Bicycles and pedelecs

Bicycles are used primarily outside the workplace. However, they are used routinely in more occupations than one might expect. Postmen and women, bicycle couriers and bicycle-mounted police officers may spend several hours a day on bicycles, and are increasingly observed on pedelecs (pedal electric cycles).

The motor of a pedelec, with a maximum continuous rating of 0.25 kW, assists the rider only as long as he or she pedals, and only up to a maximum speed of 25 km/h. Most electric motor-assisted bicycles are pedelecs, i.e. they do not rely on the electric motor alone for propulsion. (Bicycles that do so are termed "e-bikes".) Under the German road traffic licensing legislation (StVZO), pedelecs are classified as bicycles, and are subject to the same regulations as bicycles for their use on the roads. Pedelecs may therefore use cycle paths, and their riders are not required to wear helmets.

Manufacturers of pedelecs and the arrangements for their placing on the market are however subject to a different legal framework from that governing bicycles. Pedelecs fall within the scope of the European Machinery Directive 2006/42/EC. They must therefore comply with the essential safety requirements set out in this directive. This difference becomes clear, for example, with regard to vibration. The Machinery Directive requires vibration on pedelecs to be reduced by their design and manufacture. Manufacturers must also provide information on the vibration transmitted by the pedelec to the upper limbs and the whole body. This information must be included both in the instruction handbook and in sales literature stating the specifications of the pedelec. It follows that these requirements should also be set out in the relevant product standard. A legal provision to this effect does not exist for bicycles without power assistance from an electric motor. Employers can draw upon the manufacturer's vibration data when performing the risk assessment.

KAN is lobbying for the vibration hazard to be taken into account in the standards governing pedelecs. 

Further information

Do you have any questions on this topic, or need support? If so, please contact Dr Anna Dammann.