Woman's injury from an e-bike sparks insurance debate

Shanghai hasn’t introduced compulsory liability insurance for bike riders — and many people are unaware that is both obtainable and relatively inexpensive.
Ti Gong

A video clip of the accident that occurred on June 24 at the crossroads of Longcao Road and Kaixuan Road S. in which an elderly woman was injured.

After knocking down an elderly woman, a 23-year-old ayi surnamed Wang sped off on her e-bike.

She did so after looking at her victim lying prostrate for a few seconds.

Six days later, Wang was picked up by the police and admitted she had left the accident scene because she feared she would have to pay compensation for causing injuries.

The incident has highlighted a debate over whether more should be done to encourage bike riders to buy insurance.

Shanghai hasn’t introduced compulsory liability insurance for riders, but traffic analysts say many people would buy commercial insurance if they were aware it is easily obtainable and relatively inexpensive.

Regarding the accident that occurred on June 24 at the crossroads of Longcao Road and Kaixuan Road S., Wang was assigned full responsibility because she was trying to overtake the elderly woman to take a right turn while the accident victim was riding on her own bike and going straight ahead.

Zhu Li, a Xuhui District police officer who was in charge of the investigation, said police tracked Wang down after looking at over 150 street surveillance cameras.

“The old lady was diagnosed with fractures in her hip bones and treatment would cost her about 100,000 yuan (US$15,300), which would be a great burden to her family,” he said. “We hope justice can relieve the economic burden for them.”

After a few months of negotiations, Wang has agreed with the old woman’s family to pay compensation of about 70,000 yuan.

“Wang is cash-strained herself,” Zhu said. “She paid about 60,000 yuan in cash and another 10,000 yuan from her Alipay account.”

While Wang was not available for comment, Zhu said bike accidents in which those who caused them flee, are not rare.

Obviously, he added, it would be helpful if they were covered by liability insurance, and the city’s traffic regulation actually encourages e-bike riders to buy such insurance.

In February, city traffic police published on its website a list of six insurance companies offering liability insurance to bike riders. Shanghai Daily checked out the six and discovered that two of them don’t offer such insurance in Shanghai.

Those that do issue the insurance offer premiums ranging from 50 to 200 yuan for one year.

If the insured rider causes injuries to another person, the insurance coverage amounts to 20,000 yuan and in case of disability or death caused, the coverage rises to 190,000 yuan.

Many bike liability insurance premiums also include coverage of injuries of the insured no matter if the insured is to blame for an accident or not.

A Zking saleswoman surnamed Du said only five people in Shanghai bought her company’s bike liability insurance in the past 12 months.

“If someone asks about it we will show them the policy, but we don’t publicize it because it’s known that bike accidents are not rare,” she said.

A salesman surnamed Mao from PICC said its bike liability insurance is “quite popular.” “Unfortunately foreigners can’t buy this policy due to technical problems, but we have had people come to us asking if they can help their expat colleagues who are bike riders to get insured,” he added.

District traffic police’s offices where e-bike riders get plates for their bikes told Shanghai Daily that police officers rarely mention bike liability insurance to riders, nor do the riders ask police about it.

Many bike riders there said they had never heard of such insurance. While some said they would consider getting insurance, others said they wouldn’t because they don’t often ride their bikes or because they are careful riders.

Delivery companies, which have a large number of bike-riding employees, are the major clients of bike liability insurance.

Zhou Dongxiu, an ayi agency owner with long years of experience in the trade, said ayis are usually covered by accident insurance purchased by agencies or their employers, but bike liability insurance would be something else.

“Once on an industry conference I put this idea forward, but then nothing happened,” she said. “Ayis would welcome this insurance because they’re vulnerable financially if they cause traffic accidents.”

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