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On tour with tailwind

Pedelecs in everyday life, logistics and tourism

A pedelec in front of a super market
A pedelec in front of a super market © Sabine Schulten
The characteristics of pedelecs are entirely positive: they are individual, environmentally friendly, they save space and are beneficial to health. Consequently, pedelecs are a flexibly usable means of transport in everyday life, in commercial transport and, of course, for leisure time.


In Germany, the trend towards pedelecs is continuing. The sales figures provided by the Cycling Industry Association (ZIV) confirm that this is true for 2013 as well: 410,000 e-bikes were sold nationwide. It is estimated that pedelecs in particular account for 95 % of the e-bikes sold. Thus, today, pedelecs have a share of almost 11 % of the pedal cycles that are sold in Germany. [ZIV 2014] All in all, more than 1.5 million cyclists in Germany are using pedelecs. The average retail price for a pedelec ranges between 1,500 and 2,000 euros. [ZIV 2012]

Pedelecs - Marktentwicklung in Deutschland
Pedelecs - Marktentwicklung in Deutschland © Zweirad Industrie Verband e.V. 2014

Who uses pedelecs?

Regarding the composition of the group of pedelec users, no reliable information can be given at this point. However, it is assumed that pedelecs are increasingly being used by people other than older and physically less fit people who represented the main user group when the pedelec trend began. This statement is underscored by the aforementioned sales figures and by the continuing development of and demand for different types of pedelecs, for instance in the mountain bike sector. Since the different types are bought by different consumer groups, it can thus be assumed that more and more younger people are using pedelecs as well. However, no precise sales figures are available at the moment.

INFORMATION BOX: What are pedelecs?

The general delimitation between “cycles and motor vehicles” accepted by the Federal Government and federal state governments is based on Directive 2002/24/EC. [Directive 2002/24/EC]

A pedelec (pedal electric cycle) is equipped with an electric motor having a power of up to 250 W, which provides assistance when moving off or driving up a hill. When the speed increases, however, this assistance is reduced; at a speed of 25 km/h or more, it is cut off. A pedelec is considered to be a pedal cycle for the purposes of road traffic law.

graphic © none

Due to their higher maximum speeds, fast pedelecs (high-speed pedelecs) and e-bikes fall within the scope of the above-mentioned Directive and are therefore considered motor vehicles. High-speed pedelecs also have a power assistance that only becomes active when the cyclist is pedalling; however, in this case, it will not deactivate until the cycle reaches a speed of 45 km/h. The motor of an e-bike, in contrast, provides assistance even without pedalling up to a maximum speed of 20 km/h. Both means of transport are classified as mopeds, which require an insurance plate and a respective driving licence.

Pedelecs – potentials in everyday life, logistics and tourism

Although the trend towards pedelecs is continuing, their use in everyday traffic, especially in major cities, is not yet common. It is estimated that the 1.5 million pedelecs in Germany are mainly used outside of major cities. It is assumed that pedelecs are sold less in major cities not because their original costs are relatively high, but rather because of the high risk of theft due to the lack of secure parking facilities at the workplace and/or the home.

Display am Pedelec
Display am Pedelec © Jörg Thiemann-Linden


Pedelecs in everyday life

The benefits of pedelecs are obvious: thanks to electric assistance, larger distances can be covered with less effort than with a traditional pedal cycle.  Due to these longer distances that can be covered by pedelecs, expectations are high that their share of the modal split will increase: Passenger cars used for commuting can be replaced by pedelecs. Because when assessing the higher travel speed and longer travel distance and including these aspects in traffic models, pedelecs would theoretically have a considerable “bonus” in terms of mode choice. The special advantages offered by pedelecs are less apparent in dense urban areas with short distances, but all the more on the urban fringes with travel distances of 8 to 12 km and in rural areas where they are used as a feeder to local public transport.

Hence, the pedelec can unlock much more potential than the traditional pedal cycle and can make use of its environmental benefit. For this reason, cities with a high volume of car commuters from the urban fringes should become active and involve their surrounding communities in a forward-looking cycling planning.

INFORMATION BOX: Use of pedelecs in the Netherlands

In 2013, more than one million new pedal cycles were sold in the Netherlands, 19 % of which were equipped with an auxiliary electric motor. The 2013 issue of a study entitled “Mobiliteitsbalans”, which annually reflects the mobility status in the Netherlands, identifies the high share of pedelecs as one of the reasons for the increasing use of pedal cycles.

The sum of pedal cycle kilometres travelled increased by around 14 % between 2000 and 2012; the number of pedal cycle kilometres per person increased by 9 %. During this time, it was especially older people who travelled more pedal cycle kilometres as well as longer stretches per journey using pedelecs: in 2012, around 10 % of all those aged 60 or older used pedelecs, which amounted to almost 25 % of their pedal cycle kilometres being travelled by pedelec.

Regardless of their age, pedelec riders in the Netherlands on average travel 31 kilometres per week. Riders of traditional pedal cycles, in contrast, travel around 21 kilometres, and this figure decreases the older they become.

The amount of data on pedelec commuters is very limited in the Netherlands as well. However, it can be assumed that the average distance to the workplace of pedelec users is 1.5 times higher (9.8 km) than that of riders of traditional pedal cycles (6.3 km).


The potential of cycling to reduce environmental pollution

Radverkehrsanteil (%) am Modal Split
Radverkehrsanteil (%) am Modal Split © Baier, Göbbels 2012
The Federal Highway Research Institute (BASt) published a study in 2013, which, for the first time, quantified the potential of cycling to reduce environmental pollution for the sample cities of Mönchengladbach, Coburg and Gütersloh. The model-supported calculation for all three cities is based on their status quo and a scenario assuming an optimum promotion of cycling.  In addition and depending on the existing framework conditions in each city, further scenarios are calculated that could have an influence on traffic trends in the future. The study also calculates the influence of a possible increasing “pedelecrification” of the public on traffic trends.

The subsequent analysis of potential underlines that a reduction of motor vehicle mileage is possible in all sample cities through a systematic promotion of cycling. A simulation of the developed scenarios showed a clear change towards a higher cycling share of the modal split. The “pedelectrification” of the public generates further potentials in this study with regard to CO2 savings and a higher cycling share of the modal split, as can be seen in the following figure. [Baier, Schuckließ, Jachtmann 2013]

INFORMATION BOX: Power consumption and CO2 balance of pedelecs

  • Power consumption of a pedelec:
    1 kWh/100 km
    In contrast: a light bulb with a power of 100 W that is turned on for 10 hours needs 1 kWh of electricity. An economical passenger car needs 50 kWh for 100 km [Lewis 2012]
  • Range in km/battery charge:
    varies widely in dependence of producer, driving style & topography
  • Electricity costs:
    28,84 ct/100 km [BDEW 2013]
  • CO2 balance of a pedelec in g/km:
    5.76 g of CO2 (in dependence of the form of power generation)

    1 kWh equals around 576 g of CO2 in the 2012 German electricity mix [Icha 2013]
  • balance of a passenger car in g/km:
    141.6 g of CO2 (average CO2 emissions of a newly registered passenger car in 2012) [Dings 2013]

Topography and pedelecs

Not only for commuter journeys between suburban areas and inner cities can pedelecs unlock a greater potential than traditional pedal cycles. Due to their assisting motor, they are especially valuable in topographically difficult areas.


The potentials of pedelecs are also diverse with regard to commercial transport and logistics; a few companies already use them, such as Deutsche Post and other courier and messenger services. Transport operations with electric cargo cycles can often be carried out faster, cheaper and more environmentally friendly than with passenger cars or light vans. Nonetheless, at the moment, almost 100 % of goods are delivered by van, although especially in cities, the “last mile” is problematic for motorised transport due to parking bans, traffic jams and restrictions. Therefore, new solutions are necessary. A study that was carried out within the context of the EU “cyclelogistics” project concludes that almost 50 % of all urban transport operations could be carried out with e-cargo cycles, among other things. [Reiter, Wrighton 2013]

The German Transport Club (VCD), which is responsible for the information portal within the context of the “Cargo onto cycles” project, provides a good overview for local authorities of how they can promote the use of cargo cycles in commercial transport.

Ein Lastenfahrrad im Schnee
Ein Lastenfahrrad im Schnee © Jörg Thiemann-Linden


Cycle tourism is developing into a very significant segment in the tourism industry. It can be assumed that the popularity of pedal cycles as leisure time means of transport will continue to increase, as especially the pedelec can help to unlock further potentials. It is therefore necessary to champion high-quality cycling facilities and provide appropriate parking facilities and charging infrastructure, for instance at places providing accommodation or food. For example, since 2012, pedelec riders have been able to charge their batteries along the Berlin-Copenhagen cycle route at a total of 57 charging points. The distance between the individual points is no longer than 35 km. [] Many other holiday regions have understood the benefits of electrically assisted cycling and are already including it more and more in their marketing. The German Cyclists' Association (ADFC) offers an overview of the routes at which pedelecs can be rented from different providers: (only available in German).

Road safety and pedelecs

On average, pedelecs are ridden slightly faster than normal pedal cycles. This is the result of a study of the PGV-Alrutz planning office commissioned by BASt that has not yet been published and that looked into the potential influence of pedelecs on road safety. The determined average speed of pedelecs is as high as 19 km/h, which is 2 km/h faster than that of pedal cycles without electric assistance. In consequence, there is no real speed difference. Based on this result, the study recommends that no additional design planning for a pedelec infrastructure be undertaken, but that the requirement standards of the Recommendations for Cycling Facilities (ERA) by the Road and Transport Research Association (FGSV) be implemented accurately and cycle tracks be designed to meet more than just minimum requirements. [PGV-Alrutz/IWU o.J.]

Police accident protocols have only included pedelecs as a means of transport since 1 January 2014. For this reason, valid information regarding if and how pedelecs influence road safety cannot be provided yet.

Alltagsradverkehr © Jörg Thiemann-Linden


Requirements to be met by infrastructure that is suitable for pedelecs

To further promote the use of pedelecs and ensure an appropriate level of safety for all road users, certain infrastructural requirements must be met. At the same time, the requirements of rural areas or in the field of road safety and the potentials of pedelecs in everyday traffic in major cities, on the urban fringes and in rural areas must sufficiently be taken into account, because often there is a gap between high user expectations regarding pedelecs on the one hand and insufficient infrastructure in terms of cycling facilities in general, charging infrastructure and, above all, parking facilities on the other.

Cycling facilities

In practice, the question whether the areas available for cycling are suited and safe for fast-moving cycles is increasingly being discussed. However, the dimensions used when building or converting cycling facilities are often smaller than those provided for by the standards. The reason for this often lies in limited road space. Since we know that the share of both pedal cycles and pedelecs in the modal split is increasing in many cities and on the urban fringes, design elements should meet more than just minimum requirements. As soon as the standards of the current Recommendations for Cycling Facilities are applied - in conjunction with a critical review of the mandatory use of cycle tracks - these cycling facilities will also be sufficient for pedelec users.

However, cycling facilities suitable for pedelecs will not only be necessary in built-up areas. It is likely that, with an increasing cycling share, cyclists will increasingly have to do without cycle tracks alongside roads outside built-up areas. Currently, the marking of advisory cycle lanes outside built-up areas is not permissible under the German Road Traffic Regulations; cycling is mainly done on shared footways/cycle tracks. The “pilot project addressing the marking of advisory cycle lanes outside built-up areas and analysing their impact on the safety and attractiveness of the cycle network”, commissioned by the Federal Government, federal states and rural districts, is to deliver highly anticipated results regarding this issue at the beginning of 2015.

Secure parking facilities

The use of pedelecs and also of valuable pedal cycles in general requires parking facilities at the cyclists' homes and destinations that are secure, but easily accessible, if possible also to people with disabilities. Since these cycles are very expensive to buy, these parking facilities should above all protect them against theft, vandalism and the weather. The FGSV's 2012 Guidance on Cycle Parking defines sufficient protection against theft as follows: to lock the pedal cycle frame and at least one wheel to the cycle holder. [FGSV 239] This standard is, in principle, also sufficient for securing a pedelec, as the battery can usually be removed. However, to take into account the higher original costs of pedelecs, covered parking facilities, lockable shared cycle garages and individual cycle lockers, for instance in cycle parks that are also equipped with charging facilities, are recommended and already provided in many cities. However, secure parking facilities are also required at people's homes, especially against the background of the settlement density. The Guidance on Cycle Parking does not only highlight the requirements for action by the public sector, but also the possibility to privately apply for the aforementioned small cycle garages on the basis of a special permit under road traffic law.

Charging infrastructure

In dependence of the battery type, design, the topography and the individual riding style, pedelecs have different ranges. The website provides a good overview of costs and power consumption of pedelecs. In everyday traffic, it hardly ever becomes necessary to charge the battery during one trip. A completely charged battery can provide pedalling assistance in its highest assistance category and with the respective topography for around 40 km. The average commuter route including minor detours, for instance for grocery shopping, is thereby guaranteed. Even in tourist cycling, the necessity of charging the battery during the day does not play any or only a minor role; one of the reasons is that charging would take some time. As the performance of batteries will be further enhanced in the future, when establishing an infrastructure suitable for pedelecs in the public realm and on private premises, the focus should be on secure and comfortable parking.

The following checklist can be used as a basis for an infrastructure suitable for pedelecs:

Checklist: Infrastructure suitable for pedelecs

  • Sufficiently wide curve radii for the higher speed (for concrete recommendations, please refer to ERA 2010, chapter 2.2; only available in German)
  • Visual contact must be guaranteed, especially at intersections (for concrete recommendations, please refer to ERA 2010, chapter 4, as well as the Guidelines for the Design and Construction of Urban Roads (RASt) 06; only available in German)
  • Sufficiently wide cycle tracks/cycle lanes for safe overtaking opportunities with pedelecs/cycles (please refer to ERA 2010, chapter 3), if necessary also wider cycle tracks, cycle lanes or advisory cycle lanes possible (the ERA 2010 take account of this possibility) [PGV-Alrutz/IWU o.J.]
  • Even cycle track surfaces
  • Understandable and continuous routes
  • Thorough and critical review of the mandatory use of cycle tracks
  • Secure parking facilities suitable for pedelecs (e.g. with restricted access or cycle lockers)
  • Taking into account the routes for pedestrians to avoid conflicts between pedestrian and (fast) cycling traffic before they arise

Important stakeholders for an infrastructure that is suitable for pedelecs

Corresponding framework conditions must be created to make more use of the described pedelec potential in the future. But who is responsible for this and who should be included in the discussion about an infrastructure suitable for pedelecs or about secure parking facilities? The following matrix with the corresponding levels of action shows one possible way of including the stakeholders. The selection of stakeholders in this example is based on the priorities set here, which might however be different elsewhere:

Mögliche Konstellation der Akteursbeteiligung
Mögliche Konstellation der Akteursbeteiligung © Difu

Summary and outlook

In recent years, the pedelec has established itself as a means of transport, which can clearly be seen in the continuously increasing sales figures in Germany. A strengthened integration of the pedelec into the transport system can additionally support this societal trend.

It is the quality of cycling facilities that matters above all, as they are to provide the necessary space and safety for all road users. In addition, secure parking facilities that are as comfortable as possible are needed at the cyclists' homes and destinations to meet the main expectations of pedelec users. This above all applies to parking facilities at bus stops and stations to use the special advantage of pedelecs as a feeder to local public transport and thereby increase the catchment area of local public transport. The figures from the Netherlands regarding the measured longer distances travelled by pedelec riders - regardless of their age - prove this special potential. However, providing universal charging infrastructure coverage should not be the objective, as the performance of pedelec batteries will continue to increase in the future.

With regard to the limited traffic spaces, above all in conurbations, if the pedelec trend continues to grow, it could be worthwhile to give cycling more space in general to reach a relevant substitution of passenger vehicle journeys.


[Baier, Schuckließ, Jachtmann 2013]
Heft V 227. 2013
Baier, Reinhold; Schuckließ, Wolfgang; Jachtmann, Yvonne
[Baier, Göbbels 2012]
Vortrag auf dem Fachforum Mobilitätsmanagement „Pedelecs – Chancen und Möglichkeiten für den Alltagsverkehr“ am 18.04.2012. (abgerufen am 02.06.2014)
Baier, Reinhold; Göbbels, Alexander
[BDEW 2013]
Bundesverband der Energie und Wasserwirtschaft e.V. (BDEW)
[BDEW 2013]
Bundesverband der Energie und Wasserwirtschaft e.V. (BDEW)
[Dings 2013]
European Federation for Transport and Environment (T&E). 2013.
Dings, Jos
Berlin 2011 (Forschung Radverkehr - Analysen; A-2/2011)
Deutsches Institut für Urbanistik (Hrsg.); Thiemann-Linden, Jörg (Bearb.); Thiele, Julia (Bearb.); van Boeckhout, Sara (Bearb.)
(abgerufen am 15.04.2014)
Fahrradakademie (2014)
[FGSV 239]
Köln: FGSV Verl. 2012 (FGSV; 239)
Forschungsgesellschaft für Straßen- und Verkehrswesen -FGSV-, Arbeitsgruppe Verkehrsführung und Verkehrssicherheit (Hrsg.)
[Lewis 2012]
Handbuch. Wien 2012
Lewis, Thomas (Hrsg.)
[Icha 2013]
Umweltbundesamt 2013 (Climate Change, 07/2013) (abgerufen am 02.06.2014)
Icha, Petra
ISUP Ingenieurbüro für Systemberatung und Planung GmbH (2011)
[PGV-Alrutz/IWU o.J.]
Unveröffentlichte Forschungsarbeit im Auftrag der Bundesanstalt für Straßenwesen
PGV-Alrutz, Institut Wohnen und Umwelt
[Reiter, Wrighton 2013]
D7.1 A set of updated IEE Common performance indicators including their baseline and assumptions for extrapolation. 2013
Reiter, Karl; Wrighton, Susanne
Einen Flyer zur Verteilung der Ladestationen findet man auch auf den Seiten des Landkreises Oberhavel (abgerufen am 02.06.2014)
[ZIV 2014]
ZIV Wirtschaftspressekonferenz am 25. März 2014 in Berlin (abgerufen am 03.04.2014)
Zweirad-Industrie-Verband e. V. (2014)
[ZIV 2012]
ZIV Wirtschaftspressekonferenz am 21. März 2012 in Berlin (abgerufen am 03.04.2014)
Zweirad-Industrie-Verband e. V. (2012)
Meta Infos
SPT 01
Date (Text as of…)
3. June 2014
Sabine Schulten (Deutsches Institut für Urbanistik)
Handlungsfelder NRVP
Electric mobility
Logistics and transport operations
Charging infrastructure