France’s notoriously reckless drivers often come under fire over its high number of road deaths, but holidaymakers are now facing a new danger: speeding cyclists riding illegally souped-up electric bikes.
The modified e-bikes are terrifying pedestrians and conventional cyclists.
They are capable of reaching 30 miles per hour without pedalling, double the speed limit for electric bicycles in France.
Owners are boosting the power of their e-bikes themselves by following online instructions that explain how to make the relatively simple adaptations required.
The alarm has been raised by Lionel Quillet, the conservative mayor of Loix, on the Île de Ré, a popular family holiday destination where the bicycle is king.
The island off France’s west coast has more than 70 miles of cycle paths although it is only 18 miles long by 3 miles wide.
In summer, about 6,000 bikes a day pass through some sections of the island, many ridden by children.
After a number of accidents, Mr Quillet said souped-up e-bikes should be banned from cycle paths.
The best cycling holidays in France
“At these speeds, they should come under regulations for mopeds, or even motorbikes,” he said.
“Not everyone is fully in control of their bike, even less so when it’s souped-up.”
Anne, 43, a mother of three who often holidays on the island, said: “Cycle paths here are really congested. Some stop to take photos and there are kids who wobble and zigzag because they’re learning to ride, so you need to be alert all the time. And now we’ve got to contend with hot rod e-bikes hurtling along at high speed. It’s really dangerous.”
The problem is not confined to the Île de Ré, and the warnings come after a survey showed that few cyclists in France know the highway code as it applies to bikes.
Only six per cent of respondents answered all questions correctly in a survey for the French Road Safety Association.
In July last year, 23 cyclists were killed. Nearly 3,500 people died on French roads last year, compared to 1,710 in the UK.
France, which has about the same population and number of cars as Britain, recently lowered the speed limit on secondary single-carriageway roads from 90 kilometres per hour to 80 (50 mph).
The move sparked widespread protests by motorists.
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