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. &

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

4 Companies That Rocked It by Treating Injured Workers as Equals; Not Adversaries

The 2018 Teddy Award winners built their programs around people, not claims, and offer proof that a worker-centric approach is a smarter way to operate.
By: | October 30, 2018 • 3 min read

Across the workers’ compensation industry, the concept of a worker advocacy model has been around for a while, but has only seen notable adoption in recent years.

Even among those not adopting a formal advocacy approach, mindsets are shifting. Formerly claims-centric programs are becoming worker-centric and it’s a win all around: better outcomes; greater productivity; safer, healthier employees and a stronger bottom line.

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That’s what you’ll see in this month’s issue of Risk & Insurance® when you read the profiles of the four recipients of the 2018 Theodore Roosevelt Workers’ Compensation and Disability Management Award, sponsored by PMA Companies. These four programs put workers front and center in everything they do.

“We were focused on building up a program with an eye on our partner experience. Cost was at the bottom of the list. Doing a better job by our partners was at the top,” said Steve Legg, director of risk management for Starbucks.

Starbucks put claims reporting in the hands of its partners, an exemplary act of trust. The coffee company also put itself in workers’ shoes to identify and remove points of friction.

That led to a call center run by Starbucks’ TPA and a dedicated telephonic case management team so that partners can speak to a live person without the frustration of ‘phone tag’ and unanswered questions.

“We were focused on building up a program with an eye on our partner experience. Cost was at the bottom of the list. Doing a better job by our partners was at the top.” — Steve Legg, director of risk management, Starbucks

Starbucks also implemented direct deposit for lost-time pay, eliminating stressful wait times for injured partners, and allowing them to focus on healing.

For Starbucks, as for all of the 2018 Teddy Award winners, the approach is netting measurable results. With higher partner satisfaction, it has seen a 50 percent decrease in litigation.

Teddy winner Main Line Health (MLH) adopted worker advocacy in a way that goes far beyond claims.

Employees who identify and report safety hazards can take credit for their actions by sending out a formal “Employee Safety Message” to nearly 11,000 mailboxes across the organization.

“The recognition is pretty cool,” said Steve Besack, system director, claims management and workers’ compensation for the health system.

MLH also takes a non-adversarial approach to workers with repeat injuries, seeing them as a resource for identifying areas of improvement.

“When you look at ‘repeat offenders’ in an unconventional way, they’re a great asset to the program, not a liability,” said Mike Miller, manager, workers’ compensation and employee safety for MLH.

Teddy winner Monmouth County, N.J. utilizes high-tech motion capture technology to reduce the chance of placing new hires in jobs that are likely to hurt them.

Monmouth County also adopted numerous wellness initiatives that help workers manage their weight and improve their wellbeing overall.

“You should see the looks on their faces when their cholesterol is down, they’ve lost weight and their blood sugar is better. We’ve had people lose 30 and 40 pounds,” said William McGuane, the county’s manager of benefits and workers’ compensation.

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Do these sound like minor program elements? The math says otherwise: Claims severity has plunged from $5.5 million in 2009 to $1.3 million in 2017.

At the University of Pennsylvania, putting workers first means getting out from behind the desk and finding out what each one of them is tasked with, day in, day out — and looking for ways to make each of those tasks safer.

Regular observations across the sprawling campus have resulted in a phenomenal number of process and equipment changes that seem simple on their own, but in combination have created a substantially safer, healthier campus and improved employee morale.

UPenn’s workers’ comp costs, in the seven-digit figures in 2009, have been virtually cut in half.

Risk & Insurance® is proud to honor the work of these four organizations. We hope their stories inspire other organizations to be true partners with the employees they depend on. &

Michelle Kerr is associate editor of Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]