In the event of an accident, owners of e-bikes, scooters and other micro-mobility devices could be held liable for damages and the injuries, disabilities or even deaths of others involved. Most homeowner’s policies exclude liability coverage when e-bikes or other micro-mobility devices are used to travel on public roads. We can offer a motorcycle policy to help close the gap.
Imagine these scenarios:
- E-bike collides with and injures a pedestrian
- Hoverboard collides with a bike rider and injures them.
- Scooter merges without warning, causing an auto accident.
- Flexibility — liability-only or add physical damage to suit your needs
- Affordability — minimum premium as low as $100 per year in most states
- More peace of mind — there’s typically a less premium impact if a claim is filed on a motorcycle policy versus a homeowner’s policy
Insurance Talk: Insuring E-Bikes & Mobility Scooters
Cheri Martinen – Today we have a really fun topic. It’s something that we use ourselves and I think it’s getting more and more popular.
Rex Lesueur – Yes, electric bikes,
CM – or e-bikes.
RL – Scooters, electric scooters.
CM – We were just talking about this, I didn’t know the name of it, but the one wheel, or the one-wheel skateboard. That’s the one where it’s an electric wheel and then you stand on each side and zoom around.
Defining E-Bikes and Personal Mobility Devices
RL: There’s any number of these kinds of little personal mobility devices that people have. There was one that was, actually, they wouldn’t let on airplanes because the batteries kept burning up. And what was the name of that one? I’m not even sure if I remember it.
CM – Was it one of those one wheels? Or segway?
RL – It wasn’t, it was like the segway, yeah. It wasn’t a big segway. It was just the little,
CM – it was just a little segway, where the wheel’s between your legs.
RL – Yes, yeah. Those are, those are all,
CM – these are all e-bikes technically, or in that category.
RL – E-bikes are the elephant in a room of them. They’re the ones that are the biggest, the fastest, the most expensive, but they go all the way down to these little other devices that you can pick up for a couple of hundred dollars. We’re going to talk about them and insurance.
CM – But you know, it makes sense. So if you had a very nice mountain bike or a road bike, you’re going to spend $2,000 or $5,000 on it and you’re going to schedule it on your homeowners’ policy. So that if something happened to it or it was stolen, you’d get something back, right? And an e-bike is also pretty expensive. They’re not cheap yet.
RL – There are the cheap ones that are $1,700 to $2,000 and some of these other devices are just as expensive. And are they covered or are they not?
CM – I think a lot of times we don’t realize how fast they can go. I mean, it’s something like if it goes over 20 miles an hour, is that what it is? Or it goes up to?
Oregon Law on E-Bikes
RL – Let’s review Oregon law when it comes to e-bikes. E-bikes are classified as, I’m reading this, by the way. E-bikes are classified as electric-assisted bicycles and are regulated like bicycles, so long as the bicycle’s motor has a maximum power output of 1,000 watts, has pedals that propel the bike with human power, and the bike does not exceed 20 miles an hour.
CM – Now, you could use a regular street bike faster than 20 miles an hour.
RL – Yep, that’s true. E-bikes are not subject to the regulation licensing or insurance requirements that motorcycles are. Okay, that’s cool. As long as it’s not going more than 20 miles an hour.
CM – So stay in the bike path, don’t go more than 20 miles an hour, you’re good.
RL – E-Bikes are allowed to use the bike paths, but are not allowed on sidewalks. The age minimum for e-bikes riders is 16 years old, I did not know that, and your e-bike riders are not required to wear a helmet,
CM – which is ridiculous.
RL – Right. So you’re out shopping for an e-bike and is this the first thing you ask, how fast it can go and then choose not to buy one because it’ll go more than 20 miles an hour? And then there are 20 miles an hour going uphill and there are 20 miles an hour going downhill. I mean, if you’re here in Bend and you’re cruising down one of the Westside streets,
CM – you’re going faster than 20 unless you’re going uphill. When does this become a motorized vehicle is kind of where we’re getting at. If it goes more than 20 miles an hour and it’s being powered not by your own power, like not by your pedaling, when does it become a motorized vehicle and it’s no longer a regular bicycle? And that’s kind of the whole struggle.
RL – So at one point, you know, if you have, say, a 1,200 watt one, do you have to get a license? Do you have to go down and get a motorcycle license on that?
CM – Well I remember when we were talking about this yesterday to do this for this show, I was like a motorcycle license? I was like an e-bike is a lot different than a motorcycle.
RL – It is, but it provides the same function so it gets you someplace and it’s got a motor on it. So I can’t quote or I’m not going to talk about what the state of Oregon wants in regard to licensing these things, but we can talk about insuring them. Let’s go on with some of the other guidelines here. When it comes to e-bikes for trails.
CM – Right now, there is no regulation, but I do know that a lot of — they’re coming up with some and it’s becoming a problem because you’ve got somebody who might be mountain biking on a trail or enjoying a trail walking and somebody goes by him on a e-bike going 20 miles an hour. And that’s fast.
RL – Yep. And they’re maybe not courteous enough. The federal trails and the state trails, there are no regulations yet, but expect them to come out soon. And of course they’re never welcome in the wilderness, if you’re on a wilderness trail, you’d never bring an e-bike into the wilderness. There are some places in Oregon where they actually say you can use your e-bike and they are posted on the internet, places like Post Canyon on Hood River, Elkhorn Crest Loop out of Sumpter, the South Fork of the Walla Walla. There’s a trail there that’s available.
CM – And then those are more made for that type of outdoor activity.
RL – Right. And with a powered vehicle, you have a chance of tearing up the trail a little bit more, a bit more likely to do that and so you need to be careful. And if you do have one, be courteous. Be courteous to the walkers, be courteous to other bike riders and of course, be courteous to the trail and leave no trace. You know, that’s what we’d want you to do. So e-bikes are an interesting issue when it comes to insurance right now.
E-Bikes, Scooters, Segways and More
CM – Originally, when we think of these things, we think of motorcycles and then you get into e-bikes and you don’t realize how quickly you go from being a cyclist or a bicyclist to a motorized vehicle.
RL – And they’re getting more and more popular. I know that Tammy, my wife, your mom, she has one and she loves her e-bike.
CM – She loves it. We have a neighbor down the street that rides his e-bike to work every day. I mean it’s becoming more and more common and especially I think in cities, too. People are using the more personalized motorized vehicle devices to get from point A to point B, maybe from the bus stop to work,
RL – and this includes powered scooters and those little one-wheel things, and the segways, the new modern segways that don’t have the pole or anything like that, just ride those. These are all part of the same genre. And we’re going to talk about the insurance for all of them.
CM – It’s an interesting area, it’s growing, it’s becoming more popular. If you have one of these and you’re using them for your personal transportation from point A to point B, whether you live in the suburbs or rural area or the city. Are you covered on your insurance?
RL – I’m going to read the specifications from one insurance company. Okay. Just one now and there are dozens of insurance companies insuring homeowners in the state of Oregon and they all have their own rules. Every single one of them is going to have their own rules on this, but this is what you’re up against, so listen carefully to the rule. It must have an electric motor of fewer than 750 watts whose maximum speed on a paved, level surface when powered solely by such motor, while ridden by an operator who weighs 170 pounds and is ridden at less than 20 miles an hour. That’s the motorized vehicle these people will cover.
CM – On the homeowners, right?
RL – On the homeowners’ policy. At least they eliminate the going uphill or going downhill kind of thing, because obviously you could probably coast at 30 miles an hour on this thing going downhill, but 20 miles an hour? You know, 170 pounds?
CM – I think you’d be surprised how quickly you can ride on a bicycle and maybe people just haven’t noticed it, but when, as soon as you start pedaling, if you’re on a road bike or something like that, I mean you can really move.
RL – You can really move. So this bike, okay, if it meets those characteristics and is less than 750 watts and less than 20 miles an hour with a 170-pound person on it is going to be covered for physical damage. Now, we’re not going to talk about liability, we’re not talking about getting sued probably until the next segment. We’re only going to talk about your,
CM – this is like if the bike is stolen,
RL – burns up,
CM – wrecked, burns up.
RL – Whatever happens to do your bicycles, it is going to be covered by the homeowners policy. And I bet that for every single insurance company that we have out there, each one of them has different rules. The only way you’re going to know is if you pick up the phone and call your insurance agent. So if you have one of these personal devices, I’m going to guess that the smaller ones, the ones with the scooters and the little segways and stuff, I’m going to guess that those are covered by your homeowners for physical damage and theft and so on. But who knows?
CM – Some of them can go pretty fast, so if you’re getting up into higher speeds, then yep, you might want to just double-check.
RL – Right, you might want to double-check.
CM – And you don’t want it stolen, and I think that might be one of the first things that people think of is, okay, I spent all this money on this personal transportation device to save on my car insurance and my gas and all that other stuff. And now it’s gone. Great. I just spent, you know, $1,500 on that. It’s gone.
RL – Right. And so what do you do in a case like this. If your vehicle doesn’t meet the criteria from your homeowners’ policy, what do you do? Well, you’re either going to have to put it on your auto policy if your auto insurance company will let you, which is probably unlikely or you’re probably going to have to buy a motorcycle policy,
CM – which we talked about this and it just sounds so crazy to me that it’d be a motorcycle policy. ‘Cause when you think of a motorcycle, you think of,
RL – vroom vroom, yeah.
CM – And motorcycles go really, really fast. I mean they are serious power. This isn’t like your little e-bike electric motor between your legs. You’ve got a motorcycle.
RL – There are places on the internet that are offering coverage for these that are on a modified motorcycle policy. I’ve got to say, we haven’t actually done one yet. And my question is, when we do, what’s the vehicle identification number going to be? You know, how’s that going to work? Are they going to look for 17 digits? You know, all of this other stuff. Literally this is such a new area that there is really no solid consensus on insuring your electric bicycle for physical damage on a motorcycle policy. And basically what you’re getting then is you get comp and collision, and comprehensive covers everything except collision. So that would be theft, fire, wind, hail, smoke, all of those kinds of things that happened to it, falling. And with the collision, that would be when someone pulls out in front of you, you run into the back of a parked car, you drive it into a tree or you go off a cliff. So this is something that everybody that has one of these or is considering having one of these needs to check with their insurance agent. If your insurance agent doesn’t know, give us a call.
What If I Injure Someone While On an E-Bike?
CM – But we didn’t talk about what happens if you injure someone while using this motorized transportation.
RL – Yeah. You’re cruising down the street, someone steps out from a curb. Wham. You hit them. Okay, so you’re a 150-pound person. You’re riding a 50-pound bicycle. That’s 200 pounds going 20 miles an hour down the street.
CM – You’re going to hurt someone.
RL – I mean, and they’re not wearing football pads. This is something where you’re going to hit a fragile old lady or a kid. Oh my God. What could happen is if you are doing that and you do hurt somebody, there’s a chance that someone’s going to look to you and say that you were negligent and that you should be responsible for paying the medical bills and providing them with, you know, compensation for their pain and suffering. Where’s that going to come from?
CM – Yeah, right. ‘Cause we did just talk about how this isn’t really covered on your homeowners’ insurance unless you have a very specific vehicle.
RL – Well, and then with this one company that I just read, that very complex, 750 watt, you know, 170 pound, 20 mile an hour, whole routine. They say nope, we’re not covering that for liability at all.
CM – Yeah. So they’re just covering it for the property, for the physical damage.
RL – Yeah, there’s no coverage for you. There’s a big motorized vehicle exclusion in the liability section of the policy. And that’s a motorized vehicle. It’s an electric motor. It’s not a very big one, but it’s electric. It is a motorized vehicle and they’re going to say there is no coverage.
CM – Well, and we were talking about this off the radio, but you can kind of think about it maybe like a golf cart. It’s not a golf cart, it’s for you, yourself to travel in just by yourself. And a golf cart can fit up to four people, but it’s still powered by a battery or gas and you’re still cruising along.
RL – Yep, and you could hurt somebody. So one of the things that you’re probably not going to have is liability coverage from your homeowners. You’re almost going to be forced to if you want to protect yourself, buy that motorcycle policy or search the web. And literally, I’m, you know, we’re in the business, I don’t really know of any places to recommend, but there may be places out there where you can find, you know, an inexpensive policy that covers you for liability and property damage.
CM – Even just like adding it as an additional item maybe to your toys. If you have other toys like an ATV, or a snowmobile, or a motorcycle, adding it to your policy, a similar one of those. It’s not very expensive to add.
RL – Maybe a hundred dollars a year, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but you know that’s a lot to a lot of people. But the question is do you want to be in a situation where you’re, how much is just retaining the attorney after you’ve run somebody over?
CM – And you have to think about the cost of the personal motorized vehicle that you’re buying, too. If you’re buying one that’s $2,000,
RL – maybe $100 a year isn’t such a big deal. One of the things that’s very popular now in larger cities is they have these scooters and these e-bikes where you can just, you know, walk up to them, slide your credit card into them on the side of the road and rent one.
CM – Yay. Hey, I like it. Like I get it. If you’re a tourist or maybe you need to get from one end of the city to the other. Like I said, even from the bus stop to work or work back to the bus stop. It makes a lot of sense. But where does that put you for safety and all the other things? What if you get hit by somebody who’s riding their electric bike for the first time on the city streets?
RL – Well, that’s what we just went through eight different sessions on health insurance. That’s what you really should have, let’s not go back to that for now. We’ve done that. We’ve beaten that one up pretty well.
CM – Go back and listen to our health insurance podcasts.
RL – Please do. But what one of the things is, are you covered there? We’ve asked the insurance companies and all we’ve gotten is crickets.
CM – Nobody really wants to take responsibility.
RL – So if they’re getting that, then what I’m going to suggest is more than likely there’s no coverage and it’s on you both physical damage and liability. So if you put one under the bus or literally and hopefully you’re not on it or don’t get hurt. Or if you’re cruising down the street and someone steps off a curb and you hurt them or you just rear-end somebody going 20 miles an hour and some of these fancy new cars, you could do $1,000 worth of damage with one of those things pretty quick.
CM – Yeah, those bumpers aren’t the way, we’ve talked about them before. The bumpers have sensors and cameras and all that stuff and if you hit hard enough, you’re going to knock those sensors off their little balancing act.
RL – As you go flying over the hood of the car and into the street and they call an ambulance. There is no such thing as a $1,000 dent anymore.
CM – No. Maybe on the door. You know, maybe it’s too technical.
RL – So when you rent one of these, be careful and maybe you should ask the rental company what they’re doing, is the insurance on them. I don’t know.
CM – Maybe pay the extra 15 bucks if they offer it,
RL – if they offer it, buy it. If people go and rent a car, I always recommend that you buy the liability coverage and the physical damage coverage from the rental company. And the reason is, hey, we’ve told the story. I trashed a rental car once at Gettysburg with you and my mother and Tammy’s dad and all of us in the car and it cost an incredible amount of money. It would be better for a little tiny dent, but much better to have them pay for that.
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