Electric bikes, EU Court of Justice rejects insurance obligation

They are not ‘vehicles’ since they require the physical action of the cyclist

The Court of Justice of the EU rejects the insurance requirement for electric bikes. Since they are means of transport driven “not exclusively” by mechanical force, but also by physical impulse Electrically assisted bicycles do not fall into the category of ‘vehicles’ for which insurance is compulsoryruled the Court of Justice of the EU.

The case is the one opened by an accident in Belgium involving a cyclist who was riding an electric-assist bicycle: hit by a car and seriously injured, the man died a few months later. During the subsequent legal proceedings aimed at establishing a possible right to compensation, a controversy arose relating to the legal qualification of the electric-assist bicycle, i.e. whether it should be considered a ‘vehicle’.

In the case in question the assisted pedaling could only be activated after using muscular strength: but to define the concept of ‘vehicle’ in terms of civil liability, the Belgian Court of Cassation has decided to submit a question to the Court of Justice regarding the interpretation of this notion. And today the EU Court observed how the relevant European directive refers to “motor vehicle insurance”, an expression “which, in current language, traditionally concerns the insurance of civil liability resulting from the circulation of vehicles such as motorcycles, cars and trucks that are moved exclusively by mechanical force”.

The Court then observes that “means which are not driven exclusively by mechanical force, such as an electrically assisted bicycle which can accelerate without pedaling up to a speed of 20 km/h, are not capable of causing similar physical or material damage to third parties to those that motorcycles, cars, trucks or other vehicles driven exclusively by mechanical force can cause, the latter being able to circulate significantly faster”.