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“Pure bile and prejudice”: Cyclists slam local government’s proposal to introduce “mandatory bike insurance” and urging cyclists to “encourage overtaking” in Spanish city

Zaragoza’s municipal authority has announced an ordinance that could make it the only city in the world with compulsory bike insurance — even for children

Cyclists in the Spanish city of Zaragoza have been outraged after the city’s municipal authority decided to introduce a proposal that calls for “mandatory insurance” for bicycles and other directives such as encouraging cyclists to “be overtaken” by other vehicle users, with many labelling this ordinance as “contrary to safety” and “unenforceable”, while also being steeped in “prejudice”.

The “Preliminary draft of the Urban Mobility Ordinance of Zaragoza” was passed earlier this week by the local governing body of Ayuntamiento de Zaragoza, with the initial proposal coming from the far-right party Vox and agreed to by the conservative People’s Party (PP), aiming to end the “legal uncertainty” when a cyclist is involved in an accident.

The ordinance is open to public consultation for 30 days, and if passed, it would make Zaragoza the only city in the world to introduce civil liability insurance for cyclists.

“Zaragoza would be an exception in the world,” said Colectivo Pedalea, a protest group of urban cyclists that has already started looking at legal measures to challenge this ordinance.

> Cyclists blast Italian government’s “extremely worrying” plans to introduce bike registration plates and insurance

It accused the government of “seeking to proactively hinder the growth of the bicycle as a means of transport and discourage people who want to opt for this means as a means of transport”.

It has also called for the resignation of Tatiana Gaudes, the Minister of Environment and Mobility for proposing “impositions outside of her competence” and “overlooking the development of the bicycle as an accessible, efficient, healthy and convenient means of transport for the city ​​and citizens”, while also scathingly stating that she’s “not up to the task”.

The official document lays out a number of instructions and new directives for cyclists, with the civil insurance being the most controversial. According to the proposal, cyclists will have to carry their insurance papers in physical or a digital format at all times, with the police having the power to stop any cyclist and ask them to show their insurance.

While PP Councillor José Miguel Rodrigo has said that the text “is not definitive” and is open to changes, as it stands, children could also be required to have insurance papers, even if they want to learn to ride a bike in the first place. The rule would also extend to second or third-hand bikes.

A Zaragoza-based active travel campaigner wrote on Twitter: “Every morning hundreds of kids ride their bikes to school… Are you seriously going to ask that every kid get civil liability insurance? Pure bile and prejudice against those who move through bikes in the city.”

The proposal also says that when when riding on road with other motor vehicles, cyclists “must encourage overtaking as long as this can be done safely and they may overtake vehicles when they are stopped or stationary”.

> Government agrees to introduce tougher laws for “dangerous cyclists” who kill or injure, as Transport Secretary says “it’s only right tiny minority who recklessly disregard others face full weight of the law”

Other proposed instructions include a 30km/hr speed limit on bike lanes, a 10km/hr speed limit in areas shared with pedestrians, maintaining a minimum one-metre space when passing pedestrians. Cyclists will also be able to access green areas only if the path is more than three metres wide, and they’re prohibited from entering gardens and planted areas.

Laura Vergara, a manager at Conbici, a cycling advocacy group in Spain, told Euronews Green that the ordinance is a disproportionate measure as there are “no accident statistics that demonstrate the need to provide mandatory insurance.”

She said that most people are already covered for bike accidents through other policies, like their home insurance, and that it would disincentivise environmentally friendly forms of travel. She also said that she believes that “the unviable measure that has generated a great public uproar and confusion among people” will not pass.

> Grant Shapps: Cyclists should have number plates, be insured and subject to speed limits

Elena Tomás, the spokesperson of Zaragoza en Común, a citizen platform for a more egalitarian and livable Zaragoza, also criticised the proposal put forward by PP and Vox. She said: “This ordinance discourages active mobility with a proposal, that of mandatory insurance for bicycles, which does not apply in any Spanish city, nor in any European one.

“We cannot give the same treatment to scooters and bicycles, and the ordinance should be focused from the point of view of sustainable mobility and lower the accident rate, not under the demands of Vox.”

What about cyclists elsewhere?

Previously, Switzerland had a form of mandatory insurance for cyclists but it was abolished in 2012 and most insurers have automatically included liability for bicycle accidents in their personal liability insurance.

In June last year, Italy’s transport minister Matteo Salvini, who also heads the Lega party forming part of the right-wing coalition, introduced a controversial road safety bill which would force cyclists to carry number plates on their bikes, pay insurance, and make helmets and indicators mandatory.

The move was described as “extremely worrying” by cyclists, and Salvini came under strong backlash. Within just 48 hours of introducing the bill, he backpedalled on the decision, saying that the measures were only intended for people riding scooters.

> Italy’s Deputy PM Salvini backpedals on number plates for cyclists – “It’s just for scooters”

Number plate

And two years ago, then-transport secretary Grant Shapps threw British cyclists into a state of frenzy by announcing his wishes of cyclists having insurance, carrying licence plates on their bikes, and being subject to the same speed limits as motorists.

And then in an even hastier U-turn, the Tory cabinet minister appeared to contradict his widely-reported pledge to enforce tougher rules, just hours later saying that he was “not attracted to bureaucracy” of number plates for cyclists.

More recently, this previous week has been dominated by news of the UK government’s introduction of tougher laws to prosecute “dangerous cyclists” who kill or injure through dangerous or careless cycling, after ministers backed a series of amendments to the Criminal Justice Bill which aims to ensure people on bikes “face the same penalties as drivers and motorcyclists” responsible for the death of pedestrians.

> "30,000 people are killed or seriously injured on our roads every year, less than three involving a cyclist": Chris Boardman on dangerous cycling

The move has drawn sharp rebuke from cyclists and active travel campaigners alike, including Chris Boardman, who said: “There's over 1,700 deaths caused by, or involved in, vehicles every year, 30,000 killed or seriously injured. It’s important that we say that because there are three involving, not necessarily caused by, but three or less involving a bike rider.

“And as the Secretary of State [Mark Harper] said, this is such a tiny minority. More people are killed by lightning, or cows. And that same thing [cycling] is joyous. It's good for society. And we put the focus on this minuscule, negative thing. Absolutely, everybody should obey the laws of the road. But is this really the best use of our time to be talking about this now?”

Adwitiya joined road.cc in 2023 as a news writer after graduating with a masters in journalism from Cardiff University. His dissertation focused on active travel, which soon threw him into the deep end of covering everything related to the two-wheeled tool, and now cycling is as big a part of his life as guitars and football. He has previously covered local and national politics for Voice Wales, and also likes to writes about science, tech and the environment, if he can find the time. Living right next to the Taff trail in the Welsh capital, you can find him trying to tackle the brutal climbs in the valleys.

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20 comments

Avatar
S.E. | 1 month ago
1 like

This was the norm here in Switzerland until maybe 25 years ago. You had to show a new sticker on your bike every year as a proof, the same way we have now for the highway toll, on the windshied.

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lonpfrb replied to S.E. | 4 weeks ago
0 likes

What evidence did gov.ch provide that such registration provided any benefits?

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Săndel replied to lonpfrb | 4 weeks ago
0 likes

Registration benefits insurance companies and their owners, friends and families of the government.

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Rome73 | 1 month ago
13 likes

In a way it would be kinda ineteresting if these right wing zealots got their wish; number plates, insurance - including for children and compulsory MOTs. Just to watch the bureaucracy and the non compliance. I was once told by a Police spokesperson that around 1 in 6 motor vehicles in London is untaxed / uninsured / unregistered.  And not much seemingly can be done about that. So let's have coppers out on the street stopping and checking children on bikes. 

Avatar
hawkinspeter replied to Rome73 | 1 month ago
6 likes
BIRMINGHAMisaDUMP wrote:

In a way it would be kinda ineteresting if these right wing zealots got their wish; number plates, insurance - including for children and compulsory MOTs. Just to watch the bureaucracy and the non compliance. I was once told by a Police spokesperson that around 1 in 6 motor vehicles in London is untaxed / uninsured / unregistered.  And not much seemingly can be done about that. So let's have coppers out on the street stopping and checking children on bikes. 

The non-compliance issue is what they actually want as that gives the police a perfectly good excuse to stop anyone on a bike - just to check that they're compliant and not at all because of their skin colour.

Avatar
brooksby replied to hawkinspeter | 4 weeks ago
5 likes
hawkinspeter wrote:
BIRMINGHAMisaDUMP wrote:

In a way it would be kinda ineteresting if these right wing zealots got their wish; number plates, insurance - including for children and compulsory MOTs. Just to watch the bureaucracy and the non compliance. I was once told by a Police spokesperson that around 1 in 6 motor vehicles in London is untaxed / uninsured / unregistered.  And not much seemingly can be done about that. So let's have coppers out on the street stopping and checking children on bikes. 

The non-compliance issue is what they actually want as that gives the police a perfectly good excuse to stop anyone on a bike - just to check that they're compliant and not at all because of their skin colour.

IIRC that's what happened in Australia and in parts of the US as regards mandatory helmets - gives them an excuse to stop people, and people they do then stop and who are wearing a loud shirt in a built-up area get to be subject to a proper stop'n'search.

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Săndel replied to Rome73 | 4 weeks ago
0 likes

Indeed but a copper might not engage on a wild chase with a beefy motorist, risking his life and limb. Kids on the other hand and cyclists are easy. They can't outrun a police car, they can't ram the cops with their bicycles, they are barely dressed (spandex) and the baton will be felt throughout.

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TwoHeadsTalking | 1 month ago
16 likes
Article wrote:

More people are killed by lightning, or cows.

Have we considered licence plates for cattle, or lightning insurance 🤔?
Seems very sensible, none of those clouds or cows are being held accountable for their actions!

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john_smith replied to TwoHeadsTalking | 1 month ago
3 likes

And don't forget the speed limits.

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brooksby | 1 month ago
11 likes

Christ! Nobody tell Iain Duncan Smith, okay?

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Browsie replied to brooksby | 1 month ago
9 likes

Don't worry Nick poophole Freeman is back on it with his mandatory numberplate and insurance anti cyclist rant, yet again.

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ktache | 1 month ago
13 likes

What is it with the far right and the hatred of the cyclist?

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marmotte27 replied to ktache | 1 month ago
20 likes

Othering, outgroup discrimination, scapegoating, all tried and tested fascist techniques.

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the little onion replied to ktache | 1 month ago
9 likes

Vox are properly far right, and the environment is definitely one of their hates, alongside the usual targets

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TwoHeadsTalking replied to ktache | 1 month ago
11 likes

Divide and conquer/rule.
People are easier to control if they are not united. I imagine that they don't really care what they can sow discord over, so long as people are divided.
And campaign material for the election, get people afraid of some imagined issue that only they can resolve. Easy to get certain groups worked up, to ensure votes. Similar to all of the targeted disinformation before B**xit poll.
Also cycling can give people with few resources a freedom that probably gets them foaming at the mouth, especially when stuck in traffic watching the serfs pedal by. 😅
Just my opinion.

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grOg replied to ktache | 4 weeks ago
0 likes

What is it with the far left and cycling..

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hawkinspeter replied to grOg | 4 weeks ago
8 likes
grOg wrote:

What is it with the far left and cycling..

Cycling is egalitarian and a great enabler for all people.

Here's what a Suffragette said about bicycles:

Susan B Anthony wrote:

Let me tell you what I think of bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel. It gives a woman a feeling of freedom and self-reliance. It makes her feel as if she were independent... the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood.

As a bicycle doesn't require fuel, it enables the poorest of people to travel long distances even if an authoritarian regime is attempting to prevent them from doing so.

A bicycle is freedom.

(May also apply to tricycles)

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Rendel Harris replied to ktache | 4 weeks ago
7 likes
ktache wrote:

What is it with the far right and the hatred of the cyclist?

I'm fairly sure it's cycling being seen as part of the "something for nothing" culture. When your ideology and the survival of your favoured economic model is dependent upon convincing people that they must devote their entire lives to work in order to be able to afford the material goods and services that they have been convinced are necessary for a happy lifestyle, you don't want people on cheap machinery getting around faster, cleaner and more happily than people sitting in the hugely expensive vehicles they have been persuaded they need and have mortgaged their souls to buy, it makes the whole system look a bit questionable.

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chrisonabike replied to Rendel Harris | 4 weeks ago
0 likes

Humanly, taking pride that you have worked hard / achieved is a thing.

How can you judge that? Mostly by reference to others. Per the quote: "it is not enough to succeed - others must fail".

(Alternatively / additionally - snobbery exists).

Of course there's no need for a car specifically for that (or a horse, or dyed clothes, or rice - this is a old as people). But they exist, so can be one of those markers.

I would agree that cars seem also to fulfil a *particular* "status" or social marker role now. Perhaps a fine horse *is* a good analogy? And those trying to flog the things are obviously well aware of that!

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lonpfrb replied to chrisonabike | 4 weeks ago
1 like

100 years of big auto and big oil propaganda plus confirmation bias would cover that IMHO.

Obviously product adverts always push an aspirational delusion of personal transport with empty roads, no inconvenience of any kind, and no responsibility for the unsustainable damage caused.

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