrate HS bikes into future-centric transport landscapes in model tests”, demands Markus Riese. A town or city does not need an illustrious name to do so – a little imagination and creative muscle is all that is required.