The industrial association Leva-EU is working on new legal categories for light electric vehicles. The association intends to group electrically powered vehicles under the collective term Zero Tailpipe Emission Vehicles (ZEVs). Currently, many of these vehicles are classified in different categories. Speed pedelecs are subject to the EU Regulation 168/2013 and thus to the strict L-category: driver’s licence, helmet and number plate are mandatory, the cycle lane is forbidden. This category had initially been specified for gasoline-engined mopeds and motorcycles. By virtue of Regulation 168/2013 e-bikes 25 are excluded from the strict L-category. Cyclists are therefore allowed to ride on cycle lanes, without driver’s licence, helmet and number plate. E-bikes 25 are subject to the Machinery Directive. Excluded from this Directive are bicycles that are legally classified as vehicles, i.e. speed pedelecs 45.
Depending on the product range, a manufacturer either benefits from the privileges of the Machinery Directive for e-bikes 25 or struggles against the strict rules of the Regulation 168/2013. The manufacturers represented by Leva-EU are often impeded by the stricter rules of the Regulation 168/2013.
Dirk Zedler sees success of electric-assisted bikes in danger
Dirk Zedler, Managing Director of Zedler Institute, is an independent expert in terms of safety. Zedler explains that expert reports relating to accidents or other safety problems with means of transport are a major part of his business. He reports that they would noticeably often also examine niche products, such as electric scooters or electric skateboards. Compared to their appearance on public roads their share in Zedler’s business were disproportionately high. His team and Zedler himself are of the opinion that this is due to physical reasons, for example the rollover characteristics of small wheels, just to point out one feature. He adds that he would not know any measure that could raise these products to the safety level of bicycles. If you then consider not only the greater safety of electric-assisted bikes but also their suitability for everyday use for broad target groups, for him the matter is clear: Of all non-motor vehicles, the electric-assisted bike would bring by far the greatest benefit to our society. Small electric vehicles, i.e. electric skateboards and the like, would also have their justification, but not as a means of transport suitable for the masses.
Zedler affirms that the big success of electric-assisted bikes is due to the uncomplicated use without mandatory driver’s licence, insurance or TUEV inspection and requirement to wear a helmet. The fact that the electric-assisted bike was exempt from the strict L-category by the regulation 168/2013 and the classification in the Machinery Directive is another reason for that. “This was a huge success of the cycle industry. But I see it in danger, when ever larger and heavier two-wheelers are sold as bicycles. A cargo bike with a total weight of more than 300 kilograms is no longer a bicycle for me. Parking a vehicle like this on unmarked areas, such as the pavement, already leads to conflicts. And cargo bikes weighing up to 800 kilograms have no place on cycle lanes, because accidents with these vehicles are much more dangerous than with bicycles. It seems to me that it is only a matter of time until the so-called operational risk will be discussed by lawyers. The operational risk increases with mass and speed. In this connection, cyclists are rated low, usually directly above the pedestrian. The heavier bicycles become, the higher the classification of our operating risk by the judiciary. If things go really bad, we will no longer be classified as vulnerable road users, but as those who are dangerous. This would change jurisdiction to the detriment of cyclists. And there are powerful groups who would like to see the electric-assisted bike classified as a motor vehicle, such as insurers. And probably also some car manufacturers.”
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Author: Tillman Lambert