A motorized bicycle is a hybrid vehicle that has bicycle pedals as well as a motor, which can either power the vehicle alone, or can assist the rider while pedaling. The engines can have several forms: 2- or 4-stroke gas or diesel, electric, or even steam-powered.
If you recently bought or are considering buying a motorized bike, you might be wondering whether such a vehicle needs to be insured, and what kinds of insurance are available. This article will help you understand what coverage you need to be protected and keep your finances safe.
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A Brief History of the Motorized Bike
- The first motorized bike was the Michaux-Perreaux steam-powered velocipede, invented in France in 1868.
- The first production motorized bicycle in the United States was the “Auto-Bi,” first sold in 1896 by the Thomas Motor Company of Buffalo, NY.
- Today, motorized bikes are still popular, both as ground-up designs and as add-on, aftermarket kits used to motorize a standard pedal bike.
Are Motorized Bike Riders at More Risk of Injury?
Because a motorized bike is a powered bicycle, it has a higher rate of speed than a traditional bike. Some motorized bikes can achieve a top speed of 30 mph. This means that an accident with a motorized bike can result in more severe injuries than accidents involving a standard pedal bike.
Most people assume that bicycle and motorized bike accidents usually involve a car or truck, and that the operator of the larger vehicle is usually responsible. This is not always the case, however. Below are some statistics on bicycles and motorized bikes that you might find surprising:
- 75% of cycling injuries that end in the operator being hospitalized involve collisions with a car.
- Only about 28% of all bike or motorized bike accidents actually involve motor vehicles.
- Over 70% of bike and motorized bike accidents are bicycle-bicycle, bicycle-pedestrian, or solo crashes.
Motorized Bike Riders Are Sometimes “Invisible”
Another thing operators should keep in mind is that motorized bikes, like regular bicycles and motorcycles, can be difficult for other motorists to see. In fact, a motorized bicyclist may be practically invisible on the road.
Moreover, the vehicle’s increased speed gives other motorists even less time to react should an “invisible” motorized bike suddenly appear in front of them.
Therefore, it is a good idea to always wear protective headgear and other safety clothing when operating a motorized bike. It is also wise to mount an orange or reflective flag on the bike, and to mount reflectors or even lights on the frame to give other vehicles as much warning as possible.
What Are Some Other Risks Motorized Bike Owners Face?
Motorized bikes face many of the same kinds of risks that traditional motorcycles or bicycles face. For example, motorized bikes have a higher risk of theft than a standard motorcycle because they are much lighter, and often are not even operated by a key.
This makes them easier for a thief to lift into the back of a pick-up truck or trailer, or for a joyrider to hop onto the seat and chug away too fast for the owner to catch on foot.
Moreover, the motor on the motorized bike can make the vehicle more of a target than a standard bicycle. The motor and transmission increase the value of the bike, without doing much to increase the difficulty of theft.
What Kind of Insurance Do You Need for a Motorized Bike?
In many jurisdictions, “human-powered" bicycles are usually covered under your homeowner’s insurance policy and are protected against liability and physical damage.
However, by adding a motor (of any size) to the bike, you convert it into a "motorized vehicle" in the eyes of the insurance company. This means it is excluded under most renter’s insurance or homeowner’s policies.
Some of the types of motorized bike insurance you should consider if you own or are considering buying a motorized bike are listed in the following sections.
- Medical payments: Hospital stays and medical treatments can be extremely expensive. Medical coverage will help pay your costs in the event that you are injured while riding your motorized bike, and will also cover a passenger if you have someone riding on the back of your bike.
- Theft and damage insurance: Because motorized bikes are at risk of collisions and theft, buying comprehensive coverage for damage and theft can help to protect your bicycle and your investment. Be sure the motorized bike insurance quotes you review will protect you if your bike is stolen whether you are at home, at work or another destination.
- Liability insurance: If you hurt another person while operating your motorized bike, you may be held liable for that person’s medical treatments. Liability motorized bike insurance covers injuries or property damage you inflict on another person in an accident you cause. It can also provide coverage in the event that the injured party files a lawsuit against you.
- Underinsured/underinsured motorist coverage: Not every driver carries appropriate insurance, even though many states mandate it. Underinsured/underinsured motorist coverage protects you if you are in an accident caused by a driver who is not covered by a liability policy.
Insurance Laws Vary
Insurance laws vary from state to state. Therefore, you should take the time to find out what laws are in place in your state before buying motorized bike insurance and operating a motorized bicycle.
For example, some states consider any vehicle that moves faster than 21 miles per hour to be a motor vehicle, and thus require the operator to have a driver’s license.
The non-uniformity of motorized bike laws is one reason it is wise to consult a local, independent insurance agent who knows the laws of your state and municipality.
These agents are knowledgeable and experienced, and can help you craft a policy that measures up to both state requirements and your individual needs.