Power Assisted Bike Illegal on Roads Says European Commission

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The Power Assisted Bike could become illegal on European roads without full vehicle insurance.
The Power Assisted Bike could become illegal on European roads without full vehicle insurance.

The European Commission (EC) has released a proposal to amend the Motor Vehicle Insurance Directive (MID), which would mean that riding a power assisted bike on European roads without third-party liability insurance would be illegal.

“If this proposal becomes a law, third party liability insurance will be required that would discourage millions of European citizens to use a pedelec, or power assisted bike, undermine the efforts and investments of several member states and the European Union to promote sustainable mobility” –Adam Bodor, the advocacy director of the European Cyclists’ Federation stated.

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 yesterday includes even the (light) power assisted bike – pedelecs – under this directive.

In fact in an explanatory introduction to the proposal, the European Commission claims that a power assisted bike should already currently have full motor vehicle insurance (not transport, bicycle, personal or household insurance but full motor vehicle insurance). With this text, the European Commission is trying to criminalize millions of current power assisted bike users, almost all of whom have some kind of other insurance, and has effectively banned pedelec use without insurance usually reserved for motor vehicles.

A pedelec has a 250 watt battery-powered assisted motor (about the power of a good cyclist) which cuts out at 25 km/h. It is only activated when the cyclist pedals and is viewed as a bicycle in other EU legislation (such as type approval, where they are excluded, driving license Directive and in most Member States’ road rules).  It is being championed by many EU member states and cities as an ideal alternative to motor vehicle use since the power assisted bike overcomes some of the barriers such as cycling in hilly areas, older cyclists and cycling in hot weather.

ECF, as well as partners from the bicycle and power assisted bike industry, lobbied the Commission to make a clear line between a motor vehicle and a power-assisted bike, to follow other European and national legislation and not oblige the pedelec users to hold a mandatory third party liability insurance. Despite being as safe as a bicycle and rarely involved 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.

ECF will challenge the European Parliament and Member States to overturn this decision by the Commission to go ahead with criminalising millions of their citizens, because

  • There are around 4 million power assisted bike riders in Germany alone
  • Around 45% of bicycle sales in Belgium are pedelec
  • A quarter of all Dutch cyclists now use a pedelec
  • Power assisted bike sales are taking larger market shares across all of Europe, getting more people cycling and out of cars, which is good for health and the environment.

 

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