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Plan for compulsory e-bike insurance in Spain faces fierce opposition

If Spain were to adopt the proposal, it would be one of the only territories in the world to have a mandatory insurance law for pedal assist bicycles of any type

A somewhat contradictory predicament is currently playing out in Spain when it comes to active travel; as in the same year that its Ministry of Transport just approved the allocation of 600 million euros to promote urban cycling, its Ministry of Economic Affairs and Digital Transformation wants to bring 'personal mobility vehicles' under regular motor vehicle regulations, meaning that electric bicycles will require compulsory insurance. 

According to El Mundo and other Spanish news outlets, the Spanish Bicycle Board, made up of notable cyclists, legal professionals and bike manufacturers, says the system is unworkable and is at odds with European regulations.

These regulations specifically separate pedal assist e-bikes (up to a certain wattage and assisted speed) from other types of electric vehicle like scooters and S-pedelecs with a throttle. Spanish Bicycle Board spokesman Jesús Freire said the ministerial proposal has got this distinction mixed up, therefore does not make sense. 

> Electric bikes and UK law

Alfonso Treviño, general secretary of the Association of Professional Cyclists, blames lobbying from insurance companies for ministries suggesting that e-bikes should be insured, claiming that it could be a cash cow for them. 

Treviño told El Mundo: "Compulsory insurance would be disproportionate and would discourage the use of bicycles, which is what is intended to decongest traffic, eliminate pollution in cities and promote healthy habits." 

The dispute has been rumbling since at least 2018, when Spanish minister Fernando Grande Marlaska proposed compulsory insurance

At the time, the Spanish cycling advocacy group ConBici asked for Spain's General Traffic Regulations to be replaced with a mobility law that would "recognise the bicycle as a better vehicle" to put a stop calls for e-bikes to be brought under motor vehicle regulations. 

On social media, some have asked what the proposed changes would mean for tourists visiting the country who want to hire or use an e-bike. Others slammed the Government, with one calling it "useless and pusillanimous." 

Despite the idea of compulsory insurance for all cyclists, e-bike or not, being popular with the general public - with two-thirds of respondents to a 2020 YouGov poll believing that cyclists should be made to have insurance - in reality the few places worldwide that have introduced such schemes have often found them to be expensive and detrimental to cycling numbers. 

Switzerland abandoned its compulsory bike insurance laws in 2012 with cost thought to be a deciding factor, and to our knowledge no country in the world legally requires pedal cyclists to be insured and/or licenced in 2022. 

> Minister repeats there is no prospect of requiring cyclists to be licensed in answer to 'Mr Loophole’ petition 

Lead image licenced under CC BY 2.0 by BiciMAD on Flickr

Arriving at in 2017 via 220 Triathlon Magazine, Jack dipped his toe in most jobs on the site and over at eBikeTips before being named the new editor of in 2020, much to his surprise. His cycling life began during his students days, when he cobbled together a few hundred quid off the back of a hard winter selling hats (long story) and bought his first road bike - a Trek 1.1 that was quickly relegated to winter steed, before it was sadly pinched a few years later. Creatively replacing it with a Trek 1.2, Jack mostly rides this bike around local cycle paths nowadays, but when he wants to get the racer out and be competitive his preferred events are time trials, sportives, triathlons and pogo sticking - the latter being another long story.  

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Rendel Harris | 1 year ago
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 These regulations specifically separate pedal assist vehicles (up to a certain wattage and assisted speed) from non-pedal assist like electric scooters and pedelecs

Some confusion there I think, a pedelec is a "specifically pedal assist vehicle", one where the assistance won't cut in unless the rider pedals.

Jack Sexty replied to Rendel Harris | 1 year ago
1 like

I think it was more just poor wording on my part - I meant an S-pedelec with a throttle as opposed to pedelecs (EAPCs) that need to be pedalled to make them move. The linked article on e-bikes and the law explains the distinction in greater detail. 

alchemilla | 1 year ago

Lobbying by insurance companies, who'd have guessed it?

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