October 21, 2014

Hyogo Governor Calls for Mandatory Cycling Insurance

On October 20th Hyogo Prefecture's Governor Toshizo Ido (69) proposed introducing a new law that would make it mandatory for all cyclists to purchase accident insurance, making it the first Prefecture in the country to take such an outrageous and logic defying step.

The government will approach insurance companies encouraging them to offer cycling accident insurance policies with premiums of just ¥1,500 to ¥2,000 per year to compensate parties injured in accidents involving cyclists. His plan calls for bike stores to sign cyclists up to an insurance plan as part of the service they offer when selling a bicycle in much the same way that dealers currently register new bicycles for customers nation wide (A service that already adds an additional Y500 to the cost of a new bicycle.)

Considering 85% of the population in Japan own a bicycle this ruling is likely to impact on the finances of almost every household in Hyogo Prefecture, and the impact will be felt more strongly by low income families, each member of which will be required to take out cycling insurance. The cash strapped elderly who rely on the bicycle not only as their main means of transport, but as their lifeline to the community and an active social life will be forced to pay up or remain housebound. Children of low income families will lose their independence, another form of healthy play, exercise and social interaction will be denied them leaving them at much greater risk of becoming overweight or obese.

In addition to all that, it is not inconceivable that insurers may add clauses to their bargain basement policies requiring that all cyclists wear helmets which would be another blow for family budgets, and reduce cyclist numbers even further.

In a country where a basic shopping bicycle can be purchased for as little as ¥8,000 the addition of a ¥2,000 insurance policy, a ¥500 registration fee and the prospect of having to purchase a helmet to comply with an insurance policy you didn't even want in the first place is just outrageous.

If this law comes to be, and can be policed, which will be expensive in itself, it will do nothing but drive down cyclist numbers thus placing a larger burden on already congested roads and public transport systems.

In all seriousness I can see no benefit to such a new law and am left astounded that someone in such a position of authority is prepared to completely wipe out a healthy environmentally friendly form of transport that his citizens rely upon in their daily lives, and one that is costing his government next to nothing to maintain. Its insane.

But Governor Toshizo Ido isn't the only lunatic who has escaped the asylum. This announcement comes just weeks after the Mayor of Kamo City in Niigata Prefecture, Kiyohiko Koike (77), wrote to his constituents encouraging students to cycle "as little as possible" and to "always wear a helmet".

He noted nostalgically in his letter that he and his friends enjoyed the freedom of the bicycle as a child, but now the roads are crowded with automobiles and no longer safe for cyclists. As a result he concluded that children should avoid cycling at all cost.

So, lets get this straight; The Mayor enjoyed cycling as a child but today's children can't because he, as Mayor with all his mayoral powers, doesn't have the balls to reclaim the streets from motorists and implement lower speed limits nor does he have the imagination to develop a sustainable transport policy which will make the roads safer for all.

At least the Mayor Koike is simply expressing his ill informed opinion, Governor Ido's mandatory insurance plan was developed by a "panel of experts", likely the same "panel of experts" that recommended license plates for cyclists in 2012, or that which believes nuclear power plants on active fault lines are a smashing idea.

This is the level of idiocy we are fighting: To make cycling safer we must make it more expensive and inconvenient for all, but to achieve truly outstanding results we should simply "cycle as little as possible". These are your elected officials in action folks ...

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