National

Tokyo pushes bill obliging cyclists to have liability insurance amid rise in accidents

by Tomohiro Osaki

Staff Writer

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government has submitted an amendment that would oblige cyclists in the capital to purchase liability insurance policies, following a series of bicycle accidents in which pedestrians were severely injured and secured huge compensation payments.

The revised ordinance would bring Tokyo in line with other municipalities and prefectures that have already enacted legislation mandating the use of such insurance programs. The ordinance, however, does not include penalties for violators.

The revision, if passed by the ongoing session of the metropolitan assembly, would take effect as soon as April 1 next year, 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 Tuesday upon submitting the amendment.

Under the revised ordinance, bicycle users, operators of bicycle rental shops and employers of staff who use bicycles in the course of their work will be obliged to join liability insurance. Asked what prompted the revision, Ikenoya cited a rise in the number of bicycle-related accidents in Tokyo over the past two years.

Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department statistics show that the percentage of traffic accidents in the capital involving cyclists stood at 36.1 percent in 2018, up from 33.4 percent in 2017. This is significantly higher than the nationwide average of 19.1 percent, as recorded by the National Police Agency in 2017.

Prior to the move by Tokyo on Tuesday, a panel of experts submitted a report to the metropolitan government in July recommending the mandatory purchase of liability insurance on the part of cyclists.

The panel pointed out cases in the past where bicycle users ended up filing for personal bankruptcy after being found liable for large payments in damages as a result of injuries they caused.

It also said the mandatory purchase of liability insurance would help ensure victims in those accidents are duly compensated, as well as raising public awareness that bicycles can pose danger as well as cars, thereby helping to foster the safer use of the two-wheeled vehicles.

Costs in bicycle-related accidents can be expensive.

In a 2013 high-profile ruling, Kobe District Court ordered the payment of a whopping ¥95 million in damages by the mother of a child who had collided with an elderly woman, leaving her in a vegetative state. The boy, who was 11 years old at the time of the incident, was reportedly traveling down a slope at top speed with no lights on before he hit the 62-year-old woman head-on.

In Tokyo, too, a high-school boy was hit with a bill for ¥92 million in damages in 2008 after injuring a company employee so severely the victim was ultimately left unable to speak properly.

Tokyo is not alone in promoting such a policy. Hyogo Prefecture was the first to enact an ordinance mandating the use of liability insurance in 2015, prompting other municipalities to follow suit.

According to Au Insurance Co., there are currently six prefectures, including Saitama, Osaka and Kyoto, that place similar obligations on bicycle riders. Municipalities such as the cities of Nagoya and Sendai, as well as Kanazawa in Ishikawa Prefecture, do the same.

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