EU electric bike policy could cost cyclists £100+ per year

EU electric bike policy could cost cyclists £100+ per year

31 July 2017

UK retailer is worried EU proposal for compulsory insurance could impact the growth of healthier, active travel

The UK’s largest cycling retailer has raised concerns about the potential introduction of compulsory third party insurance for electric bikes – a policy currently under consideration by the European Union. Halfords has opposed the proposal on the grounds that it might put off thousands of would-be cyclists across the nation by burdening people with unnecessary complexity and excessive costs.

E-bikes have been growing in popularity recently, as the nation realises the benefits of going electric, namely helping those returning to cycling, as well as offering a greener, cheaper and healthier way to commute to work. Whilst the population of cities is set to increase across the UK, city regions are also starting to see electric bikes as a workable solution to help transform travel and tackle air pollution. This has been seen most recently in Exeter - the UK’s first city to have an e-bike hire scheme.

The cost benefits of using electric bikes as a form of transport relative to other modes of transport are substantial: Halfords estimates that approximately 1 in 25 adult bikes currently sold in the UK is an e-bike and it projects huge growth - to as much as 1 in 15 bikes in the near future*. The retailer’s estimates e-bikes would mean an additional 320,000 people commuting in cities by bike overall.

However, any moves to introduce insurance could put off a huge pool of potential cyclists and lead to a decline in the growth of active travel in the UK.

The use of e-bikes could also help support healthy ageing at a time when the proportion of older people in the UK increases. As evidenced in the British Social Attitudes survey undertaken by the Department for Transport, older users say that e-bikes have helped them conquer physical fitness challenges that would have remained a barrier with a non-assisted bicycle.

Halfords estimates e-bikes will result in an increase in the participation rate among over 65s, which would mean an additional 140,000 people on bikes, whilst participation at the same level as the 55-64 age group (currently 28%) would see an additional 2.1m people cycling – this would go some way toward the current Government’s target to double cycling by 2023.

Victoria Pendleton who has recently launched her own electric bike, the Pendleton Somerby Electric Bike, says: “More and more people are switching to e-bikes because they provide a fantastic route into cycling for beginners and for those returning to cycling. Electric bikes offer a helping hand when it comes to conquering physical fitness challenges that would have remained a barrier with a normal bike.

“E-bikes are like confidence building machines. They provide a genuine opportunity to persuade non-cyclists – motorists and commuters, as well as those who’ve not ridden in years to switch to pedal power. It would be so disappointing to see an introduction of insurance as it’ll undoubtedly impact levels of physical activity.”

Simon Irons, Halfords Cycling Director says “Anything that makes cycling less accessible is a real concern. We believe that this ruling could lead to many unintended and impractical consequences for cyclists, insurers and legal organisations alike and burden people with unfair costs in a market that has the potential to help the Government achieve its aim to get people more active and help reduce future pressure on areas such as the NHS.”

Halfords has submitted a response to the Department for Transport opposing the introduction of compulsory third party insurance for electric bikes.

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* All calculations are estimated using Halfords data insights

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