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.
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.
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
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
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.