E-bikes and e-scooters are set to transform mobility in the UK, giving users a greener way to get around. With some local authorities considering offering these e-mobility options to their staff or to public, Alison Goodwin, National Public Sector Practice Leader at Aon, says it’s important to understand the risks.
Electric bikes and scooters are rapidly gaining attention as the latest forms of mobility, especially as fears over COVID-19 make public transport less attractive. But while it might be relatively easy to zip around on these e-wheels, it’s important to understand the risks and insurance requirements before you invest in this technology.
E-bikes, or electrically assisted pedal cycles to give them their official name, are classed as normal pedal cycles and do not need to be registered, taxed or insured providing they meet certain criteria. These are that:
- it is fitted with pedals that are capable of propelling it;
- the maximum continuous rated power of the motor does not exceed 250 Watts;
- electrical assistance must cut off when the vehicle reaches 15.5mph;
- it is not ridden by anyone under the age of 14.
However, while this means it’s relatively simple to get e-bikes on the road, there are some additional risks to consider.
Where e-bikes are provided to staff – something we are aware that several local authorities are considering – then it is important to recognise that the e-bike will be treated as any other item of equipment provided for work.
As such, users will need appropriate training; the equipment will need to be maintained; any risks associated with using the e-bike adequately managed; and appropriate personal protective equipment, such as a helmet, will need to be provided and used. This must all be clearly documented and proper records maintained.
It’s also important to assess the risks associated with staff using e-bikes. This might include determining the competence of each employee to use an e-bike and which tasks and routes are suitable.
Some insurers are also highlighting the fact that cycling, especially in London and other large cities, is a high-risk activity. Similarly, as e-bikes are attractive to thieves, consideration should also be given to protecting staff from assault and theft of the equipment.
Local authorities considering e-bikes should also understand the insurance position, especially as wordings can vary due to the relatively recent arrival of e-bikes on our roads. As an example, one insurer told us that if a local authority provided employees with e-bikes, any injury or damage to employees and third parties and to property arising out of negligence would be covered by its liability policy, subject to policy terms and conditions and deductibles.
Another said that the loss or damage of a council e-bike would not automatically be covered unless the local authority had declared them. And a third said simply that, as its policy excludes mechanically propelled motor vehicles, e-bikes aren’t covered.
Currently, specialist insurance products are available, but only for individual e-bikes. However, as demand increases, we do expect to see e-bike fleet policies emerging.
While they carry the same 15.5mph top speed as e-bikes, the position with e-scooters is very different. Although they’re freely available to buy, for anything from £100 to £1,000 plus, it’s not legal to use them on the public highway. The only exception to this is under the rental e-scooter trial, which is taking place in 25 areas of the UK, including Milton Keynes, Liverpool and Norwich.
Further, unlike e-bikes, anyone using an e-scooter needs to have the category Q entitlement on their driving licence and hold motor insurance, although this is provided by the rental operator under the current trials.
The trials are set to run until Summer 2021, after which the government will determine how and when e-scooters can be used on our roads. These trials, coupled with the experience of other European cities that have already adopted e-scooters, will also help to inform insurance requirements.
Both e-bikes and e-scooters present interesting opportunities for local authorities, offering an environmentally-friendly and congestion-busting alternative to more traditional modes of transport. But, as the risks are not yet fully known, it’s important to fully understand the implications before switching to these forms of e-mobility.
For more information, please speak to your account manager or contact Alison Goodwin at email@example.com