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Asia Minute

Asia Minute: Liability Insurance for Tokyo Bicyclists?

Shibuya District, Tokyo, Japan

A national study earlier this year found that Hawaii is one of the most dangerous states in the country for older pedestrians. Cars are the main concern, but bicyclists on sidewalks are another challenge. In one Asian city, lawmakers are considering forcing bicycle riders to buy liability insurance.

Tokyo can be a dangerous place for bike riders. National police statistics show that across Japan, about 19% of traffic accidents involve bicyclists.

In Tokyo, it’s nearly twice that level – more than 36% of traffic accidents, and growing. And a lot of those accidents involve pedestrians, and cases where the bicycle rider is at fault.

There have been several high profile cases that have involved large cash settlements. Such as the Tokyo high school student who hit and severely injured a pedestrian, and had to pay more than 860,000 dollars in damages.

A panel of experts put together a report for the Tokyo metropolitan government recommending mandatory liability insurance for all bicyclists.

The panel cited cases where bike riders had been forced into bankruptcy to pay damages to pedestrians hurt in accidents, and the panelists said insurance policies would also focus more attention on bicycle safety.

The measure has been submitted by the Tokyo city government and is now before the metropolitan council.

Half a dozen Japanese prefectures already require bike riders to carry liability insurance, as well as some of Japan’s larger cities — including Osaka, Nagoya, and Kyoto.

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