Moving with pedal force, stimulating health: Bicycles as means of traffic and cycling as everyday mobility and hobby are experiencing a strong boom. The good news with that: With the increasing acceptance of bicycles in society, the personal feeling of safety among cyclists in Germany is also growing.
Fears of traffic and accidents have been decreasing verifiably. 63 percent of the respondents in the 2021 bicycle survey of the Federal Ministry of Transport said they felt very or rather safe during cycling. This positive feeling has been growing steadily over the past years: from 53 per cent in 2017 via 56 per cent in 2019 to its current highest value. So the more people cycle, the more likely they are to feel comfortable on the road. On the one hand.
Safety booster lighting: new technology for more visibility
The light is an issue of particular importance for Dirk Zedler, one of the leading experts on bicycle safety in Germany. Every year, he and his team draw up hundreds of experts reports following road accidents, and he sees lighting as one of the major factors for greater safety on bicycles. A light approved by the German Road Traffic Licensing Regulations (StVZO) with a charged battery or power from the wheel hub or the e-bike battery is the minimum requirement.
Zedler says: “The greatest technical innovation for more safety is found in lighting.” Manufacturers now not only offer systems that switch on automatically, e.g. when riding into a tunnel or at nightfall. Brake lights for bicycles are already available for less than 30 Euros. These devices combine the red rear lighting with an additional light signal to the following traffic. This upgrade for the safety of cyclists is expressly permitted in the German Road Traffic Licensing Regulations (StVZO).
SAFETY CHECK LIST
- No helmet, no metre - this is a motto among medical practitioners. The studies clearly speak for the protective effect of bicycle helmets. A technical alternative is the airbag from Hövding, which is easy on the hair but not on the budget.
- Lights on, battery fully charged? If you do not have a fixed light on your bicycle, you should charge the light regularly and have a fixed place to store it. It’s especially in the rush that you forget the light - and then drive through the twilight hardly visible.
- Check the brakes: No matter whether you have rim or disc brakes, the effect of the system should be checked regularly. It is also advisable to practise braking decisively on the bicycle again and again in order to be able to control the bicycle in an emergency.
- Wear sturdy shoes: The feet are the connection to the axle in the centre of the bicycle and should be securely connected to the pedals at all times. Sturdy shoes with strong soles, but also pedals with a rough or edgy surface provide cohesion. On the other hand, flip-flops or other light shoes are bad, especially in case of slipping or hitting the ground.
- Tough standard, rarely okay: By the way, the strictest test standard applies to a part that is often missing on handlebars or does not work, i.e. the bell. However, according to the German Road Traffic Licensing Regulations (StVZO), every bicycle must be equipped with a bell that must also ring. A good bell is a reasonable investment, especially in view of the increasingly dense traffic on cycle paths.
Riding technology as basics
But with all this conventional and smart technology: There is something else that is also crucial. “Very often in accident reconstructions we can see that the cyclists were not in control of the event,” states bicycle expert Dirk Zedler, “many cyclists have not learned how to use the brakes properly.” Therefore, despite all the possibilities to increase safety by investing in the bicycle and the body, it is the work on your own riding technique that is required.
“Practising braking costs nothing, but can be decisive,” says Zedler. Attending a riding safety training course is also a good idea, especially for cyclists with a motor on their bicycle. If you are about to buy a bicycle, you should pay particular attention to the brakes. “My advice, make a test ride before buying to see whether the brake setting suits your own abilities,” adds accident researcher Brockmann, because subsequent adjustment is impossible especially with hydraulic disc brakes on e-bikes.
If you want to be as safe during braking manoeuvres as you are in a car, you can look for e-bikes with a so-called “bicycle ABS”. This offer is still rather niche, but it reliably prevents blockages and thus serious falls. “In five to eight years the bicycle ABS will be standard,” states Dirk Zedler.
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Author: Tim Farin