Special gravel coverage

A guide to bicycle insurance options

Posted by on January 5th, 2010 at 8:43 am

Problems arise when an uninsured motor vehicle operator and a person on a bike without auto insurance collide… Lack of insurance is also a problem in the case of single vehicle crashes, such as when you hit the light rail tracks at the wrong angle and go down.

As I reported in my first piece on bicycle insurance, there is currently no alternative form of automobile insurance for people who do not own cars. If you ride a bicycle and are not covered by car insurance, you should know your options in case of a single-vehicle crash, a hit and run, or a crash with an uninsured motorist.

At-fault motor vehicle operators who have their own auto insurance should be liable for any damages to you and your bike. If you have auto insurance it will most likely cover a crash that you cause, even if you are on your bike.

Problems arise when an uninsured motor vehicle operator and a person on a bike without auto insurance collide, or worse, in the case of a hit-and-run. Lack of insurance is also a problem in the case of single vehicle crashes, such as when you hit the light rail tracks at the wrong angle and go down.

Story continues below


Though health insurance if you have it will (in theory) cover your injuries, it will not cover liability (the damage you do to another’s property), lost wages, pain and suffering, or damage to your bicycle.

So what’s a car-free, health insurance free, cycle-commuter to do? There is no outright equivalent to car insurance offered to those who don’t own cars, but here are some ways our sources have found to fill in the holes:

  • Home owners or renters insurance will cover theft or severe damage of your bicycle (usually, varies by policy). These sorts of insurance are often packaged with auto insurance; home owners with auto insurance have an option of an additional $1,000,000 liability coverage. Renters insurance is extremely cheap (often under $15 a month) and may include personal liability coverage as well.
  • USA Cycling and Adventure Advocates offer emergency medical coverage for their members. The insurance is intended as a supplement to basic health insurance to cover gaps left by high deductibles, co-pays and co-insurance, but it can be purchased by a member having no insurance. The most comprehensive plan is $46 dollars a month and has a $500 deductible and a $10,000 benefit.
  • TriBike Insurance offers accident insurance specifically for triathletes. Their insurance plan has a benefit amount of $20,000, offers optional “excess liability” coverage for damage done to others’ property, and also covers damage to your bicycle. To sign up, your bike must cost at least $3,000.
  • Although there is nothing preventing the non-competitive average Joe or Jane with a fancy bike from signing up for either TriBike Insurance or Adventure Advocates, representatives from both assured me their plans are not appropriate for commuters.
  • Bike lawyer Ray Thomas recommends purchasing a cheap clunker car, insuring it to cover potential collisions, and parking it permanently in your driveway.
  • Another suggestion from Ray Thomas is to pay a friend, family member, or housemate to add you as a “driver” to their auto insurance policy.

None of these solutions is ideal, but they’ll have to suffice until a true bicycle insurance option emerges. Stay tuned for our third article (of three) of special coverage on The Bicycle Insurance Gap.

For more on this topic, see Ms. Caron’s story, Bicycle insurance: Coming to America in 2010?

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  • aljee January 5, 2010 at 9:19 am

    Is there any type of insurance that would cover the theft of one’s bike off of your property?
    Thanks for the story.

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  • buglas January 5, 2010 at 9:25 am

    aljee #1 – I have talked with agents from a couple of companies. The ones I spoke to don’t offer a specific policy rider for bicycles, so it would fall under general theft of property, subject to your deductible. This is for homeowner’s insurance – I expect something similar would apply with renter’s insurance.

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  • Gabriel McGovern January 5, 2010 at 9:27 am

    @aljee – I believe that many homeowner/renter insurance policies cover theft including bicycles.

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  • Anon January 5, 2010 at 9:35 am

    Aflac offers an accident plan that covers, among other things, bicycle accidents. It only addresses personal injury, not damage to your bike, but it can help wuth finances. It also applies regardless of who caused the accident.

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  • Steven Vance January 5, 2010 at 10:12 am

    #1 – As I understand my renter insurance policy, it covers theft or damage of my possessions (including bicycles) that happens inside or outside my apartment.

    So if my bike is stolen at work, my renter insurance policy will cover it. I have Liberty Mutual and they covered damage to the bicycle after a motorist collided into me a couple miles from home.

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  • Jason S. January 5, 2010 at 10:24 am

    I definitely recommend the renters or homeowners policy route. A short talk with an agent should give you options. Usually with these types of policies, you can get all sorts of riders (extra coverages) for all sorts of damage or injuries. Liability if you cause injuries, med pay for your bills if you are injured and the like should be available.

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  • Jonathan January 5, 2010 at 10:29 am

    Lindsay, I have to dispute your no-auto-insurance-without-auto assertion. I have a “US Drivers” policy from USAA that covers me for all auto-related issues, including insurance while renting a car, insurance while driving a friend’s car, and insurance for being hit by a car, whether walking or bicycling.

    To my mind, the real advantage of having the policy is that if I am hit by a car while biking, I have USAA to advocate for me to get bills paid from the other driver’s insurance.

    Theft of bicycle is covered under my renters’ insurance policy.

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    • are January 25, 2011 at 4:42 pm

      is this available to non military people

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  • Jackattak January 5, 2010 at 10:32 am

    Great article! This is a good topic to see here at BikePortland and helps get the message out to the possibly less-informed riders.

    My renter’s insurance covers our bikes from theft in and out of our apartment, and my health insurance covers my medical bills. Sadly as my wife has been unemployed since February she’s hosed if she gets injured.

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  • Steven Vance January 5, 2010 at 10:39 am

    #7 – Unfortunately, USAA services (aside from their banking products) are only available to individuals related to current or prior military service.

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  • beth h January 5, 2010 at 10:52 am

    With bicycle insurance, would bicycle licensure be far behind?

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  • Babygorilla January 5, 2010 at 10:59 am

    That last bit of advice about paying a friend to add you as a driver to their insurance policy seems a bit shady.

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  • rkaloha January 5, 2010 at 11:01 am

    I also have the non-owner auto policy from USAA. I found out about it when I called to cancel our regular policy. I had searched their website for that kind of policy before calling. It wasn’t listed. The agent on the phone said that they didn’t want to confuse people by having it on the site. It may be worth calling and asking other insurers to see if they offer something similar that they do not advertise.

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  • SJX January 5, 2010 at 11:09 am

    After a accident in May, I can tell you that having auto insureance with PIP and Uninsured motorist paid off for me. I did hire a Lawyer to cover all basses but the motorist not only was uninsured but skipped town! My PIP and Uninsured motorist paid my medical, with help from the lawyer. The property was coved, 80%, by homeowners insureance. The other 20% was recoverable with submittal of receipts for replacement items.

    My lawyer recommended to raise your PIP to 25K if you don’t have medical insurance. I didn’t/don’t. My Medical bills totaled over $60K. I came out OK with help.

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  • Paul January 5, 2010 at 11:49 am

    I’ve thought a cyclist mutual aid society or something similar could help. With the growing pool of cyclists in the region, it might work out that there is a enough people who would pay to spread the risk. We could create a non-profit community risk pool and if you buy in you receive the protection and financial cover to take care of these issues.

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  • Jayce January 5, 2010 at 12:08 pm

    I like the mutual aid pool idea. has any place done this? and dose any one know what it would take legally to get something like this started?

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    • are January 25, 2011 at 4:45 pm

      new york and new jersey each have a fund created by statute and funded by liability insurance companies that exists specifically for the purpose of paying claims for injury or death to nonmotorists caused by uninsured or underinsured motorists. i think michigan and maryland may have something similar. the BTA legislative committee is looking at possibly putting this idea forward to the state legislature within the next few years. right now trying to line up allies.

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  • Andrea January 5, 2010 at 12:13 pm

    Another suggestion from Ray Thomas is to pay a friend, family member, or housemate to add you as a “driver” to their auto insurance policy.

    My comment: This is the option I had gone with until recently. It was not “shady” because I did actually occasionally drive the car. However, I think an insurance company would likely try and find a way to not pay and I worried about this possibility. I finally broke down after being carfree for two years for this specific reason.

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  • Lynne F January 5, 2010 at 2:13 pm

    @9 USAA clarification
    Insurance is also available to former military dependents (which would be me) and my dependents are grandfathered in as well. As in, one grown child has her own USAA policy, and the other one will be getting one soonish.

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  • ma January 5, 2010 at 4:39 pm

    For those who think property insurance will cover a bike, think again. Some insurance companies are dropping homeowners who file just one claim.

    So which is more important? covering a $300k house, or $2k bicycle?

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  • Mark Allyn January 5, 2010 at 7:03 pm

    Heck, this sounds like a business idea for someone to take on!

    Since there are a number of us who are creating businesses, what is to prevent someone from starting a bicycle insurance company.

    After all, car insurance companies started somewhere.

    Does anyone know how auto insurance companies started and can we follow them?


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  • Schrauf January 5, 2010 at 8:50 pm

    Unfortunately, insurance is probably one of the most difficult businesses to begin, given all the state insurance regulations, and need for a large pool of insured members in order to average out risk and not flirt with bankruptcy after a single large claim.

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  • Jackattak January 6, 2010 at 9:04 am

    @ Mark # 19 –

    What Schrauf (#20) said.

    Insurance companies start with tons of money, which they then invest to make money (and keep up with ever-increasing state regs). They then gather their pool of insureds and use the money they make from them to make more money for the pool in order to process and handle claims when they arise.

    It’s a ridiculously difficult business to get into unless you have tons of capital to begin with.

    The best idea I’ve seen promoted so far would be to start our own “collective insurance pool” where we all chip-in a bit here and there, without forming a real “business” out of it (therefore bypassing any state regs/taxes).

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  • Josh Kadis January 6, 2010 at 9:05 am

    Your homeowner’s or renter’s policy might cover less than you think, as I found out when I filed a claim for my bike with AAA in California. The insurance company denied the claim and argued that a bicycle is a vehicle, and therefore not covered by my renter’s policy. The California Vehicle Code is explicit that a bicycle is NOT a vehicle, so I appealed to the California Department of Insurance. They declined to issue a ruling either way (your tax dollars at work!) and that point it wasn’t worth the time and cost of pursuing my claim in court.

    Double check that your policy covers bicycles, and get it in writing from an agent.

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  • Audrey Smith June 12, 2010 at 9:07 am

    I stumbled upon this article when I was searching to see if any other insurance companies have some sort of bicycle insurance. I am a licensed insurance producer for State Farm in Indiana and as we will cover bicycles under your renters or homeowners policy regardless of the location of your bike (same goes for other personal property). You’d also have liability coverage under the same policy, but there is another policy called a hospital income policy. It pays out a pretty decent sum of money for an ER visit caused by accident and has some other benefits. I would, of course, still reccommend health insurance, but this is a great supplementary policy that is inexpensive. I pay $28/month for mine. I’d check with your agent in your state to see if there is something like that.

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    • shellypants January 11, 2011 at 8:22 pm

      Hi Audrey,

      I have renters through State Farm Insurance here in Oregon and my agent will not process a claim because it was damaged on a bike path after I ran something over. He clalims it falls under the “list of perils”. Does this sound accurate?

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      • Audrey Smith January 24, 2011 at 9:31 pm

        That’s entirely possible, but I’m not 100% sure. In a situation like that, I’d call the claims department. Also, different states have different laws which may include a difference in the list of perils. Depending on the damage to your bike, it may cost you less to have it fixed than it would to pay your deductible. Is your bike completely totaled? It will cover a stolen bike – I know that much for sure, but I’m not sure about damage.

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    • Jay Paul January 7, 2013 at 12:30 pm

      For bicyclists concerned about serious accidents, tell them to check out Balance For Cyclists at http://www.balanceins.com.

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  • […] number of Americans that don’t own a car at all. (Learn more about this issue in our post, A guide to bicycle insurance options from January […]

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  • Paul Devish November 23, 2012 at 10:37 am

    Beware that in 99% of situations, home owners insurance covers only theft or damage when your bike is located at your home. If your bike is damaged or stolen when it’s not at home, you’re pretty much out of luck.

    Velosurance offers a multi-risk policy with the option to add additional coverages to protect the policy owner against many types of losses, including total loss by theft or crash. http://www.velosurance.com has a very nice comparison table.

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  • Jay Paul December 12, 2012 at 1:38 pm

    Balance For Cyclists offers accident insurance to designed specifically for cyclists. We are approved in Oregon. Coverage is Written through The Zurich American Insurance Company and is very inexpensive. This coverage does no insure your bike, we insures you! Limits available up to $250,000. Find Balance For Cyclists at http://www.balanceins.com.

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  • Bicycle Insurance April 25, 2013 at 4:13 pm

    Velosurance is a national insurance agency founded by two cyclists in response to the insurance needs of bicycle riders nationwide. After more than 3 years of development we partnered with an A rated, US insurance company to introduce a multi risk policy offering protection to all types of cyclists.

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