There are a number of different insurance considerations that may apply to bicyclists, but I will focus on property damage insurance (insurance for the bicycle) and bodily injury insurance (insurance for injuries). The insurance industry as a whole has been slow to embrace the needs of bicyclists, but for many types of losses there are old-school insurance policies that may be useful.
Whether you own or rent, if you have an expensive bicycle it is a good idea to include it on your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy to protect it in the event of theft. If your bicycle is stolen, your insurance company will reimburse you the reasonable market value minus the amount of your deductible.
While insurance isn’t required to operate a bicycle, it might be worth considering. Insurance industry estimates suggest that 13.8% of drivers in the United States do not have insurance. That means if you are involved in a collision with a car, you have a one in seven chance that the driver will be uninsured, leaving you on the hook for your medical costs, lost wages, bicycle damage or any other losses. Although an uninsured negligent driver is still responsible for damages you incur, collecting any money from such a driver often proves to be all but impossible.
Interestingly, one of the most important types of insurance a cyclist can carry is auto insurance. Your typical auto insurance policy carries not just one type of coverage, but a bundle of insurance coverage. Relevant to cyclists (and pedestrians) are under-insured/ uninsured motorist (UM/UIM) coverage and medical payments coverage (or personal injury protection, PIP coverage in many no-fault states). In most states these types of coverage are activated when you are involved in a collision with an automobile, regardless of whether or not you are driving your car, walking down the street or riding your bicycle. If you are unlucky enough to be struck by a negligent driver with insufficient insurance coverage, no insurance at all, or (in some states) even if the driver successfully flees the scene, your auto insurance carrier will step into the shoes of the negligent driver and cover your losses.
Car-free cyclists should give special consideration to their insurance needs. You might consider buying a non-owner’s, or operator’s, auto insurance policy. This is a special automobile insurance policy specifically written for people who do not own cars. Such policies provide UM/ UIM, PIP or medical payments coverage in the event you are hit by a car on your bicycle, and if you rent a car you can decline the rental insurance. If you rent a car a few times a year the insurance policy could pay for itself.
Jim Freeman is a lawyer and bicycle commuter in Chicago who advocates on behalf of bicyclists and pedestrians. Jim believes the bicycle is a solution to many of the transportation and health problems facing urban America today. For further information you can visit Jim’s website at lawyerjimfreeman.com.