A bumpy road ahead

Transport revolution

E-bikes do not require motor tax or insurance once they are pedal assisted and do not travel at more than 25 km/h. At least for now. Photograph: Stefano Rellandini/Reuters

E-bikes do not require motor tax or insurance once they are pedal assisted and do not travel at more than 25 km/h. At least for now. Photograph: Stefano Rellandini/Reuters

 

Electric pedal power may be about to fall foul of changes to the Motor Insurance Directive, much to the chagrin of the growing number of e-bikers on our roads. E-bikes do not require motor tax or insurance once they are pedal assisted and do not travel at more than 25 km/h. At least for now.

The European Commission has considered proposed changes to the directive and reckons member states could only 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.

The reality is that national authorities need to prepare for a much wider revolution in the transport sector over the next decade

The practicalities of enforcing such measures have been widely mocked, but it is worth remembering that it remains merely a proposal.

The e-bike debate highlights the struggle authorities face in trying to legislate for changing consumer transport habits. Where technology leads, legislators tend to follow. The reality is that national authorities need to prepare for a much wider revolution in the transport sector over the next decade. Not only will e-bikes and electric cars become more common sights on our streets, but the imminent arrival of autonomous vehicles will require major changes to legislation. In the age of self-driving cars, for example, insurance will be an issue for manufacturers, not motorists.

Changes to driver licensing and insurance requirements are just relatively minor issues that will need to be addressed within the next decade

Meanwhile, the spatial planning and infrastructure investment decisions we make today will determine development for decades to come. Investment in infrastructure typically has a 30-50 year time horizon. Autonomous vehicles will be with us in that timeframe. Self-driving vehicles will require changes to road infrastructure including on-road telematics and signage. Their arrival will also have implications for the location of homes, businesses and parking facilities.

In that regard changes to driver licensing and insurance requirements are just relatively minor issues that will need to be addressed within the next decade. If we are struggling with the complexity of insuring e-bikes, when the transport revolution really begins to gain traction we are looking at a bumpy road ahead.

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