Chain Reaction

How Bike Sharing Marketplaces are Realizing the Importance of Insurance the Hard Way

Over the past decade, bike sharing has exploded as an affordable, healthy, and ecofriendly means of transportation in most major cities. The platform made its US debut in 2010, and has since expanded to over 100 bike sharing systems across the country. Their success both owes to and aids in the burgeoning gig economy. However, like the gig economy, it grew so quickly without realizing the unexpected circumstances that could occur when customers are involved.

With more and more lawsuits involving injuries sustained on shared bikes, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the protocol for dealing with these situations is hazy at best, and at worst can be devastating for both the individual and the company involved.

Fault-Sharing

In a bike accident, fault is extremely hard to nail down – even when the rider owns the bike. The role and responsibility of bikers can vary dramatically by location, with factors as minor as wearing one versus two earbuds determining who’s responsible for a collision. Bike sharing platforms complicate things, because the condition of the bike is no longer necessarily the responsibility of the rider. That means if a bike skids into a window because its brakes are faulty, the damages could be the fault of the bike sharing company, not the rider. However, because bike sharing platforms don’t require any inspection when bikes are checked in or out, it can be impossibly complicated to determine whether the conditions contributing to the collision were sustained before or during a user’s ride.

Personal injury lawyers are pouncing on the complexity of these cases. Many have begun targeting victims of bike and scooter crashes, calling the companies “an accident waiting to happen.” Personal injury lawyers in California are already receiving 2-5 calls each week about shared bike and scooter accidents, and say that number is steadily climbing. The cases overwhelmingly involve faulty brakes or users losing control of their bike or scooter and injuring themselves in the fall. Increasingly, these calls are coming from hurt pedestrians as well. Personal injury lawyers see the companies as an easy target, as many are startups and nonprofits who are likely to settle before a lawsuit is filed.

Avoiding Liability

The accelerating loop of accidents and lawsuits has sparked a long overdue conversation about liability and protection. Early solutions have included keeping bikes well maintained, educating users about bike safety, providing or even requiring safety training, and having users sign a waiver before hitting the road. Safety and education are important, but accidents are often true to their name; unintentional and unavoidable. While having users sign a waiver is a good idea, it can’t necessarily shield companies from a lawsuit in the event of an accident, nor does it give any protection to the rider themselves. Waivers serve mostly to dissuade the user from filing a lawsuit, leaving the company with a sense of security that’s shaky at best, and the rider with nothing.

The Solution: Collaborative Safety

A solution catching the attention of national bike sharing companies like Lime Bike is a system of collaborative safety, which embeds hourly insurance into the rental process. Users can purchase insurance through the bike sharing platform for as low as 15 cents per ride, which not only protects the company from lawsuits, but can cover the users’ medical costs whether or not they have other health insurance. Bunker’s Accident Insurance for Bike and Scooter Sharing Platforms pays out regardless of fault, minimizing the chances of an escalated legal battle that could drain the user’s resources and the company’s reputation. With Bunker’s coverage embedded into the bike sharing experience, both parties can rest easy knowing they’re covered in case of an accident, no matter whose shoulders the blame falls on most heavily.

Bunker is excited about a future of transportation that’s healthy, affordable and environmentally sustainable. We’re passionate about making sure it’s also safe for everyone involved. Collaborative safety ensures that everyone has the protection they need to keep growing, innovating, and moving towards the future.