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Bicycle riders must be ready to pay significant damages for accidents

The Yomiuri ShimbunThere seems to be no end to serious accidents in which bicycles hit pedestrians, resulting in their injury or death. Bicycle users need to improve their road manners and also make preparations for a possible accident.

A government review panel composed of experts has started discussions about what the nature of compensation for bicycle accident-related damage should be. The panel is considering the substance of coverage policyholders should be entitled to under the system, as well as whether it should be made mandatory to buy such insurance.

It is hoped that bicycles will be further utilized as an eco-friendly means of transportation. Raising the safety awareness of riders is a fundamental premise for that objective.

There are about 2,500 collisions between bicycles and pedestrians annually. In many cases, young people are held responsible for inflicting harm on pedestrians.

Many cases of dangerous cycling can be seen on streets, such as people bicycling one-handed while using smartphones. It is indispensable for teachers and schools to thoroughly educate students about safety.

In recent years, there has been a succession of court rulings ordering litigants to pay a large amount of compensation for damage caused by bicycle accidents. In 2013, the Kobe District Court ordered that an elementary school student’s side pay about ¥95 million in compensation in connection with such a case. The boy had seriously injured a woman when his bicycle hit her while she was walking.

Bicycles are vehicles that can be easily used by people ranging from children to the elderly. Anyone can cause injury to someone else. People need to keep this in mind when they ride bicycles.

Ensure enough compensation

Top priority must be placed on taking care not to cause an accident. If a person does cause an accident, however, they will face the problem of compensation for the damage suffered by their victims.

Of 299 bicycle accidents in 2017 in which pedestrians were killed or severely wounded, 60 percent of the parties on the side of the bicycle riders were confirmed to be insured. There may be many people among the victims who were unable to receive a sufficient amount of compensation.

It is greatly significant for the government to have started considering bicycle accident-related compensation from the standpoint of aiding victims.

The review panel will call for the promotion of taking out bicycle insurance in the future. Bicycle insurance is currently taken out voluntarily, unlike mandatory automobile liability insurance, which requires every vehicle to be insured under the system.

Generally, bicycle insurance premiums are set at several thousand yen to about ¥10,000 annually. The amount of compensation for damage caused by a bicycle rider to someone else ranges from tens of millions of yen to hundreds of millions. Different insurance firms are marketing different bicycle insurance instruments. This makes them hard to understand, a probable factor contributing to the lack of increase in the percentage of insurance policyholders.

An increasing number of local governments have established ordinances requiring bicycle riders to have insurance. Although this is a welcome move, these ordinances do not include penalties. Therefore, how to secure their effectiveness is a problem to be tackled.

The Osaka prefectural government requires prefectural high school students to take out bicycle insurance if they commute to school by bicycle. Such an example is helpful in improving the percentage of policyholders.

It is important to ensure that no victim is prevented from receiving sufficient compensation. Will it be possible to make all bicycles compulsorily subject to insurance coverage, similarly to automobiles? Doing so is an important task to be considered.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Feb. 10, 2019)Speech



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