The European Commission (EC) has recently proposed a new directive which could mean that insurance becomes a legal requirement for all electric bikes. Under the new proposals, full third party ebike insurance would be required as the bikes would be categorised as motorised vehicles alongside motorbikes and cars. This could mean a serious barrier to the fulfilment of the widespread benefits of electric bikes, both from an environmental and a health perspective, as well as a disastrous future for the electric bike market.
Who is the European Commission?
The European Commission is a part of the EU who is involved in proposing and implementing new legislation. The EC is comprised of 28 commissioners, one from each member state, who act as a cabinet government and have pledged to act in the interests of the EU as a whole rather than in the interest of their individual member state. The commission works to uphold EU treaties and manages the day-to-day business of the EU. You can read more about the EC on the EU Website.
How has the proposed directive come about?
Reports suggest that the proposal has come about following an incident where a citizen was injured by falling from a ladder as a result of a reversing tractor. In the case of Damijan Vnuk v Zavarovalnica Triglav the courts deemed that the tractor should have held motor insurance for public liability. This ruling calls into question the entire interpretation of the EUs Motor Insurance Directive and in light of this the European Commission has reviewed the entire directive and re-categorised a number of vehicles. This includes ebikes, also known as Electrically Power Assisted Cycles (EPACs), which are now being considered for mandatory ebike insurance.
The directive would include motorised vehicles of all types including; Segways, Golf Buggies, Ride-on Lawnmowers, Bumper Cars, Mobility Scooters, and (you guessed it!) electric bikes. The new ruling would mandate that full motor insurance be required for each of these vehicles in the same vain as cars. Furthermore, part of successfully implementing this legislation would mean being able to identify which of these vehicles held insurance and which did not. This may mean that the directive acts as a prerequisite for the requirement for number plates, SORNs and even the use of designated safety equipment such as motorcycle helmets to bring them in line with other motorised vehicles.
In a document provided as part of the EC’s press release on the matter the EC stated;
“[our] evaluation demonstrated that new types of motor vehicles, such as electric bikes (e-bikes), segways, electric scooters etc, already fall within the scope of the Directive as interpreted by the Court of Justice in its case-law.”
It added: “The use of these new types of electric motor vehicles in traffic has the potential to cause accidents whose victims need to be protected and reimbursed swiftly.”
Does this mean ebike insurance is now mandatory?
The simple answer is; no, not yet! The legislation is currently being reviewed and therefore has not passed into EU law yet. However, were the law to pass then ebike insurance would be required. However it is unclear yet exactly how this would be implemented. It is believed by many that imposing ebike insurance would act as a severe barrier and a deterrent to citizens looking to purchase electric bikes. This would limit the impact of the significant benefits they can bring to society by reducing the barriers to physical exercise; increasing the number of citizens able to commute to work; reducing road traffic; air pollution reduction etc.
Are there any exceptions to the electric bike insurance?
The EC has made the following statement;
“The current Directive already provides Member States with the power to exempt [vehicles] from motor third party liability insurance. If Member States were to exempt them in this way, the national guarantee funds would bear the costs of reimbursing victims of accidents caused by these new types of vehicles.”
However it seems unlikely that individual member states would go to the effort of evaluating each and every vehicle to decide which they are willing to bear the burden of.
So “what about Brexit?” we hear you ask. Well, currently it seems as though most, if not all, EU directives would apply post-brexit to help ensure a smooth, simple transition. Needless to say, detailed issues like this are unlikely to be top of the agenda for appeal after the split.
What can I do to help prevent ebike insurance being passed into EU law?
When proposing new laws the European Commission is open to input from both individual EU citizens and businesses operating within the EU to inform its decision making. Currently you can submit feedback as an EU citizen stating your views, either in support or against this new directive. But act fast because the closing date for feedback is 24th July 2018. Instructions on how to feedback your views are included below:
- Register with the ECAS System using this link.
- Wait for an email – follow the link and change your password
- Go to the following link: https://ec.europa.eu/info/law/better-regulation/initiatives/com-2018-336/feedback/add_en
- Fill in the free space with your opinion. You can either copy and paste the text proposed by the Bicycle Association (that you can find here below) or you can amend the text below and post it, or you can write your own response.
Bicycle Association suggested text for consultation for EU citizens:
I am feeding back my strong opinion that I am very much against the inclusion of Electrically Power Assisted Cycles (EPACs) within the revision of the Motor Insurance Directive because of the following reasons:
An EPACs as not a motor vehicles. An EPAC provides electrical assistance to the cyclist up to 25km/h only while pedalling. This power assistance is designed ONLY to complement rather than replace the main propulsion, which is by human muscle energy through manual pedalling: if an EPAC user does not pedal, he/she does not receive any assistance. Power is limited to 250W, which is a level perfectly achievable by riders without assistance.
The environmental and health benefits that EPACs bring would be put at significant risk. A mandatory third-party liability insurance for EPACs users is an over-regulatory barrier that would have a severe impact on the environmental and health benefits deriving from cycling an EPAC: the health benefits of cycling are over 191 billion Euros per year and EPACs are zero emission vehicles that tackle the growing problem of traffic congestions in cities. If motor vehicle insurance were to be made compulsory for EPACs, EPAC users would be discouraged from cycling, and the mentioned benefits be lost. The European Commission has left out the opinions of the Transport and the Public Health sectors in trying to understand the costs and benefits within a thorough impact assessment.
Jobs and investments at risks.EPACs are a key part of the cycle industry’s future employment growth potential. Current EPAC sales show that in the European Union, millions of EPACs are sold every year and sales are increasing constantly. The inclusion of EPACs in the scope of the MID would directly impact an industry that invests 1 billion euro per year in research, innovation and development and which provides 90,000 direct/indirect Green jobs across the EU.
EPACs are not dangerous so no mandatory third-party liability insurance burden should be put on EPAC users. Statistics show that EPAC users are, at all effects, vulnerable road users and not the cause of serious third-party injuries.
I call on you to reconsider this and use a definition of a motor vehicle within the legislation that excludes Electrically Power Assisted Cycles.