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This Spanish city wants to be the first in Europe to introduce mandatory bike insurance for cyclists

An end to ‘legal uncertainty’ or ‘unviable’? Zaragoza wants to force cyclists to get insurance.
An end to ‘legal uncertainty’ or ‘unviable’? Zaragoza wants to force cyclists to get insurance. Copyright Canva
Copyright Canva
By Ian Smith
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The move is part of a growing backlash in Spain and Europe against cyclists that has seen new bike paths removed and allegations of cities misusing EU funding.

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Zaragoza city council announced last week that it wants to make insurance mandatory for all cyclists and electric scooter users.

The measure was proposed by the far-right party Vox and agreed to by the conservative People’s Party (PP). They say they want to end the ‘legal uncertainty’ when a cyclist is involved in an accident.

If the measure passes, the northeastern Spanish city would be the first in Europe to force cyclists to take out civil liability insurance.

Cyclists slam proposed mandatory insurance

Cycling organisations have come out strongly against the idea.

“Zaragoza would be an exception in the world,” Colectivo Pedalea, a protest group of urban cyclists, says.

It questions the legality of such a move and is calling for the councillor behind it to resign.

Laura Vergara, a manager at Conbici, a cycling advocacy group in Spain, tells Euronews Green that it is a disproportionate measure as there are “no accident statistics that demonstrate the need to provide mandatory insurance.”

She says that most people are already covered for bike accidents through other policies, like their home insurance, and that it would disincentivise environmentally friendly forms of travel.

How much will the insurance cost cyclists?

If the measure goes through, insurers estimate it would cost around €20 per year for cyclists.

But it is not clear if it will get final approval. PP and Vox put it in the city’s mobility ordinance announced last week. This ordinance is now open for a 30 day public consultation period before it can be formally adopted.

PP Councillor José Miguel Rodrigo has said that the text “is not definitive” and is open to changes, Spanish newspaper Heraldo reported.

Vergara believes that “the unviable measure that has generated a great public uproar and confusion among people” will not pass.

Euronews Green reached out to PP for comment on the backlash and the calls for its councillor to resign but had not received a response at the time of publication.

Where else in Europe requires insurance for cyclists?

Switzerland previously had a form of mandatory insurance for cyclists but it was abolished in 2012 and most insurers have automatically included liability for bicycle accidents in their personal liability insurance.

Nowhere else in Europe requires it.

Whether Zaragoza’s plan passes or not, critics say it is yet another symbol of the escalating culture war in Spain and other parts of Europe against sustainable transport and environmental planning policies.

Why are cities removing cycle lanes?

A lot of backlash in Spain is focused on a climate law passed in 2021 that made it mandatory for every city to introduce low-emission zones. To do this and to improve sustainable transport infrastructure, the EU provided €1.5 billion in funding.

However, some right-wing-controlled city councils are refusing to fully implement the law.

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Valladolid has even spent hundreds of thousands of euros to remove new cycle lanes in the city to accommodate cars.

This has led the European Commission to open a preliminary investigation into the potential misuse of funds.

Spain’s Minister for the Environment Teresa Ribera said on Thursday that the elimination of bike lanes is “a direct attack on the quality of life of those cities.”

She claimed it was happening “for dogmatic, ideological and random reasons” and that those cities will have to return the EU funding.

Where else in Europe have cycle paths become controversial?

Outside of Spain there have also been controversies over green transportation measures.

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Conservative UK prime minister Rishi Sunak pledged to stop “anti-car measures” in British cities last year as part of his bid to end the ‘war on motorists’.

A government press release on the plans said they will look into how “to prevent schemes which aggressively restrict where people can drive.”

In Berlin, there have been similar arguments. Last year the centre-right Christian Democrats (CDU) came to power in the city as the leading partner in a coalition with the centre-left SPD and started to halt cycle lane projects to save car parking spaces. In a statement earlier this year, the campaign group Changing Cities decried the situation.

“Not a single bus lane was built in 2023, tram projects have been put on hold, the expansion of cycle paths has been slowed down and now they are being replanned to be more car-friendly,” it said.

“The SPD and CDU promised us a functioning city - what we got was dirty air and dangerous streets.”

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The political wrangling and debate show no sign of slowing down in these countries.

Meanwhile, over 300,000 premature deaths are caused by air pollution in Europe every year.

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