European Commission proposes insurance legislation for electric bike use on Europe’s roads

In a potentially damaging move to the bustling European electric bike business the European Commission (EC) has released a proposal (found at the base of this piece) to amend the Motor Vehicle Insurance Directive (MID), which could, if it passes, mean that pedelec users without third-party liability insurance would be riding illegally.

“If today`s proposal becomes a law, third-party liability insurance will be required that would discourage millions of European citizens to use pedelec, undermine the efforts and investments of several member states and the European Union to promote sustainable mobility,” states Adam Bodor advocacy director of the European Cyclists` Federation.

In the introduction to the proposal it is outlined that the European Commission claim that such bikes should already have full motor vehicle insurance (not transport, bicycle, personal or household insurance but full motor vehicle insurance).

However, at the present time no action is required, the proposal, to become law, still has to pass The Council of the European Union and the European Parliament. Bicycle industry representatives will heavily lobby for an amendment that will exclude electric bikes.

The European Cyclists’ Federation say that “With this text the European Commission is trying to criminalize millions of current power assisted bicycle users, almost all of whom have some kind of other insurance, and has effectively banned pedelec use without insurance usually reserved for motor vehicles.”

Documents linked at the base of this piece do appear to show that member states of the EU will retain the right to exempt electric bikes, should their Governments so choose. As the urban mobility picture develops and the call for congestion and pollution to be reduced grows common sense would suggest many would veto such a move.

“I can reassure members that it remains legal to use e-bikes in the UK without motor vehicle insurance. The article is based on a proposal which has been made by the European Commission for reform of the Motor Insurance Directive,” added Peter Eland of the UK Bicycle Association.

The EC proposal clarifies the scope of the directive as to which vehicles are mandated to carry third party motor vehicle insurance. This clarification was necessary to avoid the confusion as to which vehicles, and on what geographical area (road, private land etc.) would qualify for a vehicle coming under this Directive. Unfortunately, the EC proposal published today includes even the (light) power assisted bicycles – pedelecs under this directive.

The ECF, as well as partners from the bicycle and pedelec industry, have already lobbied the Commission to make a clear line between a motor vehicle and a power assisted bicycle, to follow other European and national legislation and not oblige the pedelec users to hold a mandatory third party liability insurance. Despite rare involvement in third-party crashes the Commission decided that this is worthy of being classed as a motorized vehicle.

If there is no change from the European Parliament and Council the scope of the Directive will be;

“1. ‘vehicle’ means any motor vehicle intended for travel on land and propelled by mechanical power, but not running on rails, and any trailer, whether or not coupled

1a. ‘use of a vehicle’ means any use of such vehicle, intended normally to serve as a means of transport, that is consistent with the normal function of that vehicle, irrespective of the vehicle’s characteristics and irrespective of the terrain on which the motor vehicle is used and of whether it is stationary or in motion.

The ECF will challenge the European Parliament and Member States to overturn this decision.

Links to policy documents and proposals