In years gone by, China had reached its peak saturation for bicycles. In the 1990s country had 670 million bikes on the roads. Since then, the population of China has grown, but the number of bikes out there has actually lowered to about half a billion. That number works out to about 1 bike per household in China, which would seem to make them fairly ubiquitous. To be sure, there are still more than double the number of bicycles on the roads of China than there are automobiles. Nevertheless, the gap in the umber between these two competing conveyances has been narrowing yearly. In fact, due to the increasing number of cars on the road, even with fewer bikes out there the roads in China are now more dangerous for cyclists than ever, and the government is pondering insisting on bike-sharing insurance.
There are new businesses in China that have a direct stake in road safety. Bicycle sharing companies have made noble strides toward providing quick and easy access to bikes in the hopes of getting more people cycling and reducing the amount of smog being pumped into the air by autos. No good deed goes unpunished though, as the government has laid out regulations that need to be met by these companies. What are the details? Find out more as we delve into this topic, as well as the issue of bike accidents in China more broadly.
Bike accidents in China
There are now over 40 cities in China that have over 1 million cars and trucks present in them. 11 of these even have over 2 million, including Shanghai, Beijing, Shenzhen and Tianjin. There has been a boom in recent years when it has come to the number of motorized vehicles on China’s roads. While 2007 saw 59 million vehicles on the road in China, in 2015 this number had risen to 172 million. Today, China has the same number of vehicles on the road as the United States – 250 million – but also has 2 and a half times the number of child fatalities caused by traffic accidents. Along with this growth in vehicle population, there has been a distinct rise in the number of bicycle accidents. In fact, from 1992 to 2004, the mortality rate for bike riders in China almost doubled. It has also been reported that the majority of fatalities in China road accidents are ‘vulnerable road users’, which include cyclists in addition to pedestrians and motorcyclists. There are 700 people that die in road accidents everyday in China, and 60% of these are vulnerable road users.
Adding to the road accident issue in the country is the fact that, of the bicycles in use by the Chinese public today, about 200 million of them are e-bikes. These motorized bicycles can now go as fast as 30km/hr, and have also been partially attributed with the uptick in road accidents. Some cities, such as Shenzhen, have even gone so far as to ban the battery-powered bikes outright. This decision left the city’s 500,000 e-bike owners hung out to dry. Beijing has also banned e-bikes on certain streets in the city.
Bike-sharing insurance regulations
Bike-sharing companies in China, like Mobike and Ofo, have garnered greater and greater prominence in China’s transportation landscape in recent years, or even months. As recently as 2017, it has been said these companies have brought over 2 million new bikes to China’s city streets. Unlike bike-sharing companies in other countries, these bikes are incredibly easy to access and use, as they can be picked up and left literally anywhere. However, the success of these companies and sheer number of bikes that have been added to the street have caught the attention of government regulators.
For example, recently in Shanghai, it’s rumored that an order was made that major bike-sharing companies must halt adding new bikes to their respective fleets. Similarly, it was recently announced that Beijing would become the 5th metropolitan area in China to start laying out firm regulations, including bike-sharing insurance requirements, for bike-sharing companies. Aspects of bike-sharing insurance mentioned include making claims processing for bicycle accidents more consumer friendly and encouraging bike-sharing companies to purchasing third party liability and personal accident insurance that will cover their customers. Additionally, the government believes that bike-sharing companies should be actively working to assist consumers with insurance claims related to accidents that involve their bikes. Cities including Nanjing, Shenzhen, Chengdu and more are all mulling over imposing insurance requirements on these companies.
Bicycle insurance and you
The above information may lead you to ask, “So if the government is imposing bike-sharing insurance regulations on companies that provide bicycles, does that mean I need to have insurance to ride my own private bike?” The answer, as you might expect, is no. Private citizens are free to ride their own bicycles without insurance. Of course, doing so means that you are responsible for any and all damages you may do to others while riding your bike. You also may not be guaranteed to have your medical expenses taken care of if you are in an accident, even if it occurs through no fault of your own.
This can be important for expats in China should be especially concerned with, as getting into an accident without insurance coverage may end up with you receiving treatment in a public hospital that won’t be ideal. Not only because there can be issues created by long lines and quality of medical equipment, but also because only private international hospitals are expected to have doctors and staff that can speak English or other languages besides Mandarin.
If you are a cyclist in China, especially in urban areas with heavy vehicle traffic, you are going to want to make sure that you have a private medical insurance plan for two reasons. The first among these is to make sure that you are protected from burdensome medical debt should you be involved in a serious accident that may require surgery or feature complications. The second reason is so that you will have access to the best quality hospitals and doctors in your area, rather than risk being turned away due to not having proof that you will be able to pay.
In order to compare plans from local and international insurers and see all of your options quickly and easily, utilize the expertise of the helpful insurance advisers at Pacific Prime China. Our staff is standing by to give you a plan comparison and price quotation for plans that will provide you with health insurance coverage both in China and abroad.