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Perplexing Decision by European Commission: E-Bikes Must Be Insured


BRUSSELS, Belgium – The European Commission has decided that regular 25km/h – 250W electric bicycles need to have a third party liability insurance. This decision, which is a proposal for a statutory regulation that still needs to be assessed by the European Parliament and Council, is sidelining all previous regulations concerning ordinary electric bikes. These characterize this category as ordinary bicycles for which no legally required insurance applies.

Perplexing Decision by European Commission: E-Bikes Must Be Insured
European Cyclists` Federation: ‘EU Commission is criminalizing millions of e-bike users with this proposal.’ – Photo Gazelle

Yesterday the European Commission released this proposal. It’s to amend the Motor Vehicle Insurance Directive (MID), which would mean that regular e-bike users (not the speed pedelec ones) without third party liability insurance would be riding illegally. The proposal perplexed the European Cyclists` Federation (ECF).

In a statement the ECF advocacy director Adam Bodor says “If this proposal becomes a law, third party liability insurance will be required that would discourage millions of European citizens to use an e-bike, undermine the efforts and investments of several member states and the European Union to promote sustainable mobility”.

‘Criminalizing millions of e-bike users’

The ECF statement further says “The EU Commission 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 under this directive. In fact in an explanatory introduction to the proposal the European Commission claim that power assisted bicycles 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 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.”

‘E-bikes championed by many’

Currently a regular e-bike 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).  ECF says “Such regular e-bikes are being championed by many EU member states and cities as an ideal alternative to motor vehicle use since it is a bicycle which overcomes some of the bicycle barriers such as cycling in hilly areas, older cyclists and cycling in hot weather.”

ECF, as well as partners from the bicycle and e-bike industry, 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 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.

Directive scope

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 criminalizing millions of their citizens, because:

  • There are around 4 million pedelec riders in Germany
  • Around 45% of bicycle sales in Belgium are pedelec
  • A quarter of all Dutch cyclists now use a pedelec



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