Ebikes, also known as EAPCs- electronically assisted pedal cycles, have become very popular over the past 10 years. The Industry is exploding with new models and new users. In Massachusetts bikes fall into the Ebike category if they are motorized but the motors have a maximum speed of twenty-five mile per hour. Massachusetts restricts use of these bikes to people who are sixteen or above. Operators of Ebikes must have an operator’s license and an Ebike may require registration depending on its maximum speed. All riders must be helmeted. Insurance is not required. Ebikes may not be ridden on bike paths in Massachusetts.
For certain insurance purposes, Ebikes are treated differently than ordinary bicycles. As an example, whereas riders of bicycles who are hit by a car or truck are entitled to personal injury protection benefits which cover medical bills and lost earnings.
Ebike riders are not entitled to these benefits. Similarly, medical payment provisions on motor vehicle policies which will provide benefits to cyclists who are hit by a car, are not payable to Ebike riders who suffer injuries when hit by a motor vehicle. This disparate treatment of Ebike riders has made its way into automobile insurance policies in the last few years. The refusal of the insurance companies in Massachusetts to treat Ebike riders the same way they treat cyclists can create financial difficulties for the Ebike riders if they suffer injuries when hit by a motor vehicle. And the likelihood is that most Ebike riders have no idea that insurance coverage which applied to them as cyclists is not available to them as Ebike riders.
The change in the policy language is buried in the insurance policy that is mailed to Massachusetts insureds annually. Insured’s are always advised to read their policies but most people do not do so. There is legislation making its way through the legislature in Massachusetts that would create three classifications of Ebikes depending upon the speed of the motorized bike. House bill 3457 and Senate bill 2309 seem to have momentum. If the bills pass, distinctions would be created so that the insurance benefits which currently do not apply to Ecyclists could include riders of slower Ebikes in the future.