Vancouver Bicycle Courier License and Education Courseand Liability Insurance


June 7, 1988

TO: City Manager for Standing Committee on Transportation and StrategicPlanning

SUBJECT: Bicycle Courier Education Course and Liability Insurance


The City Engineering consultation with the Director of Permits and Licensesand the Director of Risk Management report as follows;

"At a regular meeting on March 22, 1988, City Council approvedthe following:

THAT the City Engineer, after consultation with the Industry, reportbased on the following:

(i) (a) requiring operators of courier bicycles to pass an eight houreducation course prior to licensing; such course to be offered and administeredby the Bicycling Association of B.C. (the provincial body of the CanadianCycling Association)

(b) as an alternative, allowing voluntary written examination or roadtests for couriers at an approximate cost of $10.00, one of the provisosbeing that if the individual fails, he be required to take a course.

(c) requiring couriers who have a certain number of traffic infractionsto take a course, similar to the defensive driving course for motor vehicledrivers.

ii) requiring either the courier company or the couriers to carry liabilityinsurance.


Following discussions with representatives of the bicycle courier industryand through observation, we note that many experienced bicycle couriershave advanced bicycle handling skills enabling them to manoeuvre througha variety of traffic situations. With experienced couriers, the problemcan be defined as a non-vehicular philosophy (or attitude) which leadsto cycling in pedestrian designated areas and contributes to the disregardfor existing traffic regulations on the road.

Since the bicycle courier industry attracts many transients or shortterm employees, there also exist a large number of inexperienced courierswho have not developed the required traffic skills required to safely negotiatewith traffic. As outlined in Appendix A, the proposed bicycle courier educationcourse entitled "Traffic Skills For Couriers" is structured todeal with both improving the cyclists attitude on the road and providingthe necessary traffic cycling skills required to ride safely and efficientlyunder heavy traffic situations. In summary, the content of the course coversthe following four subject areas:

1) Vehicular Philosophy

2) Rights and Responsibilities of Cyclists

3) Emergency Maneuvers

4) Traffic Maneuvers

Staff feel that all applicants applying for a bicycle courier licenseshould be required to pass both a written and on-road examination, approvedby the Chief License Inspector, at a cost of $20.00 as a prerequisite tolicensing.

(see Appendix B). Such examination and fee would be administeredby the Bicycling Association of B.C. (the Provincial body of the CanadianCycling Association). With respect to applicants who fail the above examination,the Chief License Inspector can strongly advise attendance at the abovenoted course.

The idea of passing an exam as a condition of license is not entirelynew to the City as a similar practice is followed with gasoline servicestations.

As requested by the bicycle courier company representatives, couriercompanies will be provided with an informational study package for distributionto their bicycle couriers. The study package will include material relevantto examination questions and the on-road test. A list of scheduled testingdates and course dates will also be distributed with the study packages.Bicycle couriers who accumulate multiple traffic offenses will have theirlicensing privileges reviewed by the Chief License Inspector. Grossly inappropriateconduct may result in a suspension of the bicycle courier's license. Grosslyinappropriate conduct might include behaviour which endangers the pedestrianor motoring public. Because motor vehicle traffic violations are regulatedby separate Provincial legislation, the City cannot, as a result of contraventionof that act, require course attendance through the accumulation of trafficoffenses.


Section 317(0) of the City Charter authorizes Council to require bicyclecouriers or courier companies to carry liability insurance as a conditionof their license. Currently, there is no such requirement and consequentlythere is no assurance of financial compensation should a member of thepublic be negligently injured by a bicycle courier. Further, the courierhimself is exposed to the financial risks associated with injury to a thirdparty.

Other carriers using City Streets, such as pedicabs and horsedrawn carriages,are currently required by the City to carry insurance as a condition oftheir license. This requirement provides some financial protection to thepassengers and to other street users who may be injured by them.

The examination requirements for bicycle couriers outlined in recommendationsA and B, combined with the City's ability to suspend licenses would minimizethe risk of accidents and injuries. Requiring bicycle couriers to be coveredby liability insurance, would additionally:

(i ) ensure the availability of financial compensation to someone negligentlyinjured by a courier:

(ii) protect the bicycle courier against the financial risks associatedwith an injury to an innocent third party",

The rationale for requiring mandatory liability insurance does not liein risk to the City, since staff believes that risk to be minimal. Rather,the issue is one of risk to the public. Bicycle couriers operating improperlyon congested downtown streets pose a potential risk to pedestrians andto vehicular traffic. The issue is whether the City, as part of its licensingservice, wishes to ensure financial protection to members of the publicpotentially exposed to injury from the licensed activity.

Two courier companies currently have optional $1,000,000 liability insurancecoverage for their bicycle couriers at a cost to the courier of $100 -$125 per year. Staff are advised that similar insurance is available toother courier companies, at a reasonable cost. The licensing and testingof bicycle couriers. is expected to make bicycle couriers a more acceptablerisk to insurers generally.

Staff agree that licensing and testing will minimize the risk of accidentsand injuries. As additional protection however, both to the public andto the bicycle couriers themselves. Council may wish to require that couriercompanies who use the services of bicycle couriers be required to carrya minimum of $1 million liability insurance covering themselves and bicyclecouriers employed or contracted to them. Staff would continue to monitorthe availability and cost of such insurance.


Representatives of bicycle courier companies support RecommendationsA and B of this report. Company representatives agree that mandatory testingis required to discount license applicants who do not possess sufficienttraffic cycling skills and a knowledge of the rights and responsibilitiesof cyclists. Company representatives also requested that a course studypackage be made available for their couriers prior to examination and thatsame means of temporary licensing be made available for candidates notyet tested, to facilitate hiring during peak periods.

The courier companies see a mandatory insurance requirement as an unreasonableinterference by the City in their business operations. The companies maintainthat insurance to cover bicycle couriers could be, or become, expensiveand difficult to obtain. If insurance were mandatory this may mean thatthe companies could no longer engage in the bicycle courier business, Further,the companies argue that there have been very few claims associated withbicycle couriers and that potential accidents will be minimized by thetesting and examination requirements outlined in this report.


Bicycle courier representatives support Recommendations A and B of thisreport. Bicycle couriers support a required examination which would alsoinclude both an on-road component and 2 questions from bicycle courier

Representatives. Bicycle couriers also emphasized the need to educatethose couriers who are lacking in traffic cycling skills for their ownsafety and to improve the public image of bicycle couriers as a whole.Bicycle couriers themselves are also opposed to a mandatory insurance requirement.They fear that premium costs, which the companies would undoubtedly passon to the couriers, would be, or become, prohibitively expensive.


The Police Department has reviewed this report and support the CityEngineer's recommendations.

As noted by industry representatives and through observations, problembicycle couriers fall into one of two categories, these are:

1.) Experienced bicycle couriers with advanced bicycle handling skillsbut who possess a non- vehicular attitude.

2.) Inexperienced bicycle couriers with poor traffic cycling skillsresulting in the inability to properly handle their bicycle in certaintraffic situations

Staff feel that applicants applying for a bicycle courier license shouldbe required to pass both a written and an on-road examination which specificallytests for knowledge of the rights and responsibilities of cyclists andtraffic cycling skills. Applicants who fail the examination should be stronglyadvised to attend an 8 hour course designed specifically to deal with theabove noted deficiencies prevalent in problem bicycle couriers. The ChiefLicense Inspector will issue applicants an interim license pending writingand passing the next scheduled test. This would facilitate hiring duringpeak demand periods. As additional protection both to the public and tothe bicycle couriers, Council may wish to require that courier companieswho use the services of bicycle couriers be required to carry a minimumof $1 million liability Insurance covering themselves and bicycle couriersemployed or contracted to them.


Accordingly, the City Engineer recommends the following:

A) THAT the Vehicles for Hire By"Law be amended to require operatorsof courier bicycles to pass both a written and on-road examination (outlinedin Appendix B) at a cost of $20 prior to the granting of a license. Suchexam and fee to be administered by the Bicycling Association of B.C. (theprovincial body of the Canadian Cycling Association) in consultation withrepresentatives of the courier industry, and following approval by theChief License Inspector.

B) THAT applicants who fail the examination noted in RecommendationA be strongly advised to attend an 8 hour course entitled Traffic Skillsfor Couriers" (outlined in Appendix A) at a cost of $50 before applyingfor re-examination. Such course to be prepared and administered by theBicycling Association of B.C.

The City Engineer also submits item C for consideration.

C) THAT courier companies who use the services of bicycle couriers berequired to carry a minimum of $1 million liability insurance coveringthemselves and bicycle couriers employed or contracted to them."

The City Manager RECOMMENDS approval of A and B and submits item C forCONSIDERATION.

Report Dated June 7, 1988

M. Pospischil

Approved: City Engineer

Officials Recommended to be present

Permits and Licenses

Police Department

Law Department

Appendix A - Traffic Skills for Couriers

Appendix B - Bicycle Courier Examination

Appendix C - Instructor Certification Process

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