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Title: Charged for having no insurance on bike

Date: 11 January 2012

No Insurance charge for electric bicycle!


I have been summonsed in connection with a bike I was riding that was involved in a collision with a bus this year. The bike is an e-bike (electrically assisted bike) and I was assured by the suppliers 50Cycle that it was road legal as a cycle not a motor vehicle. There are several hundred being ridden on this basis in the UK. However the City police and CPS have decided I was riding a motor vehicle without insurance and I have a magistrate’s court summons.

Anonymous, by e-mail


I believe your problem is that the wattage exceeds 200 watts. Any bicycle exceeding 200 watts that is ridden on the roads in the UK requires insurance. The definition of “motor vehicle” is ‘a mechanically propelled vehicle intended or adapted for use on roads’. Mechanically propelled includes propulsion by petrol, oil, steam or electricity.

The case of Burns v Currell (1963) has become the standard case to apply when asking whether a vehicle is intended for use on the road. It would appear that the vehicle would have to be used more than once before something such as an off road scramble bike could be considered to be a motor vehicle unless the owner adapted it for on road use for example by the fitting of lights and road tyres. Clearly you bicycle was intended for road use.

In that case Lord Parker stated ‘I would prefer to make the test whether a reasonable person looking at the vehicle would say that one of its uses would be a road use. In deciding that question the reasonable man would not, as I conceive, have to envisage what some man losing his senses would do with a vehicle; not an isolated user or a user in an emergency. The real question is: is some general use on the roads contemplated as one of the uses...?’

As such I suspect you are unlikely to succeed in defending this as in my view insurance should be in place. Also I don’t feel the vendor can be blamed (other than in mitigation of the criminal charge) as the old rule (from a case in the 1950s is that ignorance of the law is no defence. This is harsh I know.

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