CAMP ZAMA, Japan (June 1, 2021) – Liability insurance is mandatory for bicycle owners of any age when riding within Kanagawa Prefecture, following a safety ordinance the prefectural government passed in 2019.
The requirement for liability insurance includes Status of Forces Agreement personnel and their family members and applies to those who live on Camp Zama and Sagamihara Family Housing Area, as both installations are located within Kanagawa.
Kanagawa prefecture enacted a bike ordinance in 2019 to promote a safe and proper usage of bicycles that includes a mandatory enrollment in bicycle liability insurance, according to the Kanagawa Prefectural Government website.
The mandated insurance coverage is required for both adult and children bicycle riders. This is meant to promote risk management and dispersal when it comes to bicycle-involved accidents and property damage, said Maj. Anthony Osborne, the deputy Staff Judge Advocate, assigned to U.S. Army Japan.
According to the KPG website, more than 5,000 bicycle-related accidents were reported in Kanagawa Prefecture last year. The website additionally states that Sagamihara City, in which Camp Zama partially resides, was responsible for a significant percentage of that number.
Perhaps most important to bicycle riders is the financial assistance liability insurance provides if an accident were to occur and the cyclist was deemed responsible, Osborne said.
According to the KPG website, in one case an elementary school student riding their bicycle home at night struck a female pedestrian. The woman suffered a fractured skull and went into a coma. Because the student did not have insurance, the student’s mother was held liable and made to pay in damages about 95 million yen, or about $873,000.
While there is no fine associated with riders who do not have insurance, there is a clear benefit to following the mandate and purchasing insurance, Osborne said.
“It’s being able to have a fiscal buffer to help bear the cost of liability if you’re in an accident,” Osborne said. “That’s what the insurance is all about.”
For those who already have some sort of liability insurance that covers damages to life, limb or property, they are encouraged to check the details and see if that coverage already includes their bicycle. Otherwise, bicycle insurance can be purchased at most off-base convenience store electronic kiosks with the help of a friend or family member who can read Japanese.
Osborne said he purchased insurance last year at a “family plan” rate that cost the equivalent of just $40 annually.
“If you ride a bicycle, it is prudent to purchase the insurance and have the policy in place so that if you were involved in an accident, you would have assistance bearing the cost,” Osborne said.
Having the insurance helps to minimize every rider’s risk, and helps promote the idea of SOFA members being good “ambassadors” in Japan, Osborne said.
More information on bicycle liability insurance can be found in the English-language rulebook on the KPG website here: https://www.pref.kanagawa.jp/documents/46139/rulebook-english.pdf.
Community members who have further questions regarding the policy can also call 262-7330.