Electronic Bicycles, or ‘e-bikes’ as they are often known, have exploded in popularity over the past few years. Once only seen with tour companies or extreme mountain bikers, e-bike companies and resellers have popped up all over the country and it’s now common to see everyone from school-age kids to grandmothers riding around neighborhoods and city streets on these powered devices.
Many e-bike riders (and parents of e-bike riders) may assume that these bikes are covered under your homeowners policy like other personal property items such as a bicycle or scooter. However, an e-bike is unique in that it is a motorized device, not a recreational product and subject to different insurance requirements. The fact is, millions of e-bike owners are using a product without sufficient liability or theft insurance.
The insurance industry as a whole is adapting to the ubiquitous nature of these new bikes and the gray area of where and how they should be covered. Is this an add on to your automotive policy? A rider for personal property or homeowners/renters insurance? Or perhaps, is this an entirely new category of coverage? Most providers are devising their own standards and there is no current statewide nor industrywide guideline on what and how to cover this category of product.
Even within the e-bike category, there are different levels of motorization, much like different classes of vehicles under your driving license. For example, there are three ‘classes’ of e-bikes — 1, 2 and 3 — each with its own variables such as throttle inclusion, maximum assisted speed, minimum age of rider and bikeway access. Being a smart e-bike owner first means understanding the category of bike you have and all the pertinent rules relating to road use and age to avoid potential civil fines.
In comparison to an average non-powered bike, e-bikes can be quite expensive to replace if stolen, with many models costing upwards of $2,000. Additionally, e-bike riders face different liability challenges if they are involved in an accident or incident with another rider. Are you protected? Chances are you might not be.
The first step in ensuring a successful e-bike experience is to place a call to your broker to review all your existing coverages and policies to determine if any existing plans already cover e-bike theft, damage and liability.
Second, if you determine none of your existing policies offer the correct coverage, work with your broker to determine if your carriers offer a necessary modification or rider that can be tacked on to your policies. If no options are available, investigate carriers that specialize in e-bike coverage and determine the best choice for a stand alone policy that will offer you sufficient coverage. Remember, an e-bike accident can result in significant damage to property, people and even loss of life; all of which can lead to lawsuits and substantial financial impact if you are not property insured.
In addition to investigating your coverage needs, be sure every e-bike rider in your household is up to date on all current regulations and laws, safety procedures and riding techniques to mitigate potential risk.
If you haven not already done so, contact the institution where you purchased the e-bike and enquire about all safety manuals and any classes they may offer for new riders. Additionally, many local bike enthusiast organizations routinely hold safety classes and demonstrations and also provide downloadable guides to refresh all riders. Local Automobile Association of America (AAA) chapters now also offer e-bike safety materials and hold classes in conjunction with their existing safe driver programs.
E-bike popularity shows no sign of slowing down, especially with increasing fuel prices and more people seeking alternative ways to get to work or school. If your family or business is getting on the e-bike train, be sure to set yourself up for success with the information and protection needed for many years of enjoyment!