Column: Roger's Soapbox

Opinion: A Vote for Mandatory Bicycle Insurance

By: | November 1, 2017 • 2 min read
Roger Crombie is a United Kingdom-based columnist for Risk & Insurance®. He can be reached at [email protected]

In big cities, most notably London and New York, the law does not require bicycle riders to carry insurance or even to register their vehicles. It’s just a pushbike, after all, like the kiddies ride.

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Sort of. In 2014, almost 4,000 New York cyclists were injured, and 20 killed. The same year, London reported 432 serious injuries or deaths among cyclists.

An antagonistic relationship exists between bike riders and motorists, with separate hostilities rife between bike riders and pedestrians.

Cyclists are routinely knocked off their steeds by inattentive motorists, and occasionally by malicious ones. Similarly, pedestrians are being knocked down by bike riders.

We’re familiar from movies and TV with images of courier bikers dashing hither and yon to deliver urgent packages.

We’re familiar from real life with some bikers breaking speed limits and sailing through red lights, as if the law didn’t apply to them.

Public bike sharing has greatly increased the carnage on the roads or, where I live, on the sidewalks.

A couple of years ago, my local authority decided that cyclists should move off the roads and onto the sidewalks, where they now routinely cause accidents. I live in Britain’s oldest community. The powers that be callously calculated that older dead pedestrians would have made a smaller economic contribution than younger dead cyclists would have.

Cyclists are routinely knocked off their steeds by inattentive motorists, and occasionally by malicious ones. Similarly, pedestrians are being knocked down by bike riders.

Commercial bikers must carry insurance. Non-commercial cyclists are often protected by their homeowners’ or rental insurance, but not everyone has such coverage.

As keenly as I dislike government regulation and interference, it is time for bicycle registration and insurance to be made mandatory.

Arguments for the idea: bikers use the roads but don’t pay for the privilege; accidents happen; some cyclists ignore the law; bike theft is endemic; the standard of cycling might improve if riders were accountable.

Against: more government and its attendant costs; a “tax” on a “green” activity at a time when we’re choking the planet; slower traffic.

Earlier this year, a cyclist in London, illegally hurtling along on a pushbike not fitted with front brakes, knocked down and killed a woman who was trying, quite legally, to cross the road. As she lay dying, the biker stood over her, screaming abuse because she had delayed his progress. In court, he showed no remorse.

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Not guilty of manslaughter, was the verdict. A separate court jailed the reckless cyclist for “wanton and furious cycling,” under a law passed in 1861, which Government has no plans to update.

Mandatory bicycle insurance would plainly be in the public interest. Car drivers, bus drivers, and airline pilots must have insurance. Of course they must; no one argues with that. Why not include bike riders?

Bikers who argue against insurance say that there are relatively few cases of cyclists at fault. OK. Say that’s true. Then the premium would be low. In Portugal, for example, an annual premium of less than $30 applies.

Don’t bother staying tuned to see if bicycle insurance becomes mandatory. It won’t, not any time soon. Political correctness cites an Animal Farm-based argument: two wheels good, everyone else get out of the way. &

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The R&I Editorial Team can be reached at [email protected]