Britain's cycling organisations have joined together and backed a e-bike submission that the Bicycle Association has sent to the Department for Transport. Sustrans, Cycling UK, British Cycling, Cyclenation, LCC, Bikeplus and the Association of Bikeability Schemes joined with the Bicycle Association to argue that e-bikes should not be subject to so-called Vnuk ruling.
The EU's Vnuk ruling states that off-road vehicles, such as tractors and racing cars, have to be insured even if they never drive on a public highway. Electric bikes could be included within the scope of the ruling, an outcome opposed by the Bicycle Association and the other cycling organisations.
A DfT consultation on how to implement the Vnuk judgment closed on 13th April.
The Bicycle Association made a 15-page submission to the consultation, stating that e-bikes should be exempt from the Vnuk ruling. As well as having to pay for compulsory third-party insurance e-bike owners could also be made to fit number plates and possibly wear helmets, and other measures which the BA fears would impact on the marketability of e-bikes.
Vnuk is not a bendy-banana–style EU acronym, it is the second-name of an unfortunate Slovenian farm worker who was knocked from a ladder by a reversing tractor. Damijan Vnuk v Zavarovalnica Triglav (c-162/13) was originally heard in Slovenia, but then extended to the rest of the EU after it was referred to the Court of Justice of the European Union. The European court decided that the regulation “applies to the use of vehicles, whether as a means of transport or as machines, in any area, both public and private, in which risks inherent in the use of vehicles may arise, whether those vehicles are moving or not.”
Further, the ECJ stated that: “Insurance obligation in respect of motor vehicles set out in the EU Motor Insurance Directives is now to be interpreted as extending to ‘any use of a vehicle consistent with the normal function of that vehicle’.
The national governments of Europe have the power to exempt certain classes of vehicle, and the BAGB and the other cycling organisations are hoping e-bikes will be so exempted.
The BA argues that e-bikes are not "motor vehicles" as they are not 100 percent mechanically propelled.
The 15-page submission states there would be drawbacks for sustainable transport, especially for older people. Furthermore, the costs, administration and policing of the regulation as it applies to e-bikes would far outweigh the risks of damage to people or property from any accidents.