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Tokyo pushes bicycle riders to get insured

TOKYO >> The Tokyo Metropolitan Government has submitted an amendment that would require cyclists in the capital to purchase liability insurance, following a series of bicycle accidents resulting in pedestrians being severely injured.

The revised ordinance would bring Tokyo in line with other municipalities and prefectures. It does not include penalties for violators.

If passed by the metropolitan assembly, the revision would take effect as soon as April 1 next year, said Masayuki Ikenoya, a Tokyo official.

Under the revision, bicycle users, operators of bicycle rental shops and employers of staff who use bicycles in the course of their work will be required to obtain the insurance.

Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department statistics show that 36% of traffic accidents in 2018 involved cyclists, up from 33% in 2017. This is significantly higher than the nationwide average of 19% in 2017.

A panel of experts on the issue submitted a report in July recommending the mandatory insurance. The panel pointed out prior cases in which cyclists filed for bankruptcy after being found liable for large payments in damages. The insurance would also help ensure that victims in those accidents are duly compensated, as well as raise public awareness about the dangers of bicycles, fostering safer use.

Costs resulting from bicycle-related accidents can be expensive.

In a 2013 ruling, Kobe District Court ordered the payment of a whopping 95 million yen (about $887,500) in damages by the mother of a child who had collided with an elderly woman, leaving her in a vegetative state. The boy, who was 11 years old at the time, was reportedly speeding down a slope with no lights when he hit the 62-year-old woman head-on.

In Tokyo in 2008, a high-school boy was hit with a bill for 92 million yen (nearly $860,000) in damages after injuring a person so severely the victim’s ability to speak was permanently impaired.

In 2015, Hyogo Prefecture was the first to mandate the liability insurance, prompting other municipalities to follow suit.

According to Au Insurance Co., six prefectures, including Saitama, Osaka and Kyoto, require bicycle riders to be insured.

Municipalities such as the cities of Nagoya and Sendai, as well as Kanazawa in Ishikawa Prefecture, do the same.

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