More cyclists than car occupants lost their lives on Dutch roads last year, with the number of people killed while riding their bicycles attributed to a sharp rise in men aged over 65 riding e-bikes.
According to the government agency Statistics Netherlands, 206 cyclists were killed on the country’s roads in 2017, compared to 201 motorists or vehicle passengers.
The figures represent, respectively, an increase of 9 per cent and decrease of 13 per cent compared to 2016.
According to a report in The Guardian, approximately one in four of the cycling fatalities related to people on e-bikes and three in four of the victims were men aged over 65 years.
During 2017, 38 men were killed while riding e-bikes during 2017, almost double the 2016 figure of 20; thee number of males aged 65 or over within those figures more than doubled, rising from 15 to 31.
According to The Guardian, some 294,000 e-bikes had been sold in the Netherlands by 2017, and such bikes have proved popular among older people given the ease with which they enable them to reach speeds of up to 25 kilometres an hour.
According to Dutch Road Safety Research Foundati2ector Peter van den Knapp, the rise in fatalities among older men using such bikes may be attributable not only to increased uptake of them and issues such as poor road surfaces, but also the seemingly simple task of mounting or dismounting.
He told The Guardian: “We know that simple accidents, including fatalities, can often be attributed to bad road surface.
“We should not underestimate how many accidents happen among the elderly when getting on and off an e-bike.
“Such a bicycle is heavier than a regular one. Sometimes the problem starts because some older people do not take into account that their own physical possibilities are reduced.”
He called on the government in The Hague and local authorities to make greater provision for riders, saying: “Road authorities such as municipalities, provinces and central government must put more money into widening cycle paths and the quality of these.”
The Dutch national cyclists’ association, the Fietserbond, said that while it was concerned at the figures, increased uptake of cycling was encouraging.
Spokesman Jaap Kamminga commented: “Of course, every dead person is one too many.
“But if you look at how much more we have all started cycling, especially the elderly, then the Netherlands can congratulate itself.
“Cycling is healthy, we must continue to promote that.”
Concerns have been expressed in the Netherlands for aa number of years now about a rise in injuries among e-bike users, including collisions involving other cyclists on bike paths.
In 2016, our sister site eBikeTips reported that riders of more powerful electronically assisted bikes – those capable of speeds of up to 43 kilometres an hour and that in countries including the UK would be considered mopeds – would be required to wear helmets complying with strict safety standards.
In September last year, the head of the Dutch police safety unit called for e-bike riders to be required to undergo a specific safety course before being allowed to ride one.
“People are staying mobile for longer and are more likely to go for an e-bike,” Egbert-Jan van Hasselt explained.
[AdTech 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.
“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,” he added.
“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.”
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.