To put it simply, insurance.
In the last few months, Portland, Oregon has been rated America’s most bike-friendly city, has earned national recognition for creating infrastructure for cycling, and now claims the highest percentage of bike commuters in any large U.S. city.
Yet, too often my firm gets a call from a cyclist who has been seriously injured by a motor vehicle – but there is nothing we can do to help him because there is simply no insurance to cover his needs.
- Despite the legal requirement for auto insurance in most states – including Oregon, Washington and California – approximately 15% of the drivers on the road do not have any insurance.
If you sustain serious injuries from a bicycle collision with an uninsured motorist, you are reliant upon your own health insurance – if you have it – to cover your medical bills. When you factor in deductibles, co-pays and coverage limits, a relatively minor crash can easily cost an accident victim thousands of dollars.
Lack of insurance is also a problem for single-vehicle accidents – for example, if a cyclist hits a curb and falls while riding; and for bicycle-to-bicycle accidents.
- Many drivers carry only the legal minimum in liability insurance.
In Oregon and Washington, that means there is $25,000 available per person, and $50,000 per accident.
While there is almost no data available on bicycle injuries, when there is an accident involving a vehicle and a bicycle, the cyclist almost never wins. When a cyclist gets seriously injured by a car, the minimum insurance – even factoring in the driver’s Personal Injury Protection (PIP) – may not even cover the medical expenses. In Oregon, if the cyclist has no auto insurance and no health insurance, they are limited to the medical pay benefits of the driver that hit them for their immediate medical expenses. And if a person on a bicycle is struck by a motorcycle, which isn’t covered by PIP, the situation is even worse.
For injuries like broken arms or legs, or any kind of head injury, victims often find themselves owing tens of thousands in medical bills, missing time at work, and untold other losses that can never be fully accounted for and recovered.
How to protect yourself
Consider purchasing bicycle insurance. The Better World Club and Spoke Insurance both recently started offering comprehensive, accident and liability bicycle insurance.
If you own a vehicle, a bicycle accident may be covered under your auto insurance policy. If you have homeowner’s or renter’s insurance but no vehicle, you may have to specifically add your bike to your policy for it to be covered for theft or damage.