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Power-driven bicycles to challenge cars on short journeys

Flexible and easy-to-use, the pedelec has many benefits. It is not yet widely known in Finland, unlike in the rest of the world. As cycling, even with the help of electricity, represents a smart and sustainable mode of transport, the Finnish Transport Agency and Trafi wish to join forces to promote the use of pedelecs in Finland. Activities planned to promote the use of pedelecs are presented in a new report.


One of the global trends in the transport sector is electric transport. A power-driven bicycle – also known as a pedelec – is a finished innovation within the field of electric transport, and increasingly popular in many European countries.

At the moment, the number of pedelecs sold in Finland is not large, their share of the bicycle sales being just one per cent. However, a slight increase can be seen in the demand. Meanwhile, their share of sales in the Netherlands is 20 per cent, in Germany 5, Sweden 3 and Denmark 3.5 per cent.

Short distance driving could be reduced

Based on experiences from other countries, the average distance traveled using a pedelec is 10 km. Currently, three quarters of all daily journeys made in Finland cover less than ten kilometers, and 70 to 80 per cent of these journeys are made by car. The share of journeys made on foot or by bike is reduced steeply already, when the distance exceeds 1 to 2 kilometers. “The transport system could be made more sustainable and the flow of traffic smoother if we could eliminate as many of the very short car journeys as possible”, says Tytti Viinikainen, Adviser on sustainable mobility at the Finnish Transport Agency. “Pedelecs, combined with regular cycling and public transport feeder arrangements enable us to increase the share of sustainable modes of transport.”

A pedelec is also flexible and easy to use, a personal vehicle that frees the user from the public transport services. What makes this mode of transport increasingly user-driven is the fact that it is suitable for most short daily journeys. International research has also shown that pedelecs have a positive impact on maintaining and strengthening health and basic fitness.

New kind of cycling has visible effects

Increasing the popularity of pedelecs is likely to have many positive effects. The distances covered by bicycles would increase; new people would start cycling, and existing cyclists would use their bikes on longer journeys; more people would cycle to work, and cycling feeder traffic would increase.

”Increased popularity of pedelecs would also increase average cycling speeds, which would in turn have an impact on the severity of potential accidents”, Anna Schirokof, Chief Advisor at Trafi points out: ”With increasing average speeds, it is essential to ensure that the cycling environment supports this development, for example by separating the walking and cycling routes more clearly from one another in order to avoid more conflicts.”

Encouraging pilot projects

In Europe, the popularity and use of pedelecs have been increased through compelling pilot projects aimed at reducing the purchase price and encouraging trial use. The key to increasing the popularity of pedelecs is, in fact, enabling consumers to test the bikes. Trials and guidance also promote safe use of pedelecs.

The promotion program presents twenty activities to boost the use of pedelecs. Primary projects in the program relate to better functioning public transport in feeder traffic and rural traffic, the services provided by electric power companies, and the planning of regional projects, and projects related to housing and business premises.

The recent report maps out the future role of pedelecs in Finland. The study examined pedelecs through global mega trends, international case studies, a market survey conducted on companies, and a traffic system analysis. The research material was used to prepare a promotion program aimed at increasing the use of pedelecs.

What is a pedelec?

  • it resembles a regular bicycle
  • with the motor, it is light to pedal; the added power helps especially when pedaling uphill
  • the motor only engages when pedaling and cuts out at the speed of 25 km/h
  • with the battery, it weighs some 6 to 8 kg more than a regular bicycle – this makes it somewhat heavier to pedal without the motor
  • depending on the model, it needs recharging after every 30 to 70 kilometers
  • almost all models have a detachable battery that can be recharged separately indoors

Additional information:

Road map for pedelecs; The potential of this transport mode to promote a sustainable transport system (insert link here), Research reports of the Finnish Transport Agency 10/2015

Tytti Viinikainen, Adviser on sustainable mobility, Finnish Transport Agency, tel. +358 295 34 3920

Anna Schirokoff, Specialist Adviser (Intelligent Transport), Finnish Transport Safety Agency Trafi, tel. + 358 40 7515 343

Jaakko Rintamäki,Senior Specialist, SITO Oy, tel. + 358 207 47 6738