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Should e-bike speeds be increased? Petition launched to raise assisted speed to 20mph in the UK

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Jack Sexty's picture

Jack Sexty

Jack is the news editor here at eBikeTips, and also edits the live blog and writes tech news over on our sister site Jack first became fascinated with e-bikes when an elderly gentleman breezed past him without a care in the world up a big old hill in North Wales - thus realising e-bikes are the real deal! Although he genuinely enjoys time trials and lung-busting climbs without assistance, Jack likes nothing more than cruising round town on an e-bike during his days off.   


2 years 4 weeks ago

Here's the link to the petition, it's not doing so well and needs more signatures

I only just found out about it by browsing this site, and there wasn't even a link to it in the article ?!

2 years 1 month ago

Agree that the current limit is too low. Having commuted buy ebike for 18 months on a roads with 40mph limits it creates a dangerous speed differential between bikes and traffic. If urban limits drop to 20mph as the BMA is asking for there will be even less advantage in using a car you can't park near the shops ...

2 years 2 months ago

Don't confuse average speed with maximum speed, or maximum speed with maximum assisted speed. There is nothing to stop any ebike from being propelled at well over the 15.5mph assistance level, other than your fitness. I use an ebike - an Orbea Gain e-road bike - I bought it to enable me to ride with the club leisure rides after my leg strength has been severely reduced after developing vascular problems, Up to 15,5 mph fine, but the speed of most rides hovers around 16 - 18mph on the flat, and one finds it hard work to keep a heavy ebike rolling at that level after power has been cut off. For me a 20mph cut off would make much more sense. Perhaps for e-road bikes only, and not for 'utility' ebikes, where a 15,5mph assistance cut off is more appropriate. 

2 years 2 months ago

Assistance of around 18-20mph would be suitable, having ridden ebikes capable of 20mph.  Bikes can and do go much faster when the road tilts down.  Riding on the flat at 20mph is fine.  Its more to do with how quickly the assistance builds speed.  You dont need lots of acceleration, just a little bit more than standard 

2 years 2 months ago

15.5mph is way too slow, because you're not keeping up with the general speed of other road users, which includes other cyclists who are going at 20mph on ordinary road bikes.


It's actually more dangerous to be going at such a low speed. 

20mph is a much more sensible speed, and feels more natural. 

2 years 2 months ago

I used an ebike for a while prior to my kidney transplant, I think the current limit is entirely reasonable, ebikes have the privilege of shareing the same infrastructure as conventional cyclists, whilst a minority of cyclists peddle at average speeds greater than 15 mph, the vast majority do not. Current limits mean that ebikes are typically marginally faster than the mean speed of cyclists on the road, which accords with my own experience as a fairly average cyclist. That would seem about the right situation to maintain. 

2 years 2 months ago

Hi, couldn't find the petition on the government website? Can you post a direct link please.

I would definitely support it and especially the need to increase the power of the motor, some of us are on the heavy side and live in a hilly area so 250 is just not strong enough

2 years 2 months ago

I will only consider an ebike when the limit is raised above 18mph. The present limit of 15.5mph doesn't alllow for club riding where the average speed is 16-18mph and the extra weight of an ebike means a constant struggle to keep up.

2 years 2 months ago

A top speed of 15mph is quite slow but for all but the longest journeys is not going to cost you a massive loss in time. 

2 years 2 months ago

I suppose restricting petrol and diesel vehicle to the legal speed limit as they are currently restricting electric assist bikes; would be far too radical to consider.

2 years 2 months ago

No, absolutely not.

On an open road, with little traffic, and few pedestrians, there would be no real problem with an increased 'assisted' speed. The real difference, especially if maximum power is also increased, is the increased rate of acceleration, and the relative ease of repeated acceleration - this means that pedalec riders could ride at much higher speeds in marginal conditions, much more readiliy.

For example, even relatively fit cyclists would struggle to repeatedly accelerate to 20mph in stop-go high traffic volume condititions - and the resulting lower average speed keeps things relatively safe, reducing the potential for collisions, and reducing the severity of impacts should collisions happen. The thought of pedelecs accelerating rapidly and filtering at 20mph+ is frankly terrifying.

More powerful pedalecs will need bigger motors with bigger batteries, stronger frames, stronger wheels with bigger tyres, uprated brakes (with ABS?), and a greater need for suspension, leading to much higher weights, further increasing the danger to pedestrians and other cyclists.

2 years 2 months ago

A more effective option might be to remove the pedelec bit.  Electric scooters are being legalised (currently hire only).  People buy them because they just have to stand there.  So why not allow electric bike to be self propelled?  The bigger wheels, brkaes and geometry are a lot safer than those scooters.  Keep the speed to 15.5 mph though, that is plenty for commute purposes.  If you want to go faster then motorbikes are the way, and you are not able to use cycle paths.

2 years 2 months ago

On the one hand, as an experienced cyclist I feel confident in controlling a bike at 20mph so raising the limit to that seems trivial and if it drives adoption of ebikes, why not?  Most of the motor systems available are already capable of 20mph assistance with just a software update anyway.  The current 15.5mph is not that much slower; faster than is sensible in many shared-spaces already, so although the suggestion that raising the bar would lead to extra accidents is probably true, such accidents would still be the responsbility of the rider.

And yet, if we're saying this would attract new riders, we're not necessarily talking about experienced cyclists.  Some of these people will be used to going at a certain speed in their cars, with excellent brakes, and lots of safety systems to save them from their mistakes, and not used to pedestrians and dogs jumping out into 'their' lane.  Perhaps 'faster' ebikes should be mandated to have hydraulic brakes, excluded from shared spaces, require training... but that's just the S-pedelces rules cast differently.

Ultimately, in my opinion an ebike should be a human device.  "At the speed of the land" as the saying goes.  15.5mph is fine.

2 years 2 months ago

It comes down to the fact that as speed increases, the distance to stop increases exponentially, as does the likelihood of serious injury.  Over the typical distances an eBike is used, 15 vs 20 mph will make practically no difference to journey times, yet would increase the likelihood of nasty accidents on shared use paths.

2 years 2 months ago

I very much agree with the proposal. It's allowing assistance up to 20 mph. It is not necessarily increasing speeds, that's still controlled by the rider. E-bikes are not limited to 15.5 mph so the increased risk of collisions argument is entirely specious. There's nothing to prevent an e-bike, or any bike doing more than 20 mph. Average speeds are completely irrelevant. To maintain an average of 15.5 mph you have to travel much faster than that. The average speed of cars is also immaterial. You might as well say pedestrians ony manage 3 mph so why should anything else go faster? On the roads I travel having assistance up to 20 mph would greatly improve my safety. Should you not require that on your journey is very good, but don't impose your requirements on me thanks.

2 years 2 months ago

Absolute no, unless you're prepared to have number plates, insurance, MOT etc etc. An e-bike is just that a push bike with a bit of power assistance, not an electric moped. Keep it simple, keep it to reasonable power/top speed and they'll remain under the radar. Make them too fast and that's playing right into the hnds of the Daily Mail "I pay may road tax" brigade.

2 years 2 months ago

If you think 15mph is too slow, then another 5mph isn't really going to change your mind is it?  Most ebike trips are in urban areas where 15mph is faster than the average speed of the cars, so is perfectly fine.

There is also the increased risk of collisions and higher risk of serious injury to pedestrians or other cyclists, and since collision energy increases with the square of the speed, that's a considerable extra risk.

2 years 2 months ago

It's commonly accepted in the cycling community that the current limit reduces the likelihood that people will swap their car for an electric bike and that the speed difference being so much lower than a car increases the danger presented to cyclists when sharing the road.

Surely the aswer to that is not to force everyone onto higher powered pedelecs, but to tackle the causes of the danger so that e-bikes and standard bikes alike can use the roads safely?

2 years 2 months ago

Personally I think 20mph makes sense.  More and more roads across the country are now operating a 20mph speed limit.  If an e-bike can take people to that speed they can become part of traffic rather than being seen as a slow moving obstacle by drivers.  Ultimately the cyclist still has to pedal to hit that speed.  I think if the limit was 20 we would also see a lot of people who currently de-restrict their bikes not doing so anymore because as the saying goes, "20 is plenty".

2 years 2 months ago

No, I would not agree with this. 250W is a respectable power output for a cyclist and 15.5mph is a respectable average speed - an electric bike motor is intended simply to substitute in part for the human motor whilst leaving the machine as essentially a bicycle.

But I see the protagonists have subtly changed the language to reframe the debate. Now they make comparison with a car, and lubricate with a dose of environmental zeitgeist so it goes down easily: "because the current limit reduces the likelihood that people will swap their car for an electric bike".

If this is allowed to stand then they have ready won the debate. Once the argument is to compare e-bikes with cars, rather than with bicycles, in terms of power and speed then the answer can only be a foregone conclusion.

It is a clever and effective, if underhand, way to win an argument - change the parameters.

2 years 2 months ago

15mph is more than enough and is already close to my peak average speed commute speed across London and in excess of the average car speed in Central London (7.4 mph). (yes I know not everything is London-centric). 

The last thing cycling needs is a load of bad press from pedestrians getting twatted by idiots riding at full tilt.