Stacks Goudkamp Special Counsel, Belinda Cassidy is on vacation tramping the Nakasendo Way, watching the Wallabies and immersing herself in the culture (and the odd onsen). She reports in on a current proposal to mandate bicycle insurance to facilitate compensation for people injured in bicycle accidents.

日本からの挨拶 (Greetings from Japan)

When the NSW government was reforming the CTP motor accident compensation scheme in 2017, it was suggested that bicycle accidents be included. Bicycles use the roads, just as motor bikes, cars and trucks do.  Bicycles are vehicles, but not motor vehicles because they are powered only by human energy. Bicycle riders can cause accidents, just as they can be the innocent victims of an accident caused by a vehicle or other road user.

The NSW motor accident scheme[1] has two sides to it, the compulsory third party (Green Slip) insurance product that all registerable motor vehicles must have in order to drive lawfully on our roads and the compensation and care of people injured on NSW roads in motor vehicle accidents.

Because bicycles are not motor vehicles they are not required to be registered to drive on the roads. Power assisted bicycles (electric bikes, pedelecs, mopeds etc), while having a motor, do not need to be registered to drive on the roads because the primary power source is human pedalling and the speed of the bike is usually under 30kmph. So bicycles (even power assisted ones) do not need to have a Green Slip and accidents caused by bicycles (not involving any form of motor vehicle) are therefore not covered by the NSW motor accident injuries scheme. This could leave bicycle riders exposed to legal action if their negligent bicycle riding causes an accident and injures a fellow road user (e.g. a pedestrian or other bicycle rider).

Bicycles in Japan, and particularly in its large cities, are prolific. Recently, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government has proposed mandatory liability insurance for cyclists following a number of high profile bicycle accidents that resulted in serious injuries for pedestrians. Other parts of Japan already have rules in place mandating some form of insurance for bicycles users, operators of bicycle rental shops, and employers whose staff use bicycles at work.

Metropolitan Police Department data[2] showed that 36.1% of traffic accidents in Tokyo involved cyclists in 2018, up from 33.4% in 2017 (and a figure much higher than the national total of 19.1% for the same year).

In Tokyo, bicycles must be registered with the local authority. Registration costs just ¥500 (about $7) and is done once when you purchase a bike (new or used). When registered, a sticker is applied to the bike frame which is useful if the bike is lost or stolen. Bearing in mind bicycles use the same roads as cars or bike paths specifically marked out for them, registering a bicycle makes user-pays sense and if it is done for a small fee when a bike is purchased there would only be a small administrative impost on the government.

Japan appears to have a common law compensation or damages system and a recent case involving a brain injured pedestrian who sued the cyclist who caused the accident achieved notoriety when the pedestrian obtained judgment in the sum of over $1 million and enforced the judgment bankrupting the defendant in the process.

The Bicycle Safety Promotion Association has worked with underwriters to offer cycling insurance in Japan at a cost of ¥500 yen per month ($7) providing personal liability insurance (of up to ¥100,000,000 or $1,355,000), personal injury cover to the owner of the bike and a form of roadside assistance for repairs or punctures.

Food for thought for the NSW government perhaps.

[1] Regulated by the Motor Accident Injuries Act 2017

[2] Published in The Japan Times on 4 September 2019

If you, or a member of your family have been injured in a bicycle accident, you could be entitled to compensation. You can contact Stacks Goudkamp on 1800 25 1800 or by making an online enquiry, to obtain friendly advice about your circumstances from one of our compensation experts.