KBC Verzekeringen NV v P&V Verzekeringen CVBA C-286/22 the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), was required to rule on a claim arising out of a collision between a cyclist on an electric bike (e-bike and a car, resulting in the cyclist's death. The specific issue before the court was whether e-bikes fall under the category of a motor vehicle, this being relevant to the issue of automatic compensation which applies in Belgium where a vulnerable road user is involved in a collision with a motor vehicle, but not in respect of collisions where both parties are protected by a motor vehicle.
A panel of five CJEU judges ruled that e-bikes do not fall within the definition of a motor vehicle as they are not 'propelled exclusively by means of mechanical power'. The judges found that the concept of a "vehicle", within the meaning of the applicable provisions does not encompass a bicycle whose electric motor provides pedal assistance only.Comment
Though important in terms of legal treatment of e-bikes, interpretation of this judgment should be limited to that technology. The Court's focus on the need for physical exertion by the rider is particularly important when considering how this judgment could be used to address other new forms of transport, such as e-scooters. E-scooters do not require any effort by the rider, relying solely on the motor for propulsion. This is why they are classified as mechanically propelled vehicles for the purposes of the RTA.
Whilst this decision will not apply to cases in the UK following the United Kingdom's exit from the European Union, it exemplifies the issues that the UK legislature needs to grapple with, as the cost of living and green agendas promote the greater use of alternative and sustainable methods of transport. If parliament cannot or will not legislate on these matters, the courts will have to do so.