Electric bike news

Bicycle Association calls for Vnuk e-bike exemption

The BA has called for electric bikes to be exempted from the EU’s Vnuk ruling. Slovenian Damijan Vnuk was injured on private land in 2014 after falling from a ladder hit by a reversing tractor.

Since the European Court of Justice subsequently ruled that, despite happening on private land, the accident should have been covered by compulsory vehicle insurance, that then broadened the scope for a number of other vehicles to also require compulsory third-party insurance in the EU, whether used on public roads or private land.

Annex A of the consultation document listed electric bikes as a newly in-scope vehicle, defined as “any motor vehicle intended for travel on land and propelled by mechanical power, but not running on rails, and any trailer, whether coupled or not coupled.”

The BA’s submission, in response to the DfT’s consultation on how to implement the Vnuk ruling, calls for ‘a common sense approach’ with regard to EAPCs, which it argues are not 100% mechanically propelled, such that: “mechanical power is available only to assist human power, rather than operating independently” and, as such, they should fall outside of Vnuk’s scope.

An electric bike insurance company cautioned on the practicalities of broadening the range of vehicles in-scope, particularly in the light of Brexit: “I would question how the government expects the insurance market to gear itself up to meet the needs of the MID for newly in scope vehicles, given the cost of such infrastructure change, especially if they could then remove the requirement in a very short period [once we leave the EU]. The impact of such an approach is that initial premiums will need to be significant whilst a compulsory position is in place, and the uncertainty of how it may change could lead to a very clear lack of capacity from the insurance market, as its long tail liability modelling will be difficult to establish, particularly in light of the recent Ogden changes.”

The Bicycle Association added: “Any post-EU policy should also take into account the societal benefits of low-impact and active forms of travel such as walking and cycling (including congestion reduction, parking space reduction, air quality improvement, health benefits) and avoid adding to any barriers (such as the added cost of compulsory insurance) which would limit take-up of these forms of travel.”

With unit sales of electric bikes estimated by the BA to be around 75,000 per year in the UK, the organisation says their increasing popularity has a ‘key part’ to play in the UK cycle industry’s future growth potential as a whole. The industry cycle association believes the very low risk electric bikes pose to third parties is far outweighed by the public benefits of their use, such that compulsory insurance would pose an unnecessary threat to their growth.

While the BA’s submission relates mainly to pedelecs, or pedal assist bikes (with or without a walk assist function to 4mph), it acknowledges ‘twist and gos’ but with their recent type approval requirement says ‘sales are minimal’.

The BA states that should the DfT determine that EAPCs are in scope for Vnuk, then they ‘strongly suggest they be derogated’.

The government’s response is expected within 3 months of the consultation closing on the 13th April.