E-bike insurance proposal is ‘EU bureaucracy gone mad’

Cycling campaigner says European plan the ‘kind of thing that forced the Brits to vote to leave’

European Commission plans to have all electric bicycle (e-bike) users take out third party insurance have been described as “EU bureaucracy gone mad” and “the kind of thing” that led to Brexit.

Dr Mike McKillen, who is involved in Irish and European cycling campaigns, said he could see a certain logic to e-bikes needing to be insured as they have more kinetic energy than regular bicycles, which has potential to do damage.

However, he said he had not decided if a European directive was the place for such a regulation to be brought in. “It does sound like the kind of thing that forced the Brits to vote to leave,” Dr McKillen said.

Sales of e-bikes have been rising rapidly in Ireland in recent years but overall numbers are hard to establish as there is no requirement to register them, and they do not require motor tax or insurance once they are pedal assisted and do not travel at more than 25 km/h.


The commission has said its evaluation of the Motor Insurance Directive demonstrated “new types of motor vehicles, such as electric bikes, segways, electric scooters already fall within the scope of the Directive as interpreted by the Court of Justice”.


It said member states could only have the power to exempt new types of electric motor vehicles from compulsory third party insurance on the condition that a national fund would ensure compensation for victims after accidents.

Fine Gael MEP Brian Hayes said he and colleagues had “been campaigning to ensure that this European Court of Justice ruling is rectified in the Motor Insurance Directive but the commission had done the opposite and have actually reinforced the negative effects of this ruling. He said the proposal was “ EU bureaucracy gone mad”.

“More and more electric bikes are on our streets in Ireland and across the EU. They offer an environmentally friendly alternative to using a car and are increasingly used by people as a means of transport to work,” he said, adding that the rise of electric bikes has been “a huge success story” and the Commission’s proposal would “bring that story to an end with this harsh proposal”.

The European Cycling Federation said a requirement for insurance would mean that “all European pedelecs (e-bikes) being used on European roads will be illegal unless they have acquired motor vehicle third party liability insurance.”

The federation pointed to Germany which in 2016 had zero pedestrian fatalities and six serious injuries in crashes with e-bikes. This was while there were more than 3 million bikes overall on the country’s roads.


“We think this is a huge over reaction and would provide an over burdensome regulation and huge costs with negligible benefit,” the federation said.

“It will create a barrier to pedelec use which can be great substitute to motorcar use, it will criminalise a huge population of pedelec users who are already legitimately covered, and could lead to less safe roads with more motorised vehicles.”

Insurance Ireland, which represents the Irish insurance industry, said its view was that the directive should only relate to accidents caused by motor vehicles in the context of traffic”.

It said it was concerned about a potential increase in fraudulent claims staged on private land that may not be readily investigated by compensation bodies, insurers or the gardaí.

“Insurance Ireland will be advocating for changes to this proposal as it progresses. In addition, the proposal has the potential to bring unnecessary costs to businesses which may not have been aware of what is being considered until now,” a spokesman said.

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien is an Irish Times journalist