Average speed - is 25kms/ hour fast enough?

December 07, 2016

Average speed - is 25kms/ hour fast enough?

"What's the top speed this bike can do?" it's a question I get asked by bike customers, (especially potential bike commuters), quite often. My standard answer, "by law the electric bikes we sell are speed limited to 25 kms an hour, the motor will cut out at that speed and if you are doing more than 25 kms per hour, you are probably going down hill and don't need the motor on anyway...." is often followed by the potential e-bike commuter saying, "but I can ride faster than that on a normal bike', or alike. So is 25 kms per hour fast enough? 

I've thought about this question a lot because Canberra does have longer commuting distances than many other cities in the world, our city is very spread out. (well so I thought until I did some research and the average commute in Canberra is 11.5 kms, comparable with Hobart and less than any other large Australian city).

Secondly, because of the distances and the network of bike paths where you don't have to stop much, such as between O'connor and Belconnen, you can go somewhat faster on a bike than you might be able to go if you were riding down a busy street.

On the other hand, 25 kms an hour is probably fast enough for most people. It's faster than most can ride up hills. It's a speed at which you can travel at without having to compete with other cyclists and it's comparable with what an average cyclist might be able to keep up for an hour over fairly flat terrain.

It's also a speed that you can fall at. You will still damage yourself if you do fall off at 25 kms an hour, but it won't kill you (unless you land really badly) and it's an appropriate speed for the infrastructure. An e-bike is a bicycle after all and not a motorbike. Same with a bike helmet. 

In some areas of the world there is a "Speed Pedalec" classification which allows a speed of up to about 32 kms an hour and some in the e-bike industry have lobbied (without success) to have this classification added to the Australian legislation. 

So the other question this brings to mind is what speed does an average driver do around Canberra?  Well, there is lots of data for the larger cities in Europe, for example, average speed differs between 19 kms per hour in London to 35kms per hour in Barcelona. In Canberra peak hour speed on Northbourne Avenue is 20 kms/per hour. But what about the rest of the time?

Well this question, and my initial question (ïs 25kms / per hour fast enough?) was answered yesterday when my partner, Kim, got into a Prius taxi at the airport. Besides displaying the current speed and power and emissions etc,  there was also a reading for average speed over the life of the vehicle. A taxi in Canberra would do a mix of travel and speed and distance across the day, so it's a good real life example to look at. Interestingly, the average speed was 24 kms per hour. No more needs to be said.