Does e-bike=motorbike? EC proposes compulsory insurance for e-bikes

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If you’re an e-bike user, or you’re thinking of getting one, you might soon need an expensive insurance policy to ride it legally. That’s because the European Commission (EC) has proposed updated laws which will require users of e-bikes to have the same level of insurance cover as motor vehicles.

mark alker focus jam ebike emtb
He’s electric: Singletrack’s publisher Mark heads to the hills on an e-bike

The Motor Insurance Directive is designed to make sure that victims of road traffic collisions get the highest possible level of compensation across the EU. But it’s sparked concerns among cycling organisations after the EC issued a statement yesterday, including a paragraph which clarified that e-bikes – even road-legal pedelecs – are categorised as motor vehicles, and need to be treated as such for insurance purposes.

The EU’s statement on the new Directive makes things pretty clear

The prospect of the UK leaving the EU is unlikely to make any difference, given that all the EC’s laws will still apply here during a transition period (expected to last until the end of 2020, and possibly much longer). However there’s the option for individual states to exempt e-bikes from having insurance, which might be an option here in the UK – as long as civil servants and MPs aren’t too busy getting ready for Brexit.

The proposal has already been strongly opposed by cycling organisations. The European Cyclists’ Federation (which is, somewhat ironically, an EU-funded organisation) has already replied to the proposals with a position statement, which points out that e-bikes are treated differently to motor vehicles under licencing and type approval regulations, and raises concerns that more regulation will suppress e-bike use. While the e-bikes we feature on these pages might not be someone’s daily transport, a huge number of them are. One recent study found a third of e-bike users bought them with the aim of replacing car trips.  The news will also come as a blow to the bike industry in general. E-bikes are a huge growth area, particularly in countries like Germany, where one in five new bikes sold last year was an e-bike.

focus jam emtb ebike
Hannah of this parish is also a fan of the e-MTB

It also appears that e-MTBs won’t be excluded from the updated legislation, even if they’re exclusively used off-road, as the Directive will apply “irrespective of the terrain on which the vehicle is used”. E-bikes are starting to get greater acceptance on the trails, and the International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA) recently changed its stance to support their use, following a field study which found that “Soil displacement and tread disturbance from Class 1 eMTBs and traditional mountain bikes were not significantly different, and both were much less than those associated with a gasoline-powered motorcycle”.

We’ve previously reported on the unfortunate situation in Northern Ireland, where a combination of political deadlock and legislative oversight mean you actually need a motorbike licence to ride an e-bike. Could the same thing happen here? A UK government consultation on the proposals sadly slipped under the radar of our cycling organisations, and closed last month, but you can still contact your MEPs and ask them to lobby to exclude e-bikes from the legislation.




Comments (6)

    I can’t admit to being the biggest fan of e-bikes, but I certainly don’t hate them. This seems like a ridiculously punitive piece of legislation. In my limited encounters with them, most e-bikes aren’t that much faster on the flat than standard bikes, so can’t see them doing more damage to a person than non-motor-assisted bikes, with regards the compensation aspect. This could be the terrifying first step to the dumb-**** motorist’s calls for insurance for all cyclists. I genuinely hope this fails to get passed.

    Totally ridiculous, the only thing an e bike does is make riding easier, they don’t make your top speed any faster.

    Well guess this will be unpopular but why shouldn’t road using cyclists have insurance ? Accidents happen both ways, why should a pedestrian or motorist or other cyclist have the expense of an accident when an idiot has ridden into them ?
    We are not all saints on bikes, we’ve all done stupid things but when someone else has to pay for that then yes insurance would be a good idea IF it is proportional cost to vehicle.

    Can’t help thinking about the irony of the rabid BREXIT loving, daily fail reading, white van man stereotype who pops up on social media ranting about MAMIL’s and ‘they should have insurance to be on the roads’ now possibly being given what he wants (partially) by the very organisation he despises and wants the UK to leave

    I think it could be a mute point as BC, Cycling UK & most Home Insurance policies already cover you for 3rd Party Liability anyway including when riding your bike. The question could be whether it is valid for e-Bikes, which it should as in the UK they are classed as Bicycles not motorised vehicles.

    corvette269, a lot of cyclists already have third party insurance. If you’re a British Cycling or Cycling UK member, or if you have home insurance, it’s basically thrown in as a freebie. If not, it’s very cheap – around £20 per year – because the likelihood of a cyclist being involved in a collision which causes a life-changing injury is incredibly small.

    Martib, if this directive is introduced it will reclassify ebikes as motor vehicles for insurance purposes. It’s up to individual member states to make legislation which will exclude them. Which the UK may not get around to.

    The standard insurance offered by British Cycling et al might not be enough. BC doesn’t cover claims by immediate family members, for example. It’ll also up the costs of anyone who uses ebikes for commercial purposes – courier companies for example.

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