Should I get Bicycle Insurance?

By Cory Bilton

Bike Lane 3

I recently learned that insurance companies are starting to offer bicycle insurance as a separate, stand-alone policy. Many types of insurance—such as health, auto, and home owner’s—already provide some coverage while you are riding your bike. So the idea of a stand-alone bicycle insurance policy intrigues me. What types of coverage does it provide? Who is the intended buyer? Is there any type of coverage that a bicycle insurance policy has that isn’t covered by health insurance, auto insurance, or homeowner’s insurance? Here is a close look at one cyclist insurance policy (offered by Markel Insurance).

What Does it Cover?

As I browse the policy, here are the categories of coverage it says it provides:

  • Physical Damage to Your Bike – This particular policy says it covers sudden, accidental loss or physical damage to your bicycle. It covers either repair or replacement, depending on the extent of the damage.
  • Liability – If you injure someone else through your ownership, maintenance, or use of your bike, the cyclist insurance policy will pay for the damage you cause.
  • Medical Payments to You – If you are injured while riding your bike, the insurance will cover your medical expenses up to the limit you choose.
  • Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage – If a vehicle negligently injures you while you are riding your bike, but the vehicle has insufficient insurance (or no insurance), this policy will kick in. But, importantly, it requires physical contact between the cyclist and the vehicle.
  • Bike Rental Reimbursement – If you are more than 50 miles from home at an organized cycling event, trip, or race, the policy will cover the cost of a temporary replacement bike.
  • Competitive Event Fee Reimbursement – If the loss of your bike keeps you from competing in an event, the insurance will pay you the non-refundable part of the race entry fee.
  • Spare Parts – The policy will cover the loss or damage of spare parts on or off the bicycle.
  • Cycling Apparel – If there is a loss or damage to your bicycle, it will also cover your cycling apparel.

Do I Need Bicycle Insurance?

The answer depends on the other insurance policies you already have. The first four categories above—physical damage, liability, medical payments, and uninsured motorist insurance—are the most important in terms of providing coverage for potentially very expensive losses. These categories are also ones that are most likely provided by another form of insurance you may already have. If you are involved in a collision with a vehicle while riding your bike, your own auto insurance will likely provide all four of those categories of coverage. If you collide with another bicyclist or a pedestrian, your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance will likely provide coverage for physical damage and liability (and maybe medical payments to others, though probably not to you). And if you have health insurance, you can count on it to take care of your medical treatment in any collision. If you have all three of these policies—health, homeowner’s, and auto—then the cyclist policy largely duplicates coverage you already have.

The counterpoint to this is that if you don’t have many (or any) insurance policies, then the cyclist policy could provide you with coverage that you don’t have. For example, many people in the Washington, DC area do not own cars and therefore probably do not have auto insurance. Without auto insurance, you assume some serious risks while you are riding your bike (you assume the risk that the driver that hits you is sufficiently insured, for one). For people like this, cyclist insurance could be a good choice.

The other group that seems to be the target audience for the cyclist policy I reviewed is competitive cyclists. The extra bike-specific coverages—event fee reimbursement, replacement rental coverage—are squarely aimed at bicyclists who compete. For this group of riders, cyclist insurance could be similar to AAA for motorists on roadtrips. So this might be a great all-in-one insurance policy. But if you have never entered a bicycle race, and don’t intend to start, these extra coverages provide little value to you.

Read Your Policies

Bicycle insurance is a product aimed at a select group of people. It is not for everyone. If you have other types of insurance—e.g. health, homeowner’s or renter’s, and auto—sit down and read through your policies to see the type of bicycle related activities they will cover. When I did this recently, I realized my policies cover a pretty broad range of potential bicycle collisions and mishaps. On the other hand, if you don’t have any insurance policies to look over, then you should seriously investigate getting a policy to protect you while you ride.

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