We've weighed up the arguments for and against mandatory insurance for cyclists, now we let you decide...
Here at Motoring.co.uk we have always maintained a constructive and harmonious standpoint when it comes to the hostile relationship between Cyclists and Motorists on British roads. At this moment in time our pro-cycling article titled ‘Cyclists! Why do they ride in the middle of the road?’ has been viewed almost 1 million times, shared on Facebook almost 200,000 times and has over 700 comments from motorists and cyclists alike.
According to Transport for London statistics there are 610,000 cycling journeys made every day in the capital, or 23 million a year, and in 2014 there were 432 serious injuries or deaths - although this figure is ‘the lowest level since records began’ there is no denying that the figures is unacceptably high. Accidents are happening on a daily basis.
Our role as a media-outlet has always been to inform and educate motorists but we’d be ignorant if we failed to address the common concerns of motorists. Accordingly, one of the most frequent questions we are asked is ‘Why don’t cyclists have insurance?’ so today we’re going to explore both sides of the argument and then leave the decision making up to you. We’ll provide the arguments FOR and AGAINST from motorists and cyclists alike, you provide a vote in the poll attached at the bottom of this piece.
Arguments FOR mandatory bicycle insurance:
‘All road users should be accountable for their actions on the roads’
Accidents happen and bikes are no less road-worthy than cars, buses, lorries etc. We’re sorry, Motorists, but spouting the argument that ‘you don’t pay road tax’ is invalid with cyclists and only makes you look a bit ill-informed. We all know ‘road tax’ (Vehicle Excise Duty) is calculated on vehicle emissions, so cyclist would pay zero anyway. On the other hand though, cyclists can reach speeds of up to 20-25mph on urban road, and can therefore cause considerable damage to pedestrians, cars or anyone that gets in their way and if the cyclist is to blame, then they should be covered instead of having to foot the bill for damage or injury caused.
Bike theft is big business.
In 2014 it was estimated that there were 70,000 bike thefts in London alone, almost 200 a day. While a lot of domestic bike thefts are covered under home insurance policies, having your expensive two wheeled asset pinched in the city centre outside your workplace, or at the supermarket is unlikely to be covered and the statistics show these areas are the crime hotspots. With the some of the best road bikes costing over £1,000 (up and over £10,000 in some cases!) it’s very much in the owner's interest to ensure they are fully covered, be it through a comprehensive home insurance policy, a cycling group membership or a dedicated insurer.
A step toward improving the standard of cycling on the roads.
We have all seen a small minority of cyclists routinely ignoring red lights, hopping onto curbs, weaving through pedestrians at a zebra crossing etc. It’s gotten to a point where motorists barely bat an eye-lid while waiting in traffic because they know nothing will ever come of it. But if mandatory insurance were to be implemented, so too would a system were cyclists and their insurance policies can be identified - perhaps through registration plates - and therefore they can be traced and held to account. Cyclists commonly argue that motorists run red lights too and they have insurance, so what difference will it make? Well, motorists who run that risk have no defense as they can be caught and they can be punished accordingly, cyclists however are almost given a free-to-roam pass on the streets due to how few are punished for the aforementioned examples of poor road manners and the complete lack of traffic cameras that can trace their law-breaking.
Arguments AGAINST mandatory bicycle insurance:
Will a child need to have a policy in place before learning to ride?
A lot of us have memories of learning to ride our bikes at a young age and going to play out with our friends on bicycles. Would these bikes need to be insured too? That’s simply ridiculous. The law (rightly) already turn a blind eye to children cycling on the pavement, see rule 64 of the Highway Code, perhaps asking the police to ignore another law is pushing it a bit too far. There is the argument then that perhaps bicycle insurance would only be required in inner city areas - but then this just complicates the concept even further.
How will law enforcement be able to differentiate between insured and uninsured bicycles?
Surely the whole idea of cyclists identifying themselves as covered under a policy will cost the taxpayer a huge amount to implement? Bicycle registration plates seem like the obvious answer, as suggested by Ken Livingstone all the way back in 2006, but the issues of implementing and regulating this are almost too steep to be considered viable at the moment. Would every home insurance provider, cycling insurance company and cyclist group need to start distributing number plates?
How does this make environmental sense?
Cycling is a cost-effective and environmentally friendly way of avoiding the masses queuing for public transport and traffic jams while doing your bit to save the planet. Why should there be financial implications to restrict such a basic freedom? Whether you like it or not, Motorists, cyclists are doing a good thing for the planet and for your commute. Yes a car is endlessly more comfortable and luxurious than the saddle of a suspension-less road bike, but imagine if every one of those bikes that has filtered past you in a queue of traffic was a car. Just think how much worse the state of rush hour traffic would be… They’re doing you a favour.
Since first mentioning this article, a number of cyclists were quick to point out 'a large number' of cyclists are already 3rd party insured via house insurance as well as by being members of the CTC, LCC and British Cycling organisations. These are generally the more enthusiastic cyclists, with the more expensive bikes and (albeit an assumption) the more responsibly-behaved. So implementation may not be quite as obstructed as first thought considering a large number of cyclists are already covered. Other points worth noting are the differences between insuring a bike and insuring the cyclist too. In an ideal world cyclists would most benefit from having themselves and their trusty bicycle insured, similar to a 'fully comprehensive' fashion that motorists would be able to relate to. Is that what is needed? A like for like insurance scheme that HGV drivers, Bus Drivers, Motorists, Cyclists and Motorcyclists all abide by? It would make claiming and refunding much more straight forward but do you trust British Insurance companies could provide cover at a relative and fair price? Take these all into account when registering your thoughts in the poll...
I asked the international population of Reddit whether they had dedicated insurance policies in their relevant countries and one respondent from Lisbon, Portugal, said his price was €29.50 per year which covered Death, up to €27,000, Funeral Costs at €2,575, Treatment costs and return to Portugal if applicable at €5,000 and of course comprehensive coverage of his bike which is worth in excess of €1,000. Of course then a cheaper bike would equal a cheaper policy too - so perhaps the affordability isn’t an issue if executed fairly and of course this would only be relevant if you aren’t already covered under a home insurance policy or cyclist group policy.
So, readers, what do you think - should it be mandatory for all cyclists be covered by an insurance policy? Vote below and let us know your thoughts in the comments section!