Fatal e-bike accidents on the rise but the real problem is cars, expert says
Last year more e-bikes than ever before were sold in the Netherlands. At the same time, the number of fatal e-bike accidents increased, particularly among the elderly. While doctors advocated for a helmet mandate, some experts questioned if it is really the cyclists who are to blame.
A total of 229 cyclists were killed in accidents last year, 24 more than in 2019. Out of the total number of bike deaths, 32 percent were riding an e-bike. In 2020, almost three-quarters of fatal bicycle accidents involved people over the age of 60.
Myrthe Boss’ mother died at the end of 2019 while on her e-bike. “Halfway through the roundabout, a car overlooked her. She lost her balance trying to avoid the car and hit her head on the curb. Due to the seriousness of the brain injury, her heart stopped immediately”, Boss said.
Boss, who is a neurologist herself, therefore adamantly emphasizes wearing a helmet. “Use your brain and put on a helmet.” According to her, the risk of serious brain damage would have been much less for her mother if she had worn a helmet.
Neurologist Marcel Aries at the ICU in the Maastricht UMC said that a bike collision can have disastrous consequences. “In the past year, we had six e-bikers with serious brain injuries. All of them were not wearing helmets. A large number of them died.”
Yet, ‘cycling professor’ at the University of Amsterdam, Marco te Brömmelstroet said the issue can mainly be found in car traffic. “Ironically, we think road safety is extremely important but we don’t want to talk about it if it means doing something about the real danger to road safety: the fast car.”
“Biking is not inherently dangerous. In many of the cases, we focus on the victim but actually, we need to tackle the driver and road traffic first”, Te Brömmelstroet said. The Bike Union said one way by which this could be done is by separating cyclists and car drivers on the road and by lowering the speed limit in dense areas. A majority of the Tweede Kamer is already in favor of the latter.