By Christoph Watterott, Underwriting Manager Property Switzerland / Italy
Bicycles make us fitter . . . and better looking. At least, that seems to be the link between Denmark’s bicycle culture and the Twitter feed on its website. According to tweets, a hale, hardy, bicycling Dane has just been crowned Mr. World. 50% of citizens cycle daily in Copenhagen, the world’s biking capital.
Copenhagen has created a nearly seamless segregated lane network, and gives cyclists priority at intersections. The Danish website brags that cyclists are whisked through the city, barely touching a toe to the ground. The city also removes snow from bike lanes before car lanes. So, even on the coldest winter days, 40% of the citizens bike to work.
Even with all that huffing and puffing, the city reduced emissions by 20%. It is on the way to becoming the world’s first carbon-neutral city by 2025. A relatively small investment in lane partitions, reconfigured traffic lights, and snow removal has yielded enormous health, environmental, and productivity benefits.
There is no form of transportation is more ecofriendly than cycling. And we all want to be fitter and better looking. Bicycles take up far less space than cars. They move us through cities faster than cars or public transport, depending urban planning, location and time of day.
Bicycles should and will become an integral part of smart-city mobility. Several countries in Europe are even building exclusive bicycle highways between major cities.
Clearly the risks are primarily to cyclists themselves, except in places like Copenhagen and the Netherlands, with long-established cycling contingents. Liability laws there place default blame on motorists in a collision.
Cyclists will likely be riding alongside increasing ranks of driverless cars and drone delivery vehicles in the next two decades. The city command center, streets, signs and traffic lights will communicate with cars, drones and bicycles to coordinate the traffic flow.
This raises the question of who is liable in an accident. Will it remain the car owner, even if he isn’t driving? Will it be the cyclist, who might have ignored or missed some signal from the city command center or the light? The car manufacturer? The delivery company using drones? The city itself? The light-sensor manufacturer? The technician?
We will face a maze of technical issues and risk and liability questions. Car and technology manufacturers and suppliers, as well as civil engineers and city networks, will need to help insurers understand the technology by being transparent. To provide capacity for liability and property risks, insurers will have to be able to identify how great the risk exposures are, and where they lie. The debate over who is liable will also have to be resolved by government, manufacturers, and insurers.
There is no time like the present for settling these questions, because the bicycle movement is growing, for most people’s benefit. There’s no telling how healthy we’ll all be in another decade, for starters.
Still, cycling won’t be the answer for every demographic. Seniors, people with health problems, mothers toting kids and groceries, emergency services, and delivery companies will need other options.
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