The Tokyo Metropolitan Government has submitted a bill that would oblige cyclists in the city to buy liability insurance cover. This comes after a series of bicycle accidents in which pedestrians were severely injured and secured massive compensation payments.
The revised order would bring Tokyo in line with other prefectures and municipalities that have already passed legislation mandating the utilization of such insurance cover. However, the ordinance does not include sanction for violators.
The bill, if passed passed by the ongoing sitting of the metropolitan assembly, would take effect on April 1, 2020, Masayuki Ikenoya, a Tokyo official, said Wednesday.
“We will thoroughly make sure we raise awareness of rules and appropriate manners expected of bicycle users, as well as laying the groundwork for an environment where those hurt by accidents see proper redress,” Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike told the city assembly on Tuesday upon submitting the amendment.
Under the revised amendment, cyclists, operators of bicycle rental shops and employers of staff who use bicycles in the course of their duties will be obliged to join liability insurance.
Asked what led to the revision, Ikenoya stated an increase in the number of bicycle-related accidents in Tokyo over the last two years.
Statistics from the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department indicate that the percentage of traffic accidents in the capital involving bicycle users stood at 36.1% in 2018, up from 33.4% in 2017. This is significantly higher than the countrywide average of 19.1%, as recorded by the National Police Agency in 2017.
Before the move by Tokyo on Tuesday, a panel of experts had issued a report to the metropolitan government in July recommending the compulsory purchase of liability insurance on the part of cyclists.
The panel stated incidences in the past where cyclists ended up filing for personal bankruptcy after being found liable for huge payments in damages from the injuries they caused.
It also said the mandatory purchase of liability insurance would help ensure victims in those accidents are properly compensated, and additionally raising public awareness that bicycles can pose danger just like cars, thereby helping to improve the safer use of bicycles.
Bicycle-related accidents can be very costly.
In a 2013 major ruling, Kobe District Court ordered the payment of a huge sum of ¥95 million in damages by the mother of a child who had a collision with an elderly woman, leaving her in a vegetative state.
The boy, who was 11 years then, was reportedly cycling down a slope at top speed with no lights on before he hit the 62-year-old woman head-on.
In another incident in Tokyo, a high-school boy was hit with a penalty of ¥92 million in damages in 2008 after injuring a company employee so severely that the victim suffered a stroke.
Tokyo is not alone in the encouraging such an insurance cover. Hygo Prefecture was the first to enforce an ordinance mandating the use of liability insurance in 2015, prompting other municipalities to do the same.
There are currently six prefectures, according to Au Insurance Co., including Osaka, Saitama and Kyoto, which have enacted similar obligations on cyclists. Municipalities such as the cities of Nagoya, Sendai and Kanazawa in Ishikawa Prefecture, do the same as well.