Electric bikes in London - what are the benefits?
Over at 50cycles, Seven Reasons to ride an electric bike in London are listed, dealing with convenience, health and wellbeing, economic advantages and independence.
An interesting point is made about the relative safety of riding an electric bike in busy traffic:
"The power to take on hills without getting up and out of your saddle and while keeping your eyes on the road is a big advantage over an unpowered cycle. At junctions crowded with cars and cyclists it's easier both to get to the front of the pack, to accelerate enough to clear the junction quickly and to get out of harm's way if ever necessary. You're also less likely to suffer fatigue towards the end of your journey, so your mind will always be fresh and fully involved with cycling safely. Finally, electric cyclists can maintain a higher average speed than most pedal cyclists so your overall time out on the road will be reduced. "
I'm not aware of any studies that look into the safety of riding an ebike compared to riding a conventional pedal cycle. Sure, there are, in theory, increased risks from travelling at a higher speed, but that same higher speed is likely to make it less likely you'll have a collision in the first place.
A lot of cyclist casualties in London have been caused by lorries turning into junctions and missing bicycles in their blind spot. Perhaps if those cyclists had been able to escape a junction ahead of turning traffic an accident might have been avoided.
At the moment, we'll have to look to countries like Germany and the Netherlands where electric bikes are in much wider use. Statistics about the relative safety of power assisted bicycles versus pedal cycles will emerge eventually.