EU Court decides that Pedelecs are not motor vehicles
Vehicles which are not exclusively mechanically propelled, such as bicycles with electric assistance, which can be accelerated to a speed of up to 20 km/h without pedalling, are not capable of causing personal injury or damage to property to third parties comparable to that which can be caused by motorbikes, cars, lorries or other vehicles which are exclusively mechanically propelled, since the latter can travel much faster. This is what the judges at the Court of Justice of the European Union have now decided.
The reason was an accident in Belgium, where a cyclist on an electrically assisted bicycle was hit by a car in public traffic and was so seriously injured that the rider died of the consequences a few months later. In a Belgian court case, in which possible claims for compensation were to be clarified, the question arose on the basis of national legislation whether that “bicycle with electric assistance” was a motor vehicle or whether it was to be classified as a “vulnerable road user” – according to which one would be entitled to automatic compensation under Belgian law.
As the term “vehicle” in the relevant Belgian legislation corresponds to that in a European directive in the field of motor vehicle liability insurance , the Belgian Court of Cassation decided to refer a question to the Court of Justice on the interpretation of this term, as stated in the communication from the EU judges based in Luxembourg.
In the ruling, the Court states that the Directive contains no indication as to whether a “vehicle” must be exclusively mechanically propelled. But: the Court states that the Directive refers to “motor vehicle liability insurance” – and this usually means liability insurance for the circulation of companions such as motorbikes, passenger cars and lorries which are exclusively mechanically propelled.
“The Court also refers to the objective of the directive, which is to protect victims of road accidents caused by motor vehicles,” it wrote. “That objective does not require that electric bicycles be covered by the concept of a ‘vehicle’, within the meaning of the directive.”