A prototype ebike adds features that increase stability, making it safer for older riders
Cycling, and particularly the use of electric bikes, is becoming increasingly popular among older riders. However, this trend has also led to an alarming increase in accidents. Recently, Dutch police warned older cyclists of the dangers of switching to electric bikes after a large increase in the number of ebike deaths in that country, with nearly 90 percent of those killed aged 60 or above. Now, a consortium led by engineers at the University of Twente, aim to make riding an ebike safer with the development of an electric bicycle that can prevent elderly people from falling. The Smart Assistive Bicycle, dubbed SOFIE, is designed to increase stability.
Engineers used a computer model to help design features that led to a more stable bike, including a frame with a steeper angle, smaller wheels, a shorter wheel base, and drive-off assistance that helps avoid slow cycling. In addition, the saddle changes height automatically as cycling speeds change, rising as the bike speeds up to put the cyclist in the most efficient pedalling position, and lowering when the bike slows to make it easier for riders to put their feet on the ground. Many of the new features aim to make the bike more stable when travelling at low speeds, which is when most falls occur.
The consortium which developed the SOFIE, which includes e-mobility company Indes, and Roessingh Research & Development, has contacted several manufacturers with the aim of taking the bike into production, but no deal has been reached as yet. If this new bike is produced, it will join other bicycle innovations, such as an ebike that rides on water and the world’s first self charging electric folding bike. What other solutions could help elderly riders to cycle more safely?